Steven Spielberg is without a doubt one of the greatest directors of all time. He’s brought us an incredible list of classic films across multiple genres and decades, including Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Munich and more. His most recent film however, The B.F.G., was recently released in America, and the box office was disappointing to put it mildly. The reviews were also mixed, with even the more positive ones acknowledging the film has some big issues. Even though I’m yet to see the film myself, it all got me thinking – has Steven Spielberg lost his touch?
His next most recent film was Oscar winner Bridge of Spies. This is by no means a terrible film, but it was nowhere near as good as it could, or should have been. It was a decent effort, but looking at the story it was really quite difficult to get wrong, with so much tension naturally built into the true life events. The Oscar it did win by the way was Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance, an award many people felt was undeserved. Still, despite my personal dislike for this film, I have to acknowledge that these two films alone aren’t enough to claim that Spielberg has lost it.
Next up was Lincoln, once again an Oscar winning film, that many critics gave a good review. But let’s look more closely at that. Daniel Day-Lewis almost always wins Best Actor when he’s in a film, and there’s good reason for that. He fully commits to roles, and him playing one of the most famous and well liked figures in American history was always going to play well with the Academy. The problem is that a lot of general audiences thought that Lincoln was unbearably long, and really quite boring. In fact there was so much bad word of mouth around the time it was released that I, an avid film watcher who goes to the cinema at least 150 times a year chose not to see it on theatrical release.
Next up was War Horse, another true story with a built in group of people that might have been predetermined to like it. Considered by many to be one of Spielberg’s lesser films, it was still reviewed fairly well by critics, even if audiences didn’t take to it. As I said with Bridge of Spies, all three of the films I’ve discussed so far have been based on dramatic, tense and emotional true stories, and these almost always turn out well, despite who’s directing them. Although it would be impossible not to credit Spielberg at least a little with each of these films, it would’ve been harder to make these into bad movies than good ones.
The film before that was The Adventures of Tintin, which had moderately good reviews, but seriously under performed with audiences, partly due to the strange looking CGI on display. It was meant to be the first in a series, but more than five years have passed and we’re yet to really hear about any major developments.
Then we get to what is widely considered to be his worst ever day at the office – Indianna Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This film is so hated that some people refuse to acknowledge it exists, and others claim that it ruined their childhood. That might be a bit extreme, but this one we can all agree is not a great film.
Before that was a film I’ve already briefly mentioned, the much underrated Munich, and this is where my criticism stops. The problem is, we’re now all the way back in 2005, which means more than ten years have passed since his last truly great film. Some people might not even count that, and would need to go back to 2002’s Minority report for his last brilliant film.
With the Exception of Crystal Skull, none of these films are terrible, or even that bad, the problem is that when you’re the man who directed at least one great film every two or three years, or in the case of 1993 two great films in one year (Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List), this decade long run of films doesn’t really hold up. I’m looking forward to his next film, Ready Player One, as much as anybody, and even if that’s bad, I’ll still be looking forward to his next film. I’ll even watch Indiana Jones 5: The Lead Lining of the Nuke-Proof Fridge, but I can’t help and feel as if Spielberg might have lost some of the magic that made him so great earlier on in his career.
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