Good Directors Gone Bad

Quote of the Day: "One of the great things about being a director as a life choice is that it can never be mastered." -- Ron Howard

Have you ever been mesmerized by the first few films of a talented director, only to be disappointed by the last few movies they make? When you see the brilliance that they initially have to offer, you think they can do no wrong, so when they do prove that they're only human and create a movie that's mediocre at best, it's devastating. You root for them to make masterpiece after masterpiece, only to realize that they too can create duds.

I'm not counting directors who have created a big body of work with a handful of bad movies thrown into the mix (such as Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Tim Burton, etc.) Nobody is perfect after all. I'm talking about those film directors who burst onto the scene with movies that I adored, and then fizzled.

Here's my list of directors who started out with such great potential only to lose their luster with less than great output in their most recent efforts.

M. Night Shyamalan -- His first few films dazzled me with their storytelling, great characters, surprising twists, cool cinematography and symbolism -- The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, even The Village (and his less talked about but still entertaining first film, Wide Awake). But his last two movies, Lady in the Water and The Happening, were disasters. Self-indulgent and lacking the strong writing and direction that marked his early films, his recent projects were almost unwatchable. He's now directing a high profile adaptation of The Last Airbender and writing a number of other projects. I'm rooting for his success but fear that maybe we've seen that the emperor has no clothes and he's used all the tricks up his sleeve.

Joel Schumacher -- I really liked his earlier films -- St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down, The Client. But then along came his two Batman films. The first one, Batman Forever, at least made a lot of money, but many people criticized its many flaws, and then the nightmare known as Batman and Robin hit the screens. It was a total mess and forever tainted his legacy. Maybe the Warner Bros. studio interfered too much and tied his hands as a director, but some later films like Phantom of the Opera showed similar horrific directing choices. He's made interesting motion pictures since, such as A Time to Kill, 8MM, Phone Booth, The Number 23, but the excitement, in my opinion, is gone. He's a hard working director, though, and I hope he can wipe out the bad memory of the Batman fiascoes from people's minds.

George Lucas -- He was a wonder kid, directing THX 1138, American Graffiti, and the original Star Wars. People would lump his name with other brilliant directors of his time like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. Then he took a long, long break from directing, and finally returned to direct the prequels in the Star Wars saga: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Expectations were high, and even though I don't think they were as bad as some people say, they certainly dimmed his sparkling image. He keeps promising to direct smaller, more intimate films, and he has made such a fortune that he doesn't need to prove himself. But I would like to see a return of the directorial magic that inspired so many early in his career.

Bryan Singer -- Here's another filmmaker whose original string of work I absolutely loved: The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, X-Men, and X2: X-Men United. He broke many fan boys hearts by declining to make a third X-Men movie and choosing instead to make Superman Returns. The rest is history -- the Man of Steel film failed to live up to the hype. Can he recapture his past glory as rumors swirl about him making a new Battlestar Galactica film and possibly another X-Men chapter, or has the moment passed?

Those are the directors who come to mind who grabbed my attention early on only to disappoint me later. I'm sure there are many others.