5 Great Indie Directors Who Mishandled Their Transitions to Blockbusters, and 5 More That Might
Ender’s Game topped the weekend box office, putting up a respectable $28 million, despite controversy surrounding the author of the source material, Orson Scott Card (who recently announced he’d be writing a new set of sequels to Ender’s Game books). The feature is going to need great legs, however, to turn this into a franchise, as so far foreign grosses have not been spectacular, and the $110 million budgeted film is in danger of failing to recoup its investment, which means no sequels.
Meanwhile, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa had a surprisingly great second weekend, falling only 36 percent and putting up another $20 million (the last three entires in the Jackasss series all had drops of somewhere between 44 to 57 percent). Bad Grandpa kept Last Vegas at bay in the third position, with an OK $16.5 million, while the animated Free Birds managed only $16.2 million, despite no competition in the kiddie market.
Speaking of Ender’s middling numbers, director Gavin Hood is no stranger to mediocre offerings. He’s one of the five directors targeted below as indie directors who showed immense potential with small budgets only to fritter it away in the big leagues.
Unsuccessful Transitions from Indie to Blockbuster
Gavin Hood — After breaking through with his powerful, gut-wrenching redemption song, the South African gangster tale, Tsotsi, Gavin Hood struck out with the mediocre Rendition then completely botched X-Men: Origins: Wolverine after on-set tension with the studio. Nevertheless, he got another shot at a blockbuster with Ender’s Game and turned in a decent, though unremarkable feature that’s not likely to further his career.
Seth Gordon — After his phenomenal documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters , many of us had high hopes for Seth Gordon, which he immediately proceeded to fritter away by becoming basically a hired hand for the crappy studio comedies. Four Christmases was abysmal, and though he bounced back with Horrible Bosses (thanks to a terrific cast), he stunk it up again with Identity Thief.
David Gordon Green — Gordon Green is undoubtedly a great filmmaker, as you can see in his best works, George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow and Snow Angels. Gordon Green’s first foray into big-budget pictures, Pineapple Express, was a modest success. However, his is subsequent films — The Sitter and Your Highness — were every bit as bad as his best films were good. KEEP THIS MAN AWAY FROM LARGE POCKETBOOKS.
Marc Webb — Webb directed one of my favorite films of the last decade, the anti-rom com rom com(500) Days of Summer, and parlayed that success into helming the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, a movie series that did not need a reboot. The Amazing Spider0Man was better than it had any right to be, and yet it’s still one of the most forgettable superhero films in recent memory, and a total waste of Webb’s talent.
Craig Brewer — Brewer found huge critical success with his first major outing, Hustle and Flow, but slumped so badly with Black Snake Moan that he didn’t land another directing gig for five years. By that time, he’d been reduced to a studio hack hired to direct the Footloose remake, which did inspire one of my favorite review quotes from TK’s assessment: “Footloose doesn’t stumble — it careens off of a cliff with its dick out, screaming with a vulgar incompetence, shitting its pants on the way down.”
Untested Indie Directors Who Have Been Given Blockbusters to Direct
Ryan Coogler — Coogler came out of the gates with the searing, heartbreaking Fruitvale Station (whose Sundance success unfortunately did not translate particularly well at the real-world box office), and now he’s been given the reins to Creed, a sequel of sorts to Rocky, in which Rocky Balboa is asked to mentor the grandson (Michael B. Jordan, in talks) of his old nemesis, Apollo Creed.
Colin Trevorrow — Trevorrow crushed it with his debut effort, Safety Not Guaranteed, so much so that he was on the short-list for Star Wars VII. He didn’t land that gig, but he did manage to land Jurassic Park IV for Steven Spielberg, which isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Gareth Edwards — Edwards showed tremendous potential with his debut film, Monster — a low-fi alien invasion flick that had the look of a blockbuster — and was given the taks of bringing the Godzilla reboot to the big screen. You can be skeptical all you’d like, but the terrific cast should assuage most concerns: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe. Wow.
James Gunn — Gunn has been bouncing around for a few years with low-budget genre films, Slither and Super, and despite the fact that neither were particularly successful at the box office, Gunn displayed enough potential to land Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel. It’s got a raccoon! How can it fail?
Duncan Jones — Jones’ terrific debut Moon actually landed him an mid-budget flick, Source Code, so he didn’t technically go from indie straight to blockbusters, but he’s making a huge leap from Source Code to take on 2015’s World of Warcraft adaptation with Michael Fassbender.