10 Promising Filmmakers That Didn’t Deliver When They Went Mainstream

6. Gavin Hood

X-Men Origins Wolverine

Another South African for our list, Gavin Hood won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 for his violent portrayal of crime in Johannesburg, Tsotsi. Immediately recruited by Hollywood, he made another political drama, this time with a star-studded cast, the uneven Rendition. His real dive into the world of blockbusters, though, came in the form of misdirected, disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine, almost universally considered the worst entry in the X-Men franchise.

Hood’s not entirely to blame, since the film is essentially a studio-controlled , boring, merchandise-guided venture, but his lack of hold of his film doesn’t do much for his reputation as a director, either. He went on to direct a few TV projects before returning to the big screen with considerably better Ender’s Game, an underestimated entry in the overcrowded young-adult adaptation genre. He’ll be directing Eye in the Sky, a war drama starred by Helen Mirren, next year.


7. Kurt Wimmer


As a writer, Kurt Wimmer’s been putting his name to blockbusters since 1998’s Sphere, and did commendable jobs in The Thomas Crown Affair, Law Abiding Citizen and Salt, among others. As a director, on the other hand, he made only two movies: sci-fi cult favorite Equilibrium and weird, disastrous Ultraviolet. Separating the two of them is a few million dollars on budget, a big studio and Milla Jovovich’s star power (consider that Christian Bale was not yet a big star when he made Equilibrium).

Equilibrium is truly a gem of sci-fi references and beautifully idealized elements, from the Gun Kata (a kind of stylized martial art created for the film) to the way the story plays with the concept of introducing emotions to an emotionless, controlled society. Ultraviolet, on the other hand, is a complete mess of video-game-like visual tricks, and a plot involving vampires and a vampire cure in a dystopic future. After that 2006 disaster, Wimmer never directed again.


8. Daniel Barnz


Daniel Barnz’s wonderful little drama Phoebe in Wonderlard, starred by Elle Fanning in 2008, introduced the director’s sensibility and flair for the playful aspects of filmmaking to the general public, who probably didn’t get to see his short-movie debut, The Cutting Room. Soon after tat, though, he was called upon by Hollywood to helm young-adult romance adaptation Beastly, a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast with Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens at the lead.

The movie is too “glossy”, too “perfect” to tell its story right, Pettyfer’s transformation from vanity-obsessed teen to supposedly “hideous” monster being conveyed by a lazy makeup job, and the main love story depending on the inexistent chemistry between him and Hudgens. Beastly is tremendously boring, which is a shame when you consider that Barnz was so promising as a creatively emotional filmmaker. He has since directed two mildly praised dramas, Won’t Back Down and Cake.


9. Neil Burger


Burger was quite the revelation when The Illusionist became much more than 2006’s other movie about magicians, leaving the shadow of Chris Nolan’s The Prestige to become its own particular animal, a moody and atmospheric thriller in the classic sense of the word.

His follow-up, The Lucky Ones, was a poignant drama with a beautiful trio of lead performances by Tim Robbins, Michael Peña and Rachel McAdams. And he’s even done one high-profile movie, Bradley Cooper’s Limitless, that allowed him to use his visual savvy to the benefit of the story and the mood.

It was when he stumbled upon Divergent that things went sideways, as he created a movie unfittingly devoid of any and all personality and bite, following the cues from Veronica Roth’s derivative novel and Shailene Woodley’s disaffected lead performance. Burger hasn’t bounced back yet, but he’s announced to direct the pilot to Showtime’s drama Billions, scheduled to air on January 17.


10. Jaume Collet-Serra


This Spanish director didn’t have the most promising start, though he did inject some personality and visual flair into teen-horror House of Wax in 2005. It was when he got back into the horror genre, though, with Orphan, that he revealed himself as a truly great mood-setter, a skilled filmmaker with a tight grip on his movies’ aesthetics and his cast, as Isabelle Fuhrman brilliant performance in Orphan can attest.

And then, right before this small triumph in his career, positing him as a promising filmmaker starting to blossom, he was recruited by Liam Neeson in Unknown, the first of three action thrillers he directed starring Hollywood’s recently discovered favorite action star.

All three of them have interesting elements brought in by Collet-Serra’s vision, but they are nevertheless a disappointment to whoever expected greater things from him. He’ll be directing The Shallows, about a woman (Blake Lively) stranded in a buoy with a great white shark swimming around her, in 2016.

Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.