Alien³ [Workprint]: ***½
So many people saw the theatrical cut and it wasn't Aliens and they wrote it off forever, but I think Sigourney Weaver almost single-handedly makes this one worth watching. She has a scene with Charles Dance that only has as much meaning and power as it does because this is a scene in a sequel and the viewer has presumably seen the other ones, and I think that's the sign of a great one: something that could not be as good as it is without building off of what came before. The workprint, since it never got honed, is a little bit long, but I think there's a perfect, albeit extremely bleak movie in there.
A masterpiece, and a better and more interesting movie than Fight Club, which I feel is overrated. Everyone is on point and the writing is top-notch, especially Freeman, who does phenomenal work in the whole movie, but really kills in smaller, quieter, less plot-driven moments, like the diner meetup with Gwyneth Paltrow's character.
The Game: ***
A lark, but a handsome one. Easily the most disposable of Fincher's movies, he takes a fine little thriller and elevates it with strong visuals. The potboiler and the treatment he's giving the material never gels, but some of it just looks so phenomenal, like Douglas' mansion, covered in graffiti and bathed in black light.
Fight Club: ***
I'm not knocking Fincher's stylish direction, but there's almost so much of it in Fight Club, the film starts to choke on it. There's so much that's amped-up and slicked over, it becomes hyper-reality, which I would say hurts the film.
Panic Room: ***½
People underrate this movie, but it feels more substantial and less of a B-thriller than The Game, packs a surprisingly solid script -- maybe the only one -- from David Koepp, and fine performances from everyone.
I realize no movie based on a true story is really all that accurate, but Zodiac is inaccurate when it has no reason to be, based on Fincher's own goals and the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. He claimed in interviews he wanted to make a film about a man eaten by his own obsession, then hired that same person (who brought an agenda with him) and made his life into a giant wish fulfillment feature film. Almost everything that happened in real life serves Fincher's supposed goals better, and yet the movie aggressively follows other options. Most importantly, I find the movie Fincher claimed he was making more compelling than the one that is.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: **½
Didn't bore me, but didn't move me much either. Technical aspects override the love story, ala Fight Club.
Fight Club and Zodiac are worse than Panic Room and Alien 3? Wow. On Zodiac- you have to judge the movie for what it is, not what you thought it should have been.
But this is what Fincher said his intention was, repeatedly. Is that not a valid thing to expect the movie to deliver on?
There are things in Zodiac that I love (the Charles Fleischer bit is fucking phenomenal from beginning to end, and Ruffalo is great, as is his chemistry with Edwards) but based on what I knew all of it rubbed me the wrong way: the way the film makes Graysmith into the little guy trying to do the right thing; the smarmy, smug attitude of Lynch as Allen (he might as well be wearing a sign that says "Ha! I'm the killer, but I'm gonna get away with it!"); the way it seems to gloss over the low points in Graysmith's life, just because (in my opinion, this is the reason) the guy is an advisor on the film. The worst things to happen to this guy is that he was a) totally right and completely validated about the Zodiac killer in every way but didn't get to actually catch him, b) some girl he barely seems to have any connection leaves with a kid he seems like he could take or leave, c) he keeps his job at the newspaper for a long time, and d) he gets a five o'clock shadow. So these are points and perspectives that I would have even if I didn't know what Fincher wanted to do, but on top of that, I do, and it only makes it worse.
My feeling is that Fincher really connects you to his protagonists in an emotional, raw way. I got that out of the Alien³ workprint, I got that out of Se7en, and I really got that out of The Social Network, although you'll hear from me about that back in that thread. In Fight Club and Benjamin Button, I feel like Fincher got very overwhelmed by surface details and technology, and I lost some of that connection. I think in the case of Fight Club, you're also supposed to really connect with Marla, but what about all the times she's not on screen? I have trouble feeling for or feeling what the Norton character is feeling for 75% of the film, but then he realizes it's all a sham and I start to gain that bond back.
As for Zodiac, I'd say Fincher just uses that power to bond a person that I just don't like, especially because I know in a sense that bond is dishonest.