Most movie directors toil in relative obscurity. Quick, who directed the last “Fast & Furious” film? What about “Bad Boys for Life,” “The Invisible Man” or “Sonic the Hedgehog”?
An elite group of directors, by comparison, became household names for their big screen accomplishments. Spielberg. Tarantino. Scorsese. Nolan.
There’s another group of auteurs, though, who routinely draw critical praise for their handiwork. Some of said praise is both over the top and unjustified.
The following five directors meet that criteria. Yes, they’ve delivered some outstanding films, but they remain overrated for the reasons shared below.
The New York Knicks fanatic made one great film – 1989’s “Do the Right Thing.” It’s been downhill ever since, and at times the drop is so steep even X-Games athletes fear it.
Making “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” alone should be enough to merit inclusion on this list, but Lee’s cinematic overreach extends beyond that epic clunker.
Lee is far better at stirring the cultural pot than making memorable films. The buzz around “Jungle Fever” lapped the actual story. The same proved true with “Bamboozled”
Lee rebounded with “Inside Man,” a crackerjack thriller with zero political connections. He could have stayed in that lane, but the lure of “sending a message” proved impossible to resist. That’s given us dreck like “Chi-Raq,” an op-ed gussied up as a feature film.
Many of Lee’s films came and went without movie goers noticing. Think “Oldboy,” “Red Hook Summer” and “The Miracle of St. Anna” to name a few.
Still, Lee exhumes his fallen career every decade or so to keep his brand alive. He did just that with 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman,” a great title for a solid film with a morally reprehensible finale. See, “Lie, Charlottesvillev” for the answer why.
It’s understandable why Lee still generates excitement. Every time we want to count him out he rewards our patience. And his unusual rhythms and willingness to take chances – consider his atypical but often bracing soundtracks – suggest we wait out his next rebound.
Fine. Just know he’s not a great director. He’s an artist who will never reach the potential he teased with his 1989 classic.
The wild-haired auteur struck pop culture gold via “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” The comic romp proved the perfect marriage between a man-child performer and Burton’s child-like vision.
A directorial star was born.
Burton hit the zeitgeist early and often at the time, even when his films didn’t live up to the hype. Case in point: “Beetlejuice,” powered by Michael Keaton’s uncorked energy more than anything else.
Burton’s “Batman” proved a game changer, and he certainly deserves kudos for bringing a respectable Bat to the big screen. “Edward Scissorhands” served up a slab of surreal whimsy and solid storytelling. It’s the latter that repeatedly proves his undoing.
Fumbles like “Planet of the Apes,” “Dark Shadows” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” proved he couldn’t be trusted to revive other existing properties.
“Big Fish” and “Big Eyes” showed Burton maturing, ever so slightly, but the emphasis remained on the word, “slight.”
His “Alice in Wonderland” raked in the cash, but does anyone dare to watch it again?
Burton’s films offer visual banquets where the story and characters often race to catch up, with little success.
The prolific director deserves our eternal respect for delivering the greatest science fiction film of the modern era – 1979’s “Alien.” Scott also directed both “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator,” films entrenched in pop culture lore for good reason.
And then there’s the rest of his scattershot resume. “The Counselor,” “1492: Conquest of Paradise,” “Alien: Covenant,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “White Squall,” “G.I. Jane,” “Body of Lies,” “Robin Hood” and “A Good Year.”
None of those films are unwatchable. Most, if not all, proved forgettable.
Like Lee, Scott occasionally uncorks a success story, be it the overrated “Thelma & Louise” or the justly lauded “Black Hawk Down.” Still, the mediocrities are plentiful, and Scott often leaves us without a true visual calling card.
Burton’s films, for all their flaws, look like they sprang from his unique imagination. Scott’s body of work is more generic, less distinct in its presentation.
Scott’s 2015 smash “The Martian” reminded us how surefooted he could be delivering a space-based yarn. Yet his recent “Alien” projects couldn’t recapture the glory of his initial vision.
“Halloween” changed horror (mostly) for the better, and genre fans have Carpenter to thank for it. His 1978 classic offered up a timeless monster, a perfect horror movie score and scares that haven’t aged a day.
It’s not his fault that so many predecessors delivered weak imitations of the Michael Meyers formula.
“Halloween” cemented his reputation, and he’s been basking in its glow ever since.
Carpenter peaked in 1982 with “The Thing,” coasted through the Reagan era thanks to “Starman,” “Christine” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” Then spent the next 30 years diminishing his screen legacy.
“They Live” is junk, even if it’s been revived as a “so bad it’s good’ cult classic. It’s still superior to subsequent Carpenter dreck, including “Prince of Darkness,” “Village of the Damned,” “Escape from L.A.” and “Ghosts of Mars.”
The comic book favorite wouldn’t merit inclusion here save for three simple words: “The Snyder Cut.”
Comic-Con types have been salivating for the “Justice League” Snyder Cut ever since the film hit theaters to modest fan reactions.
Just wait! There’s a Snyder cut and it’s gonna be awesome, the online SnyderNation cried. Why would anyone think that based on his iffy resume?
Snyder jumped from music videos to feature films courtesy of 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake, which proved both unnecessary and surprisingly solid. He followed it up with “300,” a film which appealed to conservative audiences but served up little more than an unusually bruising canvas.
His take on “Watchmen” didn’t dazzle, nor did it co-opt the culture’s growing superhero hunger. His take on Superman, “Man of Steel,” similarly underwhelmed mostly due to a CGI-heavy third act.
When Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) is the best part of your comic book movie there’s a problem.
Snyder steered the DC Extended Universe into a pop culture ditch thanks to “Steel” and the generic “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” while competing Marvel movies raked in cash and critical huzzahs.
We’ll offer up a mea culpa should HBO Max’s Snyder Cut version of “Justice League” merit a fraction of the hype. Here’s betting that’s a fool’s errand given the director’s previous works.
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