John Moore is entirely competent.
Having said that, I am not sure why 20th Century Fox loves him the way they do. They’ve given him more chances to fail than I can comprehend, and he has risen to the occasion over and over. “The Omen” and “Flight Of The Phoenix” are both remakes that make the originals look brilliant by comparison, but they are masterworks compared to his strange and nearly incoherent “Max Payne.”
All told, he’s made four films for the studio so far, and to me, he seems a great example of what happens when you take a commercial director and throw him into feature films without him having to prove he has real narrative skills first. Yes, film is a visual art. Yes, the ability to make a pretty image is important, and in advertising, there is no skill more highly regarded. But in feature filmmaking, when you’re supposed to be telling stories, there has to be more than just a pretty picture. Moore went right from directing Dreamcast commercials to making “Behind Enemy Lines,” and it feels like each of his films gets worse, not better.
He might be the perfect filmmaker for the Fox system, though. He’s a guy who seems to have lucked into his position, and he knows that he’s not getting hired anywhere else right now. My guess is he’s one of the most malleable filmmakers that Fox works with, happy to execute exactly what the studio tells him to execute, and that’s perfect for the way that studio works.
Then again, I can’t imagine getting worked up over any choice for the director’s chair on “Die Hard 5,” because I can’t imagine anyone being remotely passionate about “Die Hard 5.” Of all the pointless franchises out there, this one baffles me the most. John McClane was a normal cop who got caught in one exceptional circumstance in the first “Die Hard.” It was a fluke, and the entire appeal of that film is seeing a normal guy have to somehow survive and take down this entire team of professional killers and thieves. His normalcy is the reason his heroism matters. In each film since then, credibility has been stretched to the breaking point, and the last movie was like a blue-collar Bond film, preposterous and silly. The new movie shoots in Russia, which makes me wonder how they’re going to justify that. Unless McClane joined the CIA or some arm of the military, I’m not sure how you explain him having international adventures now.
Then again, the last paragraph of Mike Fleming’s piece at Deadline about this sort of says it all. “The most recent instalment, ‘Live Free Or Die Hard,’ grossed $384 million worldwide.” As long as people keep going to see these, lured in by the return of Bruce Willis, I’m sure Fox will happily keep making them.
And with the hiring of Moore, it looks like the terrorists win after all.