On the eve of punk rock's unverifiable 30 year anniversary, we're being treated to the usual nostalgia reserved for such milestones—namely, a slew of documentaries, each a blind man contending that the elephant is a tree, a snake, or a spear.
Therein lies the problem with Punk's Not Dead, a doc that insists... well, you get the idea. Full of brief, strangled footage of bands doing their thing and snippety interviews with everyone in punk, its message is clear: Punk is still alive, and it's huge, and it's being played by poor kids and losers everywhere, and it's a multifaceted marketing juggernaut being spoon fed to the masses like some kind of high fructose corn syrup-laden pabulum. To illustrate this point, more than two hours of Good Charlotte "interviews" and pandering justifications drooled out by punk's aged and nominal success stories are paraded through the parlor. For an audience weaned on two-minute songs, two hours is a lifetime.
In addition to the poor editing—there's so much footage that's cut at such short lengths that the film seems to be a two-hour long trailer for itself—other bad traits show up, too. The simpering nostalgia (a punk taboo if there ever was one), a naïve assumption that anyone viewing a punk documentary wouldn't already be aware that being a punk was once difficult (nay, life threatening), and the inclusion of multiple justifications for punk's recent commercial obsequiousness, without offering a qualified assessment of the impact of such "success."
While the intensively archival Punk's Not Dead was made as producer/director Susan Dynner's very qualified labor of love, and was constructed under the proud DIY aesthetic embraced by punk itself, Dynner's film largely buckles under its own crushing volume and confusion. Indeed, punk isn't dead—but like a friendly elephant that's come back from a fresh burial at Stephen King's Pet Sematary, maybe it should be. This is, after all, hardly the same animal you grew up with.