Ever since the rumour of Mel Gibson signing on to helm the next awful Suicide Squad movie got out, I’ve been trying to figure out why a man who just woke up from a professional coma would want to chain an anchor to his leg and throw himself into a river. Could it be the voices in his head? Maybe a sign from God? Yes, yes, a sign from God. This train of thought only lasted fleetingly, of course, when I realised I didn’t really care anymore. Gibson wouldn’t be the first, and probably not the last. Here’s a look at five other successful directors who’ve made inexplicable creative decisions throughout their careers.
Batman Forever (1995)
While it’s really the sequel (Batman & Robin) that should be disembowelled and tossed off a very high wall, Joel Schumacher’s introduction to his re-envisioned Batman universe is just as flamboyant and uncharacteristic. His is the Gotham City that’s hoisted on the shoulders of gigantic naked male statues, and his is the Dark Knight who really has a thing for nipples and close-ups of butts. Take that, Joker!
Schumacher’s filmography leading up to Batman Forever was occupied mostly by teenage vampires and boring courtroom dramas. His filmography after Batman & Robin contains Gerard Butler singing opera and Jim Carrey freaking out with numbers. All very serious stuff. You can see why his version of Batman sticks out like a really colourful sore thumb. Not to mention both movies have gone down in history as some of the worst superhero adaptions to have ever been made.
Happy Feet (2006)
Happy Feet stands at the epicentre of George Miller’s creative divide. On the one hand: blood, leather, dirty roaring machinery. On the other: animated dancing birds. Are we still certain the same man is responsible for both? It could be argued, of course, that Miller was gradually building up to Happy Feet by first dunking his elbow in The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and Babe 2 (1998), but surely no one in the world would’ve expected Mumble the penguin to stand alongside Max Rockatansky as two of Miller’s cinematic brainchildren. What we need now is a crossover in which Max travels to Antarctica and has to ferry a colony of tap-dancing penguins through a dangerous wasteland of talking pigs. Perfect Oscar-bait.
Francis Ford Coppola
Here’s a sure-fire way to kill your film career in its tracks: Make a movie about gangsters, and make it so well people all over the world will have no choice but to call it one of the greatest movies of all time – the yardstick against which all future gangster movies will be measured. And then make a movie about a 40-year-old man-boy who attends elementary school and looks like Robin Williams.
I have no idea who or what encouraged Francis Ford Coppola to undertake Jack, and to make it as uninteresting as possible. Perhaps even he doesn’t know. All that’s certain is his career dove into a black hole after it premiered and he decided to relocate his creative efforts to stomping on grapes in Napa Valley and watching them ferment. I don’t even know if he’s alive anymore.
How does a director lose street cred? By establishing his career with extreme political race-related masterpieces and then making one of the least political, undoubtedly questionable remakes of all time.
The original Oldboy (2003) stands alone, untouchable, unattainable. It needs no remake, least of all by the money-grubbing, destructive hands of Hollywood. But fine, they decided to adapt it for American audiences, and they did. Where, though, does Spike Lee come in? There is not an ounce of him in this bloodless film, which treads the still waters of the original so timidly it ends up leaving us all cold to the touch.
Let me just start off by saying that no matter who directed Popeye, they’d find themselves on this list. This is a movie that doesn’t belong in any director’s oeuvre. I mean, it’s a live-action musical about Popeye the sailor. It’s a miracle it was made at all. It’s even more miraculous that Robert Altman, master of the ensemble cast, was the one who made it.
Maybe the source material needed an ensemble master, since most musicals stage lavish production numbers and require boatloads of singing, dancing extras. But take a trip to Altman’s IMDb page and study his filmography. Where exactly does Popeye fit in? It exists, I assume, in its own universe, and Altman was just an innocent traveller passing through.
Images courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films, Universal Pictures, Guo Film Distribution & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures