MovieBob - Intermission
Things I Learned in 2011

Bob Chipman | 30 Dec 2011 12:00
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2011 has come to a close, 2012 lies ahead, insert your own joke about the stupid Mayan Apocalypse nonsense here.

Let's look back at some of the things that moviegoing in the now-concluding year taught us ...

Zack Snyder is not an auteur ... yet

I'm an unashamed booster of director Zack Snyder, even though he's only made one really, really good movie with Watchmen. He has a great eye for style, an appealing "yeah, we can film that!" boldness and seems to prefer innately-cinematic shot-composition over the hyperactive over-editing that plagues so many of his contemporaries. Best of all, despite his decision (thus far) to wallow in the realm of high-concept genre fare, he's that rare action director who wants to build his films around not just setpieces but ideas.

Unfortunately, what he doesn't seem to have yet mastered is translating his own ideas to the screen.

His Sucker Punch - a self-written passion project that Warner Bros. supposedly greenlit to keep Snyder happily in the family (he subsequently took the reins of the embattled and legally-deadlined Superman reboot) - is one of the strangest and most ambitious genre films put out by a major studio in a long time; a multi-layered, reality-warping action film with a predominantly female cast and subversive hook only hinted at by the title: it aims to lure the gazes of unwholesomely minded male fans with the promise of fetish-doll fanservice ... only to smack them in the jaw with the realization that the sleazy, slimy, groping, girl-exploiting creeps depicted in the film are supposed to be them.

That kind of poke-the-audience subversive satire is always a hard sell - just ask Paul Verhoeven, who hit a similar wall when critics mistook his brutal satire of fascist war movies, Starship Troopers, as an endorsement of the same. But it doesn't help when the movie itself doesn't totally work. Sucker Punch is a noble effort and a fascinating experiment in male-gaze self-criticism (some would say to the point of outright misandry)... but it's dazzling visual imagination and well-meaning new feminist empowerment fantasies are somewhat obscured by a dreams-within-dreams narrative that doesn't totally make sense and screenplay that can't seem to put it's big ideas into words.

Granted, I'll take a movie that slips up while aiming high over one that doesn't take any chances; and just as I'm confident the film will be rediscovered by audiences who won't just dismiss it as being the kind of empty peep-show spectacle it's actually attacking, I'm confident Snyder could well emerge as a storyteller/director/producer triple-threat at some point ... he's not quite there yet. That said, I still very much liked the movie, problems and all.

Ryan Reynolds is not a movie star ... yet

Poor Ryan Reynolds. Classically handsome, a gifted comedian and a solid dramatic actor when called upon, he should be a major movie star by now - the kind of guy who should be getting tapped for all the plum leading roles and able to open a film to blockbuster success just by appearing in it.

But he isn't, not yet anyway... and his (professionally) crummy 2011 isn't going to help.

This was supposed to be his breakout year, with Green Lantern and The Change-Up both opening with big marketing pushes. Two lead roles in the two biggest genres of the moment (a superhero actioner and a raunchy comedy, respectively) tailored to showcase his broad range of talent? What could possibly go wrong? Well, both movies could open to horrible reviews and bomb spectacularly, for one.

We'll talk more about Green Lantern in a moment, but the plain fact is Summer 2011 was pretty-much a washout for Reynolds' rising star. It's too bad, because he's a good actor and certainly deserves the kind of box office clout that similar leading man types like Matt Damon or Tom Cruise can command ... but it just hasn't happened yet.

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