Monday, April 27, 2015

Zack Synder: The Great Trailer and the Underwhelming Movie

This probably happened to all of us: We see an amazing trailer, think "Holy crap, this movie is AWESOME" only to be bitterly disappointed when the movie turns out to be underwhelming. But, boy, Zack Snyder has made an entire career out of these sorts of movies. 300, Watchmen, Suckerpunch, Man of Steel, and now the new Batman vs Superman movie all have had amazing trailers -- and none of those movies have matched up to what their trailers' promised. (In the case of Batman vs Superman, I'm merely positing that will be true.)

So, what makes an amazing trailer? In Synder's case, he mashes up visuals with music that should feel incongruous (An action movie about girls slaying dragons set to Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks", the cerebral Watchmen set to Smashing Pumpkins, an epic about Spartans set to Nine Inch Nails etc.) and somehow makes them work.

Legends of the Guardians: Guardians of Ga'hoole is the one exception, as there is no way to make Owls wearing metal helmets look non-stupid. even in a good trailer. Also, this guy's name is "Metal Beak". Take that seriously if you can.

The interesting thing though is that the visual tricks Snyder uses in his trailers (Super slow-motion, BIG MOMENTS OF PEOPLE YELLING) is what makes Zack Snyder's movies feel clunky. As a director, Snyder has a gift for awesome visuals but none for subtlety. And I know, I know, who needs subtlety when you're making BIG movies but that is exactly what separates a genuinely great BIG movie (the kind Spielberg and Nolan makes) from the LOUD, EMPTY BIG movie (the kind Michael Bay makes). However, I wouldn't put Synder into the same category as Michael Bay. Synder genuinely has taste and vision -- when he could have done anything he wanted after the mega success of 300, he chose to adapt an insanely complicated and morally bleak graphic novel (Watchmen) and his two other movies were about a group of women stuck in a mental asylum where they are under the threat of lobotomy and sexual abuse and... well, that movie about Owls. Even his Man of Steel, which doesn't quite hit what it's going for, is really going for something different than your usual Superman movie. You can't fault his ambition.

"Hey man, how do we pronounce Guardians of Ga'hoole? Gahooley? Gahoola? Gaahuul?!"
You ever heard about Ira Glass talking about how being an artist, especially in the beginning, is hard? Here's his speech, which is pretty cool if you want to listen to, but let me paraphrase for those who don't have the time: As an artist, you probably have great taste but don't have the skills to match up to to your taste. So you end up producing stuff that falls short of what you wish you could produce.

I think Zack Synder is stuck in this weird loop where he produced stuff that probably fell short of what he wanted to do (300, in particular) but people praised him and it earned him a shit ton of accolades because he could do one thing (amazing visuals) really, really well. So, now, maybe he's stuck in that feedback loop because he never has to improve. He's making the studios he works with really happy, but maybe there is a great filmmaker inside him who he's suffocating. I know this sounds insane, but maybe he should've spent more time being a cinematographer before he burgeoned into being a great director. Either way, until then, I will watch his sumptuous, glorious, visceral trailers and skip his movies until they hit Netflix.

Are there other directors who make awesome trailers but underwhelming movies? If so, why do you think that is? Do you agree with my take on Synder? Do you think the Batman vs Superman movie is going to be any good? Do you love Guardians of Ga'hoole and are offended of my knee-jerk reaction to it? Let me know in the comment section!



1 comment:

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