Ok, this one has been building for a while. I’m tired tonight, so now is the time. The internet is – after all – a place where we are all free to go off on a good, healthy rant. I encourage anyone to disagree with me, I love to get into those kinds of discussions and this is definitely a matter of personal opinion, but tonight is a soap-box night, I am in that kind of mood.
Learning About Directors
When I was young I was foolish enough to follow films based entirely on the basis of their lead actors. It took some time to figure out that that was one of the worst ways of picking my viewing material, and never was that summed up better than in Public Enemies which came out shortly after I left university. My journey into discovering directors started fairly stereotypically for a kid of 17, with Tim Burton.
Now Tim Burton is an excellent start, he has an excellent sense of pacing, an art style that blends childish wonder with pulp or gothic horror, and characters that are either adequately deep to be likeable and interesting, or so brilliantly caricatured in their single aspect that they are loveable for their disgusting comedic value. Excuses can be made for his over-fondness for Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (they’re good at what they do, and they all work well together) and his increasingly clichéd style because he has found a formula that suits him, that he enjoys, and if you can’t enjoy what you do then why do it at all?
Held against Stephen Spielberg, I found that Spielberg’s style was to fill a film with a great deal of nothing that somehow built up to a memorable spectacle. To this day I don’t remember anything that happened in E.T. or any of the Indiana Jones films. The first Jurassic Park left me with several amazing scenes and memorable moments but so help me I can’t remember how anything got resolved, what order anything happened in, and what the story of either sequel was. I could not see the appeal, still can’t.
Rapidly I started finding those things that drew me into a film, artistic choices, editing decisions, characterization and proper pacing. I also found a lot of directors that I disliked.
300 – 2006
This isn’t exactly a film. This is a special effects real with some excellent one-liners that really did take the internet by storm, but as a film it’s kind of pathetic. Dialogue is highly noticeable in it’s absence, monologues are strung together with narrative exposition mixed with visual spectacle and anachronistic music. Fight scenes are visceral, but really just a series of stances mixed with blood-spatter, and as for an actual storyline…
There are some excellent names attached to this film, chief amongst them Gerard Butler who delivers a superb performance, Michael Fassbender who never disappoints, and Lena Headey! Lena Headey is an amazingly powerful woman reduced to a rather tragic victim, whose only response to allegations I shall summarize as “sexual misconduct” by a manipulative traitor is to stab him and inadvertently reveal his treachery.
Here was my first introduction to the name Zack Snyder. And while everyone around me raved and glorified this overblown showreel for the visual effects team, which – for the record – kudos to them all, they created something spectacular. Snyder created a new toy for the internet to play with, and his catalogue only worsened.
Watchmen – 2009
Here’s a film of two halves. It builds a world of heroes rather elegantly and defines a dynamic between them, they have personality that’s intensely human, flawed and real, with their own unique reasons for turning to heroism – responsibility, hereditary identity, a war they can’t leave behind, or a power that must be used responsibly. Alan Moore’s premise is superb, I don’t particularly like him as a person but the messages in his comics are strong and often necessary.
In steps the big sparkly hammer of Snyder, leaping in to descend in slow motion, bringing with it glorified – even sexualized violence, a lot of exposition and monologuing, and weird pacing. Twists turn into leaps of logic, plot vanishes under the weight of spectacle, and once again I’m wondering why everyone is so excited. Is it because Rorschach looks awesome, or because Dr. Manhattan is the first godlike superhero that wasn’t completely stupid? Or could it have been some other facet of Dr. Manhattan?
Sucker Punch – 2011
Beautiful trailers, a cast of actresses that had me hooked, and a fantasy world that lacked some consistency perhaps but included some seriously epic spectacles. Why then was I immediately filled with dread at the sight of the name Zack Snyder, after watching a mere two films.
Way to gloss over a sensitive subject with a series of disjointed and pointlessly flashy vignettes under the guise of what? A sloppy metaphor? Storyline goes out of the window once and for all, the conclusion is a tragedy out of place in a carnival of fantastic and excellently displayed fight scenes and adventures. I don’t doubt for one moment that Snyder was trying to address something as delicate as abuse, but to do so with skimpy outfits better placed in a fan-service heavy anime series?
Characters might have had a solitary dimension but under the single-colour wash and particle effects it became difficult to tell one from another. I recall reading – I think it was an Empire article – definitions between the characters and how they each differed in personality, I read it with some anticipation, then I watched and waited, and it was nowhere to be seen.
Man of Steel – 2013
How does this happen?
According to imdb, Snyder has two director credits to his name prior to picking up the Dawn of the Dead remake, suddenly there are blockbuster productions lining up? I reiterate, how does he do it, someone please explain this to me.
I needn’t list all the reasons I disliked Man of Steel, simply spot the patterns in the list above, they’re all there. Others have covered the other failures of this film, storyline errors and logical flaws that were fairly obvious, but for me I simply couldn’t overcome the director.
Wrapping up: I may have mentioned this dozens of times across a battery of other articles, but I have not and can not enjoy a Zack Snyder film without switching off every part of my brain not entirely devoted to watching pretty lights – actually the same parts I have to switch off in a J.J. Abrams film (although it sounds like his future projects will be somewhat less “sparkly”) – and I simply can’t keep demeaning myself like this.
So I exhale deeply, having relieved myself of my outrage I turn to you. I beg of you, find me a redeeming feature, disagree with me, tell me if I’m missing some flash of brilliance that has gone past me.