Hank: It’s the 10th Anniversary of David Fincher’s “Zodiac”! Which has me worried. Because Fincher uses every possible device to drench his true-crime saga in period detail. Beginning in late 1968 and through the summer of ‘69, the Zodiac Killer terrorized the Bay Area and taunted San Francisco’s newspapers with badly-spelled, encrypted notes in which the attention-seeking murderer bragged about 37 victims, which he expected would become his “slaves in paradice” (sic). Based on Robert Graysmith’s best-seller of the same name, Fincher’s “Zodiac” details the way the press and the police worked together, like two awkwardly-fused machines, to follow every possible lead on a killer who’s both outspoken and elusive.
Why is this worrisome? I’m thinking about the way in which the movie uses a barrage of cues to help us travel in time, particularly audio cues that make Martin Scorsese’s soundtracks look subtle. For instance, Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” has to be sending distorted love vibes from the AM radio in every Dodge Charger and Buick Skylark that passes by. So here’s what concerns me: What if I get murdered today? And they make a movie about it? They’ll have me played by someone inexpensive like Dylan Baker, and they’ll put me on a “Walking Dead Season 8” shirt, and I’ll be clinging to a Samsung Galaxy that has the Tidal App, and then as I get shot, the “ironic” soundtrack to my 2017 demise will be Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.” I won’t stand by any of that!
Beatricia: I’ll give it a Cherry because it sticks to the facts, but I don’t understand how a movie that boasts so much meticulous research has the potential Zodiac Killer claim to have been inspired by the book “The Most Dangerous Game.” What nonsense! Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” is NOT a book at all. It’s a short story, and no one who had actually read it would ever refer to it as a “BOOK.”
Grandpa Felicius: This Fincher fellow merely apes “All the President’s Men,” from its newsroom shots to its press-praising propaganda- and if honesty may be exercised, that Nixon-nixer was just “The Front Page” made unfunny. The Zodiac Killer was the inspiration behind the horoscopically-named Scorpio Killer in Don Siegel’s “Dirty Harry” (in which Clint Eastwood got gloriously fed up with the Grateful-Dead, Haight-Ashbury crowd.) Now that’s a movie! Had there been a Dirty Harry Callahan in the actual SFPD, I wager there would have been a lot more ass-kicking, and a lot less jibber-jabber about “handwriting matches.” Dirty Harry wouldn’t have even let the Zodiac Killer get from Capricorn to Aquarius!
Trent: “Zodiac” has three good scenes: When the Zodiac shoots down a lover’s-lane couple who looks like they have escaped from a ‘50’s malt-shop. When the Zodiac goes stabby-stabby on two picnickers by the lake. When the Zodiac kidnaps a mom and threatens to dump her baby out the car window. Haha! I can almost picture that baby flying! But the rest of the movie? It’s just Robert Downey Jr. getting drugged up (what else is new, Hollywood?); Mark Ruffalo sucking at detective work; and Jake Gyllenhaal… reading newspapers and checking out books from the library? What nerd agenda is this movie trying to push?
Tracey: Actually the best scene by far is the interrogation of Graysmith’s preferred suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, (played by John Carroll Lynch, who was so sympathetic as the cross-dressing brother in “The Drew Carey Show.”) Lynch convinces us that Allen is a creep- but not some over-acting, Gollum-like creep; a believable everyday creep, who stalks the same malls as everyone else.
But outside of moments like that, “Zodiac” is another lengthy procedural about workaholic (and alcoholic) males who rush around getting nothing done, while their wives (like the one played by Chloe Sevigny) submissively wipe their husband’s brows, or get them coffee or what have you. You know, it was a WOMAN who first cracked the first Zodiac code, but when the flick mentions that, they say it was “a history teacher and his wife.” The wife is the eternal adjacent! That was life in the ‘60s for you!
Cousin Franz: If “Zodiac” is overly long, if its characters run around achieving little, if the initial suspense of the last hour dissipates intro frustration- that’s all intentional. David Fincher wants to put you through a procedural that has nothing to do with the satisfactions of a “Law and Order” episode, and all to do with uncertainty and confusion. One in three murders results in no arrests whatsoever; if the killers aren’t caught hanging around the vicinity of the bodies, they have a terrifyingly good chance of not getting caught at all. Like Bong Joon-Ho’s “Memories of Murder,” “Zodiac” has no real answers. The one theory the movie sets forth, (the one that has us zero-in on Arthur Leigh Allen so persuasively, and which comes from Robert Graysmith’s best-seller) is half acknowledged as a fiction, a persuasive trick. Take this plot point: Allen wears a Zodiac-brand watch. In the context of fiction, that’s a guilty verdict. Zodiac Watch = Zodiac Killer! But reality is not an efficient screenplay. A moment of rational reflection tells us that many thousands of San Franciscans also wore Zodiac watches in 1969; at the time Zodiacs could boast of being one the world’s most popular timepieces. Heck, Zodiacs were the official water-resistant watches of the Navy Seals! (And as the movie admits upon closing, advances in DNA testing suggest Lee was NOT the Zodiac Killer after all.)
Blurbarella: “Badly-spelled– Zodiac–To Help– No One Who Had Actually Read It.– Scorpio– Capricorn– Aquarius– Rush Around–To–Malls–To–Get Coffee or What Have You.–Life Dissipates Into–Nothing.”
3 out of 6 Cherries.