During the June Film Board review of World War Z I found myself speculating about these new type of zombies presented in the film. Afterward I wondered if this speculation was the result of a valid analysis of the themes in the film, or an attempt to layer additional meaning on a summer film. Were those “zombies” really that similar to the Tea Party or the Wall Street millionaires that crashed the economy? What was I thinking?
There are some films that find their audience right away. The films that key into some deep subconscious or primal response to storytelling. Jung might say that they draw on archetypes. In these films fans find characters to identify with and can externalize the conflict to some elements in their own personal narrative. Often these films draw from or are compared to Joseph Cambpell’s Hero with A Thousand Faces. Many of these films become enduring classics.
But then there are those that fall short of connecting with the mainstream zeitgeist, but find a loyal fan base. Sometimes these films gain “cult” status for developing a devoted group of followers. Some of these films find their audience due to an alternate understanding or interpretation of the film, either as an allegory or symbolic representation that the audience connects with.
Most notable of these is Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. The various interpretations of this film resulted in the creation of another film Room 237. Were any of these interpretations intended by Kubrick? Unless a long lost written or recorded confession emerges, we may never know.
In some cases alternate interpretations of films emerge because the film falls short of hoped for potential by fans, and sometimes out of a need to make sense of a film that just doesn’t come together coherently.
Darren Aronofsky never fails to fail to live up to my hopes for him. I really, really wanted The Fountain to be a better film than it was. With a promotion site as mysterious and trippy as this, how can you not be hopeful? The cast, concept, and cinematography just drew me in, and then … that was about it. I’ve put that film on a short list of films that I just keep hoping will reveal something more and deeper, but I can’t bear to watch them again for fear of being horribly disappointed again.
With Black Swan Aronofsky created what I consider an independent/art house film for the mainstream. It looks arty, its not easily accessible, and it has a surprise twist at the end – it must be artsy. But wait, there may be even more to this film than meets the eye. Because there’s some parts that are ambiguous or unclear there must be something hidden
in this film, something dark and disturbing because it’s an “art film.” Or perhaps its just a film that uses the point of view of a character suffering from psychosis as a means of obscuring the films weaknesses and shortcomings. This obscurity creates a level of inaccessibility that should not be mistaken for art. Art is not inaccessible, if it is, it fails in its function to communicate the intent of the artist. Despite the hopes that this film contains an attempt by the filmmaker to make a statement about the nature of the relationship of Nina with her mother, it’s still not a great film. If Black Swan is to be commended for anything it is bringing discussion of psychosis and anxiety disorders to the forefront, if only for a brief period of time.
Another film that struggled to meet the expectations placed upon the director was 2009’s Drag Me To Hell. Sam Raimi was burdened with the expectations of his mainstream fame that resulted from the Spider-Man franchise, as well as those of his long standing fans that looked forward to Raimi returning to his roots with a horror film. But perhaps it wasn’t really just a horror film, it was a film about a woman’s struggle with an eating disorder. Or it was just not what everyone was hoping for.
And finally this heroic attempt to lift from the gutter and elevate into social commentary this epic disappointment.
Guns! Robot with guns! Women in fantasy clothes! What’s not to like? Just about everything.
As with The Fountain, I really really was hoping that Sucker Punch was going to be a great piece of escapist, fantasy, action, fun. What I got was a meandering action film that left me bored and disinterested. No matter what logical gymnastics Adam Quigley tries to pull off in his argument that we don’t understand Sucker Punch, I’m not going to believe that this is one of the most misunderstood films of the decade. I’ll settle for most disappointing film of the decade and put it up there with The Fountain as one the great failed experiments to meld entertainment and art that resulted in a hollow film that fans desperately wish had more meaning.
Trying to put deeper meaning on these films is sort of like wishing that 90 cent taco was filled with real meat. It’s not going to change that filler into real meat and you’ll soon find yourself unsatisfied and looking for more substance somewhere else, just like those zombies in World War Z.