Sunday, September 26, 2010

Legend Of The Guardians

Lets get this out of the way. I have a real soft spot for Zack Snyder. The things that everyone finds so annoying about him are exactly the things I find endearing about him. The fact that he shoots like Ridley Scott, and wants to be John Carpenter. The fact that he’s seemingly making films based off of the doodles in his eigth grade notebook. His perma magic hour sheen. That normal then slow mo technique that pisses everyone off so much. The fact that he seems to think that subtlety is a rare fish found only in the Indian Ocean. The EVERYTHING MUST BE EPIC ALL THE TIME aesthetic.

I pretty much like all those qualities, right across the board.

Lets face it, the product of those working within the studio system has become more and more homogenized. And within that restrictive frame work Snyder has been able to carve a real creative identity for himself. Not just the look, but with films focused around the power and importance of storytelling, corrupt bureaucratic authority and the definitions of heroism. He's a definite auteur. That alone should earn him more consideration then he gets. You might not like what he’s doing, but he is unquestionably the muscle behind his own films.

Legend Of The Guardians, is exactly what you think an animated film about warrior owls directed by Zack Snyder would be. It’s both sillyly majestic and majestically silly. It’s the kind of movie I would blame exactly no one for not liking, but which I couldn’t help but like an awful lot.

Tonally the closest I think it comes to is the ultimate Don Bluth film Bluth never made. Alternating between animation that is truly awe inspiring, and scenes that are unabashedly some goofy shit. A film that is unabashedly a children’s film in a way I didn’t quite expect, but contains owl on owl violence so lovingly detailed that it actually earns the hoary old criticism of being pornographic. Helen Mirren voices an evil owl.

The story follows Soren, a young owl who along with his brother is pressed into service, by an evil gang of slaver owls. Escaping with an unusually flat secondary cast (The exception being his girl Friday Gelfie, who is ten pounds of adorable in a one pound bag. A sentence I didn’t expect to write about an animated owl when I woke up this morning) they seek a clan of warrior owls out of legend. And yeah, it’s all just about as goofy as it sounds. But Snyder never winks. Never comes close. I don’t think he has a winking bone in his body. It's his saving grace, his secret weapon and Achilles heel all in one. It’s the reason he can make something as melodramatic and broad as 300 really work. And also the reason why, though it’s intentions were noble and sections of it brilliant, Watchman did not. He lack’s Moore’s dark irony, but has Miller’s true believerism. Indeed Snyder is perhaps the most deeply unironic filmmaker working today, and I for one find it his most endearing quality and why I feel comfortable going to the mat for him as more then a journeyman hired gun.

It’s visually stunning. Narratively sweeping. And thematically simple. It’s a Zack Snyder film. You dig em or you don’t.


Budd said...

my daughter has read the books and said that the movie was quite different. We saw it in 3D and it was a really pretty movie.

Neil Fulwood said...

"The exception being his girl Friday Gelfie, who is ten pounds of adorable in a one pound bag. A sentence I didn’t expect to write about an animated owl when I woke up this morning."

You have just repaid the coffee/nasal passage expulsion favour!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Budd: I'd be interested to read one of the books. It's funny my main thought when watching it was, "Someone's going to make a kickass Redwall movie someday."

@ Neil: Always a pleasure sir.

Darren said...

"It’s visually stunning. Narratively sweeping. And thematically simple."

I think that might be the best summary of Snyder's style that I have ever heard.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Darren: Thanks man.

Snyder is an ambitious filmmaker just not ambitious about the stuff we usually think of people being ambitious about.

Budd said...

There is a redwall movie, but it is horrible. We attempted to watch it and gave up.

But, Redwall 3D would be cool. Hollywood needs to find a good screenwriter first.

Anonymous said...

Good point about his lack of irony. I never thought of it that way before, but you're totally right. It doesn't necessarily make me like him more, but it does explain perfectly why his Watchmen didn't work, despite his good intentions.

Hopefully his can funnel that unironic passion into Man of Steel without letting his weaknesses overwhelm it.

Bryce Wilson said...

I'm hoping so too. I have a feeling he'll be on a somewhat shorter rein this time out. Which who knows? Might be exactly what he needs to grow as a filmmaker.