It’s a common occurrence. And it’s a frustrating one for a film lover. You’re sitting there, trying to have an intelligent discussion with someone about a newly-released film and they say something like, “No, I refuse to see that. I hate [insert certain director’s name]’s movies,” only for them to namedrop a director who didn’t even direct the film that’s being discussed. Or maybe they make fun of a film solely based on the idea that it was directed by someone who, again, didn’t even direct it. When someone tries to bash a film based solely on the director – and even attempts to find the director’s supposed trademarks within said film – and that director didn’t even direct the film, said self-professed movie critic immediately loses any credibility they may have been feebly clinging to, to begin with.
Here are some films that are widely believed to be directed by someone who, in fact, did not direct them (and in actuality usually – if not always – produced them).
10 Cloverfield Lane
When J.J. Abrams’s name flashes across the screen in a trailer or TV spot, many viewers stop paying attention and just get excited. I get it. I get excited, too. But keep paying attention. Abrams has his own production company, Bad Robot Productions, and he will serve as a producer on virtually every film that comes from Bad Robot (maybe every single one of them. Not sure about the legalities, there, but that’s my guess.). Producers have various roles to fill, but one of those roles is not directing.
No, 10 Cloverfield Lane was directed by Dan Trachtenberg. This was his first feature film and he knocked it out of the park. Look for lots more from him in the future. And if you see his name in a trailer? Get excited.
Howard the Duck
Sorry, Lucas haters; George didn’t direct Howard the Duck. Once again, this common misconception comes from the fact that George Lucas executively produced the film. But Howard was directed (and co-written) by Willard Huyck. Don’t remember Mr. Huyck? That’s because this was his last directing job. He directed three films before this, and then this one ended it all for him. Honestly, it wasn’t the directing that killed it; it was the writing. They should have gotten Steve Gerber in on it and allowed him to have script duties. Despite this severe misstep, Howard is a great character and I would love to see him get another chance.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This one is probably the biggest directing misconception of them all. Tim Burton did not direct The Nightmare Before Christmas. I realize that, for some people, this is the film equivalent of discovering that there is no Santa Claus. (Whoops! Sorry, kids! While I’m at it, though, free will doesn’t exist, either. Now, go discuss with your parents.) Burton (say it with me) produced and came up with the story and characters. Directing duties were then passed on to Henry Selick, who also directed James and the Giant Peach and Coraline. Rest easy, though. Tim Burton did direct Frankenweenie.
El Orfanato/The Orphanage
Yet again, an executive producer is mistaken as a director. This time, it was widely believed that this horror gem (see it! It’s amazing!) from 2007 was directed by Guillermo del Toro. Not so, my friends! This one was actually directed by J.A. Bayona. Since then, he went on to direct 2012’s fantastic The Impossible and is rumored to be in line for the upcoming Jurassic World sequel. He hasn’t directed much, but he’s already shown that he has talent and a unique voice.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
The 2014 reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise took a lot of flak before it was even released. Some of it was due to the character designs. Some of it was due to the casting of Megan Fox (who isn’t Elizabeth Olsen, but she’s not as bad as people want her to be, either. I loved her on New Girl.). Some of it was due to the seemingly campy tone. Most of it was because Michael Bay was directing. Just one shot after another was lobbied at TMNT because it was going to be another lame Michael Bay film. After it came out, people said it sucked because it was, in fact, another lame Michael Bay film. Oh, how knowledgeable they all are because they know they’re supposed to hate all Michael Bay films! The only problem is that Michael Bay didn’t direct it. Jonathan Liebsman did. Liebsman also directed Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans. Maybe not the best pedigree, but he deserved a shot. Fox’s presence should have been a clue that Bay didn’t direct it. By the time the second Transformers film was done, Bay and Fox hated each other and Bay swore he’d never direct her, again.
Anyway, despite all of the hatred spewed at the movie, it (much like Batman v Superman is doing) went on to make a bunch of money, anyway, and the sequel (which admittedly looks like a lot of fun) is coming out this summer. So, despite what the entitled members of the audience believe, movies can (and do) succeed without them.
Okay, so next time you want to discuss the merits of a film, do your homework! Or, ask questions, rather than faking knowledge. Either one. But don’t blame or credit someone for someone else’s work. They wouldn’t do that to you! If they knew who you were.