Annals of the Overrated: David Fincher

It’s not that I don’t think David Fincher is a solid director.

But I don’t think he’s the Second Coming either, though some of the reviews he tends to get would have you believe otherwise.

What finally tore it was his version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” that opened Dec. 21. If this had been the first version of Stieg Larsson’s book to hit the big screen, it might have been impressive. But, coming in the wake of Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish version, released here in 2010, it looked like what it was: second best, too little too late.

So, David Fincher, welcome to my Overrated Hall of Fame.

Yes, I know – I’ve tended to give his films positive reviews. I don’t think he’s a repetitively self-reflexive stylist like Ridley Scott or just a plain commercial hack (like Shawn Levy). But he’s nowhere near as good as some of his fanboy critics seem to think.

As I said, Fincher is a good director, capable of making haunting, exciting films. I count “Zodiac” as one of the most overlooked films of the past decade and can still plug into “Fight Club” if I happen across it on TV. I was surprisingly moved by “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” And I happily put “The Social Network” on my 10-best list last year.

On the other hand, I thought “The Social Network” was as good a film as it was because of Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning script. I said as much to Sorkin at the New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner in January: that, with a script that good, it wouldn’t have mattered who directed the movie.

Sorkin, of course, demurred, telling me (and repeating in his Oscar speech) that the film wouldn’t have been the film it is without Fincher at the helm. I still disagree.

Fincher came out of the gate fast, with a high-speed “Alien 3” that crashed and burned. Rumor has it that the detail-obsessed Fincher regularly battled Fox executives and that the script – with a half-dozen writers credited – was in a constant state of flux. So his visuals were striking but the story dissolved into nothing.

This commentary continues on my website.

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