Sunday, June 24, 2012

Zack Snyder is Not A Good Director (So fanboys, shut up!)

I'm going to say this because I had enough. I'm about to say this because he's part of the new generation of directors who have styles reminiscent of well known arthouse and Hollywood directors like Quentin Tarantino or Jean Luc Goddard. Well, I'm not talking about arthouse, I'm talking about Zack Snyder, the filmmaker almost everybody trusted but decided to turn their back for some unknown reason.

For those of you who don't know, the dude who directed 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch (though I haven't actually seen his remake of Dawn of the Dead and personally his other film Legend of the Guardians doesn't even count in his filmography) has a very distinctive style that could've turned him into an auteur. Almost 85% of it is the amount of slow mo, 10% of it is the stingy color scheme and 5% (though you don't see it in Sucker Punch) is shooting a sex scene on the basis that has more to do with expressing emotion, yet I never really see that.

Zack, there is a saying that "you can do whatever you want, but you can't put that in a film". Well I'm not quite sure whether the latter half is true, but you certainly shouldn't be doing things that you learnt from film school and use it in your next film you're assigned, so audiences will be in awe thinking "I must be some kind of genius". That's like saying a fast food restaurant would want to serve salads in the attempt of having at least something healthy to encourage billions of customers to lose a few pounds. That ain't genius!

Before everyone accuse me of being a hypocrite, let me tell you that I've defended Snyder in the past. When I watched Watchmen for the first time, I thought it was amazing but then after watching it at least three times overall, it wasn't what I really thought in my initial viewing. I read the graphic novel more times and it was more amazing than his film since he decides to brand himself with Watchmen. Then a month later I watched Sucker Punch and what lives up to the hype of the film was its tagline YOU WILL BE UNPREPARED! Watching this movie, I can't understand or take what Zack was going for in his film. Is he trying to tell an untold tale of feminism? How that girl you saw across Kings Cross will saves a guy in a tower guarded by a big ass dragon? Or is it being what I call a geek-ploitation flick cos since 300, Snyder has been creating the same atmosphere for the same demographic. And what's worse for him is that that demographic only makes about 25% of the mass market (if I'm not mistaken). And 99% of them attends his film

300 was a simple movie based on a graphic novel written and illustrated by one of the greatest graphic novel writers. A movie where an army of 300 Spartans led by Gerard Butler go to war against the Persians to prevent them from conquering their land. This is the movie where it made me realize that his style is completely bullocks. I watched it the other night and this is the one word in thinking about this movie and I'll never say it against any film I would have to be forced to succumb - self-indulgent. How I felt about the film is largely  based on the fact that the direction and screenplay (which is co-written by Snyder) tells us to just go with it. Go with it when Butler's character the King Leonidas would take on a quest to defeat the Persians only because of one "significant" scene where he throws some messenger off a hole.

I'll say that the only thing I enjoyed about the film and if you haven't noticed, then you should, is Michael Fassbender who plays the energetic Stelios who has a more interesting personality than any of the characters. And it's also cool to pause it if you have it on Blu-Ray. Other than that, the movie is one big mess because Snyder cares too much on the visuals and the presumed pathos of the swords-and-sandals genre to even actually give a shit about the story and characters. Leonidas is such a dick by starting a war for himself to rejecting some hunchback in enlisting in his army on the belief that a deformed person will set them back. Let me address those two issues and that it is to say I am not familiar with the film's context (ironically though, I am currently studying Modern History in high school). First of all, 300 is historical fiction. It isn't meant to be historically accurate since it's based on a graphic novel that isn't historically accurate. However I'm not quite sure whether the Persians would think of conquering Sparta. Is it implied that Sparta is a sacred land of "philosophers and gay-lovers"? What the hell would the Persians want from Leonidas? Cos "Earth and Water" is simply unjustifiable. Second, why in Lord's name would he reject some hunchback? Does Snyder knows that in ancient or medieval times if you're a soldier who's physically or mentally deformed, you're more likely to deliver your team the victory (maybe I'm missing something here, but that's what I assume). But what's wrong with this film is the mis-en-scene. The color scheme gets more boring 30 minutes in while the Spartans speak more in what you hear from professional wrestlers. And worse of all, this is a film that is so obsessed with itself thinking that it's going to be a centrepiece of the historical epics hence my one word description. This is what the trailer looks like if you multiply its running of time of 2mins and 30secs with 55. Even the internet meme based on it is much more entertaining than the film itself.

Snyder cares more about the mis-en-scene rather than the plot and if that doesn't completely shock you, wait til I say that he's not only a poor storyteller, but a poor adapter as well. Watchmen was a movie no one would possibly think it could be made for the big screen. Well they were wrong and it was released in the early months of 2009. I still stand on what I said in my revised review. Now I realized that he removed the pathos of the graphic novel by placing 90% of its content after reading it several times. Snyder does have a reputation for not being a director of actors, specifically actresses. In this case, all of the woman are just whiny and unlikeable making the film more male dominated than it supposed to be. And the way he shoots his women are the costumes. It's stupid for Malin Akerman to wear something you dress at your BDSM ball. Snyder used the same techniques he used in 300 here. Slow motion here and there, droopy low-key lighting in every scene and one  that feels like I'm watching the worst porno in my living room. Though if I had to hand any credit to Snyder directing Watchmen, at least he is the one director who would be get the film right. He does improve in his storytelling though, with the subplots of Dr. Manhattan and Rorscharch told very well. As a film reviewer, I'm not supposed to compare the film with its other medium but this is where I draw the line of what is a faithful adaptation. This is not a terrible film in any stretches of the imagination, but it's a terrible adaptation.

And then there's Sucker Punch. OK, where to begin. The film is radically different from any of Snyder's films, but why am I saying that when it had two of his three trademarks shot there? It's because there's no softcore sex scene and this is his pet project. That term had been on my mind for a while and to sum it up, here's my definition:

A pet or vanity project is a film that is directed passionately by its filmmaker. In order for a film to become this, the film must be directed and written by the filmmaker, all directly to the screen. It may be inspired by any cultural influences and the film may be told in any narrative or had been worked on a long term period. This is under the "call it what you want" category where most of the film is left up to your interpretation. Film students, if you want to make a film then here's are some movies to take note: Christopher Nolan's Inception, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, Baz Lluhrman's Moulin Rouge and now Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch.  

With Sucker Punch, this is what critics commonly said: it's a 13 year old geek's wet dream. If that's the case, then I would accept the fact that women aren't scantily clad and are roughly the same age as they are. The film flopped at the box office only to be beaten by Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 in its first weekend. The film was been critically panned meaning that Zack Snyder, even though he's already assigned to direct the Superman reboot, Man of Steel, is virtually unreliable to direct a film given that if your project fails, then you will be held 100% of the responsibilities here. I watched cast and director interviews of the film and there is a certain need for the film to spark a mixed response, not one where you earn 23% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The pitch here is that a 16 year old girl is sent to a mental asylum by her stepfather and she need to escape with the help of four other hookers and five (maybe?) objects from her different fantasies. Sounds familiar? Pan's Labrynith you don't say?! Well now's my chance to show you why this film is more indescribable than Lou Reed and Metallica's collaboration together. First of all, it's the same color scheme, same use of slow motion. Then there's the acting and almost all of the performances are unconvincing.

Now I actually didn't address Snyder's role as the director of actors to a further extent. In 300, everyone seemed to at least tried to be good, particularly Gerard Butler, who has some bit of charisma in him. Same can be said in Watchmen, where Jackie Earl Haley seems perfect as Roscharch and Billy Crudup does an OK impression of Dr Manhattan. Emily Browning on the other hand does quite about enough with her Bella impression. Oscar Issac's character who's the owner of the asylum is over-the-top and that's also one bit in Snyder's films. It needs at least one overacted performance. I mean in 300 there's at least five, while in Watchmen there's one. In Sucker Punch,there's at least two. Issacs meanwhile has a character that pushes to the limit. And I liked Issacs. I think he's a talented person. If you watched him in a movie like Drive, you would actually see what I mean. And then Carla Gugino who does the most fake and over-the-top Russian accent... EVER!

The movie doesn't make any sense. Emily Browning starts dancing and all we can see is her fantasy. When she completed her challenge, everyone gives her a standing ovation. WTF?! Every fantasy seems to diverge to ridiculousness one after another. The first fantasy involves Browning's character Babydoll defeating a giant samurai with no harm on the aid of a guide. Don't know why he's there. Then the girls fight zombie soldiers in WWI. Wait, what? They fight a dragon so they can earn fire, but end up crashing a train.... you what, I don't want to go any further.

The plot is extremely weird that it shows that the reasons why I didn't like Sucker Punch are exactly the same reasons I can't stand 300. The same overused style, the lack of multi-dimensional characters and the fact that the film thinks it's a total masterpiece. Plus, the soundtrack sucks. I haven't heard a mundane cover of Pixies' Where is My Mind since... well since this. Part of the film's mind is comes from the fact that it tries to explores a 13 year old fantasy too hard. It panders too much that this Babydoll's world is a fantasy and her reality is a figment of her imagination. If Snyder is trying to pay homage to the kooky memories of your favourite manga, then it's not doing good for me. The fact that Babydoll was incredibly invincible in a schoolgirl costume reminded me of Sailor Moon mixed with possibly the dullest, tame hot looking girl you've ever known. It pisses me off that this is catering to young male teenagers and geeks who are still preoccupied with their Call of Duty. Snyder shoots action like any cut scene from any first person shooter game. This becomes dumb, but ultimately it becomes so tedious.

What makes him get away with this film, what's makes any one of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's films more tolerable than him is the people who support him. The fanboys argues that this is a feminist piece of work which only seems valid if you're not a feminist. Do I think dressing yourself up in a fetish empowers women? Absolutely not. Is escaping from an asylum the only way to avoid rape empowering? Hell, no. Well maybe if you actually dealt with it. If I actually assume that the film's sexual politics have any positive impact to women of all ages, then that is actually giving it a disservice. Snyder's view of women in this film is almost the equivalent of that of today's current female pop stars like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Their feminine ideals is that the only way to promote yourself is to dress up or act like a slut. Also it isn't feminist when your characters are named after the words you use to pick up chicks. The only name that I couldn't have deep hatred for is Amber because it's an actual name.

Every time I think about Sucker Punch, the vitriol I have with the movie rise up. And it wasn't until I just saw 300 that I have some intense dislike for him. There's nothing subtle placed in his direction, there's nothing cohesive in his screenplays, and to say that Sucker Punch has a deeper meaning is a hyperbole. The reluctancy I have in Snyder's job in handling Man Of Steel is though is not that concerning since Superman was not the most interesting person to watch on the big screen. Snyder only cared about the meaning of his project and not the story. I hope to God that Snyder just experiment his style for a bit and only pay attention to detail more often if he wants to be called a visionary genius as he is branded.

But the actresses Emily Browning abd Abbie Cornish ask us, the haters, to give Sucker Punch another chance. I'm sorry girls, but I already gave it at least one. I don't really want to see it again to know that I have been wrong. And I think that having already seen it once, I don't really want to go back again to see what's wrong with it.

Personally I hate Zack Snyder. He's a chauvinistic director with no sense of soul or creativity in either his film making or his ability to write a decent screenplay. If he was to be compared with other directors, my ballot would be Michael Bay minus the explosions in term of style, Tim Burton in terms of how he adapt material, mixed with the ambition of Quentin Tarantino where he is completely obsessed with any aspect of the film except for the acting or editing. He may be a nice person and I may judge him if I actually met him, but his films... they're not someone to hang out with.


  1. I agree. He also seems to have a rather sick and worrying obsession with rape, which features in nearly all his films.

  2. I agree. He also seems to have a rather sick and worrying obsession with rape, which features in nearly all his films.

  3. Agree. Zac needs to realize fans don't like Superman and Batman because they punch bad guys. They are actual characters and a movie needs to explain their motivations beyond "their parents died."