Monday, March 28, 2011

Sucker Punched

You have to hand it to Zack Snyder. After directing a slew of music videos and car commercials in the nineties, he moved on to making feature films. He was pretty successful with 300, based on the Frank Miller comic book series, and made works based on other franchises like Dawn of the Dead, or Watchmen (one of this reviewer's personal favorites.)

But that's the thing.

Prior to this movie, we really haven't seen Zack Snyder do anything that wasn't a remake or an adaptation of (admittedly awesome) source material. He has only existed as a shadow or extension of his previous job - to present something that already exists, package it and present it with style. The film-as-concept then evolves into something completely different, a commercial, a picture that tells no words other than accounts of its own beauty. Pictures worth no words. Who would have ever thought?

This brings us to his latest film, Sucker Punch. It's his first film that is original, not based on a comic book, a book or an old movie. I won't talk that much about the movie because a multitude of people have already shared their views on it: it's weird, it's brainless action, the plot is obtuse, it explains nothing, it's slow and awkward whenever the hot girls aren't blowing up zeppelins or robot samurai.

Instead, I offer this: what constitutes a 'director?' Is it simply someone who handles the technical presentation of the film? A film does not exist on style alone; plot and characterization are two important things filmmakers seem to be forgetting these days. With a glossy exterior we get films like the new Star Wars Trilogy, lush fantasy worlds populated by cardboard cutouts and paper thin plots. With rich and deep plots and fleshed out characters the movie that emerges from it far outshines its hollow kin.

Somewhere along the line, something went wrong with this movie. Perhaps it was the screenwriters explaining too much, or the other way around. Zack Snyder wants us to read between the lines in an film that promised us brainless action. Between serious drama and eye candy explosion fests, the film transforms into something that is neither one - ultimately alienating the audiences of both.

I wish I could tell you how badass the sequences are. They are indeed, but that alone constitutes not a true movie. You could edit out the rest of the parts and still see something probably worth watching on Youtube. One could praise the visual and musical flair taken in the presentation of the product, featuring absurd amounts of detail and songs from the Pixies all the way to Bjork. But again, the gift is only as good as what's inside - not the wrapping that covers it.

Zack Snyder has yet to prove to audiences that he is a true director - someone who not only gives us the pretty packaging, but tells us the story behind it. Unfortunately we may not be able to know just yet; his next project is a reboot of the Superman series.