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Where does 'Sucker Punch' leave Zack Snyder?

March 28, 2011 |  7:30 am

Punch

He had a promising debut, a monster hit, a slight disappointment and a slightly larger disappointment. And in the last few weeks he's become one of the more polarizing directors out there.

But now things really get interesting for Zack Snyder.

The provocative filmmaker will in a few months begin shooting "Superman: Man of Steel," a reboot of perhaps the most beloved character in the history of movies (a point underlined Sunday with the news about Snyder's choice of Amy Adams to play Lois Lane). But just where exactly do Snyder's fan cachet, and box-office drawing power, lie in the wake of this past weekend's "Sucker Punch"?

The helmer of "Dawn of the Dead" (the promising debut), "300" (the monster hit) "Watchmen," (the slight disappointment) and "Legend of the Guardians" (the slightly larger disappointment) unveiled his girls-with-guns action-adventure this weekend. The Babydoll vehicle evoked some harsh words from critics, which could set up a hurdle with at least one group for the 2012 release of "Superman," albeit a group that doesn't much figure into the marketing of a Hollywood tent pole.

Although the "Sucker Punch" box-office results showed that Snyder still has plenty of supporters -- the movie opened to about $20 million, the second-lowest number of his career but a respectable figure that was in line with pre-release expectations -- the film also caused divisions among fanboys and fangirls, with some naysayers taking the opportunity to assess Snyder's "Superman" chops.

"Sucker Punch is a loud, gaudy, fetishistic, bombastic piece of cinema," wrote Ain't It Cool News contributor Ambush Bug. "It's also hollow, remedial, and bereft of substance ... as the minutes passed, bringing me closer to the time for the credits to roll, all I could think of was how wrong of a choice this director is for a Superman film." (Overall, the movie garnered a decent if not overwhelming B- CinemaScore among general audiences.)

Snyder riles up film-goers the way few other directors do -- it could be that some people really have their stomach turned by his movies, or it could just be that, like a sort of Comic-con version of "Dogtooth," Snyder movies somehow began eliciting both love and hate early on, and the arguments now just perpetuate themselves. Not every superhero director can be Christopher Nolan.

It's hard to say where the road turns next for Snyder. Warner Bros., which is behind both "Superman" and "Sucker Punch," drew a distinction between the two films, with Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of distribution, telling my colleague Amy Kaufman that "a film like 'Sucker Punch' brought out [Snyder's] core fan base, but he has a lot of potential, and with a bigger, broader title, he can attract a wider audience, as he has in the past."

Much of the success of this mission will course depend on the quality (and, given one of the reviewer knocks on "Sucker Punch," the narrative coherence) of "Superman: Man of Steel." It should be noted that hardcore fans are often skeptical toward casting and filmmaker choices at first but come around when a movie opens. And plenty of directors, of both comic-book movies and every other genre, have managed to turn around even groups hard-wired to oppose them (see under: Oliver Stone and conservatives on "World Trade Center").

Still, once a filmmaker loses currency with the fan community, it's not always easy to get it back. That seems especially true for a property such as "Superman," where even those storytellers who come in with buckets of goodwill can run into problems (just ask Bryan Singer). Snyder has his work cut out for him. It just may not be superhuman work, at least not yet.

-- Steven Zeitchik
Twitter.com / ZeitchikLAT

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Photo: A promotional photo for "Sucker Punch." Credit: Warner Bros.

 


 
Comments () | Archives (12)

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Based of this mess, another director ought to be considered.

Despite what you thought of "Superman Returns", Bryan Singer never did anything as bad as "Sucker Punch".

Tony

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Production Budget: $80 million / Worldwide Gross $140,071,005

Watchmen
Production Budget: $130 million / Worldwide Gross $185,258,983

So these were disappointments? Hmm... I think Zach will be just fine!!!

Judging by my son's reaction to "Sucker Punch," I'd bet he's on the way down.

He and his friends are the demographic the movie was aimed at: single young guys raised on video games and manga, and he came home last night furious at wasting his money on the movie. Either my son's taste is improving, or Zack really missed the mark.

Critics and fans alike clearly have missed a core underlying theme and one of the primary objectives of Sucker Punch and it is disappointing.
The film has been attacked for being voyeuristic and mindless and appealing the most base of male fetish fantasy. Exactly the point of the film; target what goes on in the mind and on the laptop of most men age 15-50. Draw in that crowd with sex, visuals and action ( ie Fincher targeting the real world Project Mayhem and turning the table on them) and illustrate what the mainstreme obsession with you starlets does to both the women that are obsessed and the men that do the obsessing( see Brittany Spears or Murphy for that matter). Young women are imprisoned with their sexuality. And yet they feel a certain level of empowerment when then can take down the mightiest of men with it. This was the point. That was the Sucker Punchm you, the audience are Project Mayhem. Don't buy it? Listen to Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) as she gets up from the staged lobotomy chair, (paraphrased) " this isnt't titilating, this is sick".
Message: fantasy and fetish are fun, but keep them on the screen and in your mind. Crossover to reality and they become destructive.

@Ed

I think most people are aware of the underlying theme of this film. Doesn't make it any less of a crap film though.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Production Budget: $80 million+$40million P&A = $120m
Worldwide Gross $140,071,005/2 (studio take is half)= $70m
$50m loss before DVD sales
estimated $25m loss


Watchmen
Production Budget: $130 million+$60million P&A = $190m
Worldwide Gross $185,258,983/2 = $93m
$97m loss before DVD sales
estimated $40m loss

Superman is "the most beloved character in the history of movies ?" Wow, you don't get out much. Every superman movie yet made has been considered crap except the first one, and have you tried to watch that lately? Yeah, see, they don't know he's superman because he's wearing ... eyeglasses. That totally works for today's audiences.

Superman is horribly boring because by definition there can be no conflict that threatens him. He's super. Therefore, writers have to invent laughable, meaningless challenges for him to overcome (see, a chunk of his planet, it came across intergalactic space, and it landed on our planet about the same time he did, even though he flew far faster than light to get here and it somehow did too...and for reasons we won't even bother to invent, this chunk of his planet is deadly to him). Zzzzz. My plea is to never see this embarrassingly juvenile character appear in a big budget film again.

@GBH: I am sure u believed in Santa at one time too

Hmmm, so what would be the difference between SUCKER PUNCH (written & directed by ZS) and DAWN (only directed by ZS) ?

Maybe the answer is to let him do his thing behind the camera but keep him away from the keyboard? Once they get a script everyone (Nolan) loves, lock it - and let Snyder direct what's written. You have Goyer - the writer of DARK CITY and BATMAN BEGINS and co-writer on DARK KNIGHT... I think he knows how to write a screenplay. So let Snyder just do his job - and direct (not do Goyer's job, too).

@Biren- nope, never.

Critic, schmitics. Snyder is one of the most interesting directors working today, one of the few who doesn't make movies like the majority of lesser cookie-cutter-USC-film-school-Speilberg-wanna-be's whose films we are inundated with every single week. I find Snyder's films often go to dark and uncomfortable places, but the vision is absolutely unique and always enthralling. I can't wait to see his vision of Superman.

he just made a movie he wanted to watch. i don't want to see Jane Eyre. There is plenty to go around. Anybody who makes people this mad is REALLY good at what he does. Tarantino, Nolan anyone? At least Zack spares us the pretense.


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