Let’s cut to the chase. Steven Spielberg makes movies; he doesn’t direct films. While ranked near the top of Forbes’ Most Influential Celebrities, he isn’t even listed on The Guardian’s Top 40 Directors. Mr. Spielberg is certainly good at entertainment and suspense; there is no disputing that. Jaws has stood the test of time for a reason. As well, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and much of the Indiana Jones franchise are full of excitement. However spectacle is not any substitute for vision or style, a talent exhibited by many of Mr. Spielberg’s contemporaries such as Martin Scorsese, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Paul Thomas Anderson and Terence Malick. Instead of bludgeoning the audience with a message, as Mr. Spielberg tends, these directors develop subtle details of text, background or character. Quite simply, they convey a personal vision. It is a risky business which at times invites censure – look at the current mixed reception to Mr. Anderson’s The Master for evidence – but a film is made for itself, no matter what a producer might demand. Mr. Spielberg is known for delivering his movies to the market, which is all well and good, especially for the studio…until he gets that itch and decides to fight the indifferent shrug that he knows posterity will award him. These attempts at style include The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Amistad and now his latest, Lincoln. Instead of moments of artistry, the audience is assaulted: images of discarded limbs, Lincoln’s hand on everyone’s shoulder and achingly long dramatic pauses attempting to establish tension for things we already know. (Spoiler alert: The 13th amendment passes, the North wins the War, and Lincoln dies.) The end result is a movie (not a film) that is obscenely iconic.In the end, despite Daniel Day Lewis’ best efforts, the movie is tedious because Lincoln is not offered as a man, but a god – a patient one at that! – in a man’s clothing. In other words, Mr. Spielberg has forgotten that the magic of movie-making is in not showing the shark (the icon) until the last act. Instead he has us staring at the shark all movie long, until it’s no longer a thing to be afraid of – or admire – but another drawn-out moment, attempting to bully us into feeling a prescribed emotion. It gets to be so bad that, instead of wondering what might happen next, we’re wondering when the movie will finally end. Perhaps Mr. Spielberg can be convinced to do a Jaws prequel. As much as he might resist, we know his audience – and producers – would love know exactly what made that shark so mad.