6. Neill Blomkamp
With the release of the critically acclaimed sci-fi film “District 9”, Neill Blomkamp announced his arrival to the world as a fresh new exciting filmmaker. Becoming a box office hit and earning a slew of awards, the world was watching to see what he’d do next and so far he’s been unable to capture the essence that made “District 9” a hit.
So where did it all go wrong? One word: “Elysium”. After the surprise success of “District 9”, perhaps Blomkamp was giving the kind of free reign and budget it takes years for directors to acquire. And while it does have some interesting concepts and spectacular special effects, the problem lies in its story department. Blomkamp also shares the sentiment that he let himself down.
His follow-up, “Chappie”, didn’t rectify any of these issues becoming more implausible as it went along. And with Ridley Scott charging ahead with his ‘Alien’ prequels, it seems unlikely that we’ll see his much-talked-about “Alien” sequel with Sigourney Weaver anytime soon. Which is disappointing, considering it could’ve been the resurgence he needed to lead his career in the right direction.
So far, Blomkamp has made a series of interesting short films that he hopes will lead to his next film with help from audience participation. And not much has been said about his involvement in the adaptation of the “The Gone World” sci-fi novel, which would be a good collaborator in the story department as his original stories are sometimes lacking.
7. Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith bursted on the scene with the cult classic “Clerks”, and inspired a generation of filmmakers to know that all you really need to make a good film is an interesting concept, characters and creativity, no matter how slim the budget.
While “Mallrats” was an okay film, “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma” saw him expanding his style to varying successes, and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was not as good as it could’ve been; more a miss than hit considering it features Smith’s most popular characters.
So where did it go wrong? “Jersey Girl” is probably where it all started to fall apart with Ben Affleck at his career low before magically resurrecting it a few years later. “Clerks II” didn’t have the impact its predecessor had and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” was a box office disappointment that was supposed to follow in Seth Rogen’s then-successful run of R-rated comedies.
The straw that broke the camel’s backs was 2010’s buddy cop film “Cop Out” that saw Smith lash out at lead star Bruce Willis and a number of critics whose reviews weren’t flattering. Devoting his time nowadays between various interests like comic books, podcasts, and talk shows, Smith is now set to write, direct and executive produce a TV series based on the “Sam and Twitch” comic books that will hopefully see him harness his talents with his love of comics.
8. Richard Kelly
The immense success of Richard Kelly’s cult classic “Donnie Darko” is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that he created something quite unique that will stand the test of time, and the curse being he hasn’t been able to remotely live up to all that promise.
So where did it all go wrong? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what he was aiming for with his much-criticized follow-up “Southland Tales”, an ambitious project with the runtime to match that made “Donnie Darko” look like a film for simpletons. The ‘Twilight Zone’-adapted “The Box” was him trying to gain some commercial success with the psychological thriller that further made him look like a one hit wonder. It becomes apparent that perhaps Kelly wasn’t quite sure about what type of director he wanted to be or how to continue after “Donnie Darko”.
Eight years later and Kelly has yet to make another film, but has been working on a project that he’s been trying to fund for a number of years that could go into production this year. What’s interesting is that Kelly is completely aware of the flaws and disappointments of his directing career and hopes to make amends when he returns to the director’s chair, and we can only hope he succeeds.
9. Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick has one of the most interesting careers in cinema. From his early, legendary and sporadic masterpieces to his current, frequent, and polarizing work, you never know what to expect from the enigmatic visionary. Films like “Badlands”, “Days of Heaven”, “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life” are the wet dreams of cinephiles that offer an experience that only he could conjure.
So where did it all go wrong? Of late, the director has been accused of tarnishing his legacy with his challenging and frustrating output. “The Tree of Life” in 2011 has many detractors, but those willing to let the film wash over found it to be up there with his best work. A year later we got “To the Wonder”, the quickest follow-up in his now increasing filmography. And as usual, it’s beautifully directed and realized, but seems to lack that special something that made his other films ‘click’.
When “Knight of Cups” came by three years later, the experimentation was becoming grating. While you should already know what you getting yourself into when you sit down to watch any experimental film, by Malick nonetheless, the episodic narrative becomes way too repetitive and never comes together in any satisfying way.
This year’s “Song to Song” is exactly what you’d expect from latter-day Malick, only this time it doesn’t feel as natural. And with a World War II film coming later in the year as well, it’ll be interesting to see how many fans are still willing to take the ride.
Is his work becoming a parody of itself? Has he tarnished his once-flawless career? Is he losing it in his old age or has old age inspired something radical? Are these current films destined to be future masterpieces that were ahead of their time? It’s hard to tell, but even his difficult earlier work would have you wanting to revisit them. These current ones… not so much.
10. Tim Burton
You know a Tim Burton film from the second you see it, from the gothic styling, the eccentric characters, colorful tones, dark fantasy, and busy backgrounds. And of course, once upon a time, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter were as synonymous with Burton’s name as the word ‘oddball’.
Burton owned the 90s and to those who grew up in that era, he was no doubt a filmmaker they loved and with whom they perhaps even identified, with such classics as “Batman”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Beetlejuice”, “Ed Wood”, and even later triumphs like “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Corpse Bride”.
So where did it go wrong? Most people will point to that unique style growing stale as it’s used over and over again, and working with Depp over and over again didn’t make things better, giving the later films they made the same vibe.
Tim Burton became the guy the studio called when they had a dark, gothic, weird movie to make and this resulted in some of his big studio films feeling like cheap imitations. The problem was not just giving us more of the same; it was giving us more of the same and not making it good enough.
Big studio films, amazing visuals, Depp playing more or less the same character, and lack of focus and tone was basically what we got with “Alice in Wonderland”, “Dark Shadows” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. To his credit, he did try to give us something different with “Big Eyes” and “Frankenweenie”, which were not terrible, but we know Burton can do so much better.
At the very least, the director seems aware of his shortcomings, trying a few different things and taking a break from Johnny Depp.
Agree, disagree, who did we leave out? Let us know in the comments.
Author Bio: Allan Khumalo is a lover of all things cinema. That is all.