David Fincher has been a lauded over, semi under the radar director for many years now. His first big splash was Seven in 1995 and he solidified his name in 1999 with Fight Club. It wasn’t until 2008 that Fincher started getting the Academy’s attention with the underwhelming Curious Case of Benjamin Button and of course we have all heard the hype about his latest film The Social Network which has been raking up awards and nominations in 2011. I found The Social Network to be a solid film but ultimately forgettable and feel that Seven was his only “praised” film that I have loved. This brings us to a little talked about 2007 film Zodiac, which I feel is his best film and tragically underappreciated.
Zodiac follows the investigation of the infamous Zodiac serial killer that terrorized California in the early 70’s and as most of you already know, he was never caught. Ultimately the story is about obsession and how two reporters had their lives become nothing but the Zodiac killer. You wonder how could a movie be good about a killer who never gets caught? That is where Fincher comes in and takes the solid source material and turns it into a suspenseful, thought-provoking drama and works his cast into solid performances, even from Jake Gyllenhaal. Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. make the perfect fit for this type of movie. They act with conviction and the right amount of flare to keep the movie from becoming dull. Downey Jr. with his typical sarcastic character approach gives you a little relief from the tension and provides a great balance for the ambitious character of Robert Graysmith (played by Gyllenhaal) who becomes obsessively wrapped up in the case. I found myself tied up whole heartedly in the movie, wondering if they did in fact have the Zodiac killer pegged and let him slip through their fingers. If I had more of an obsessive personality I would have easily spent months researching and reading everything about the Zodiac killer trying to figure out if they truly had him.
How could a movie that garnered so many positive reviews (only 2 films appeared in more critics 2007 top lists than Zodiac) and with the push of a great director, not be more successful at the box office? It only made roughly half of its budget in US ticket sales and that is just pathetic and says a lot about how under supported this film was. The first thought that comes to mind was the marketing approach, or lack there of marketing approach of the film. I can understand the apprehension of some viewers to spend more than two and a half hours at a film, but with the way the story unfolded and the movie was paced it never felt that long. There is a real niche market for this kind of film and it did fairly well over seas but I feel that these kinds of movies have to be marketed appropriately to the mid aged male audience. I know that it is not the largest demographic (which is commanded by young males) but if studios would start capturing more of the mid aged male audience with solid promotions showing the intelligence of the film, they can most likely expand the success of these types of film. But maybe that is a dream world.