Zack Snyder is an interesting choice for director of the Superman reboot, given that he is essentially the new Joel Schumacher. He’s put metaphorical bat nipples on every one of his comic book adaptations, and while Schumacher at least directed the superb Falling Down, Snyder’s biggest achievement was not making the Dawn of the Dead reboot suck as hard as a Platinum Dunes effort.
300 was an erotic pantomime that spent half it’s running time in slow motion to glorify the sexy, sexy violence, while Watchman was so concerned with looking visually spot on that it managed to miss the entire point of it’s source material. Tellingly, Snyder’s answer to the implied fetishism of Superheroes in the Watchman universe was to dress his characters in rubber and latex, probably a wise move considering the dress code of Superheroes today (just look at Batman, X-Men, even the Fantastic Four) but then he goes and spoils it all by directing the most unerotic cringe-worthy sex scene in the history of cinema. Clearly, Snyder has the mind of a 14 year old boy, he understands surface, and can make his films look pretty, but any amount of depth plays second fiddle to a slow motion shot of someone having their shins kicked in.
Zack Snyder has since gone on to make Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (no me neither) and Sucker Punch. Now Sucker Punch is probably the best example of what defines Synder as a director (and writer in this case), he makes music videos and thinks burlesque is empowering. He may actually believe that his female cast of sex dolls are feminist symbols, much like I’m sure Tarantino thinks that Kill Bill is a feminist movie, but again it’s all just surface, a feature length movie of stuff happening, loud noises and bright colours. In slow motion.
If the studio people behind the new Superman reboot (Warner Bros etc) wanted someone who could make fanboys excited, but misunderstand the tone of the source material, and fail to deliver a film with substance, then Snyder’s the man for the job. And maybe that is what the studios want, a bland retelling of an already iconic figure, with a devoted fan-base, something that will look exciting in pictures and trailers, but will be so mainstream and diluted that it will appeal to the kind of audience who enjoyed the Transformers movies. If it’s really all just about money, then the new Superman looks spot on.
Now, to be honest, I’ve never really liked Superman, for all the reasons that are better explained by Steven T. Seagle, however I felt actual pity for the fans when I discovered Snyder would be directing Man of Steel. But make no mistake, Snyder is a fanboy himself, he genuinely loves the source material; he desperately wanted to make Watchman and doubtless he has a hard-on for Supes too. But just like a fanboy, he also has no understanding of why he loves the material in the first place. Snyder is the movie director equivalent of a comic book fan, blogging about how great it would be if Christopher Nolan’s next Batman film had Killer Croc as the villain.
Fanboys have notoriously bad ideas, and Watchman is a great example of how Snyder understood the pretty pictures, but missed out on a lot of the depth and complexity of the comic, even wiping out a lot of the moral ambiguity, and essentially neutering the most provocative ideas in the process. While it’s an unfair generalisation to say this, I’m going to anyway: fanboys, at least initially, seem to care more about the irrelevant surface details than the underlining point, they want the costume to look spot on but aren’t so bothered if the character loses their identity. Joel Schumacher’s Batman didn’t suck because the bat costume had nipples, it sucked because Schumacher didn’t get Batman.
When making a movie adaptation of anything, it’s most important to understand the spirit of the source material, but Snyder is more concerened with getting the surface detail right. It’s essentially the same problem that videogame adaptations have.
Zack Snyder is, in a sense, Carl Denham, ultimately destroying the things he loves, by misunderstanding what makes them great in the first place. Obviously it’s far too soon to judge whether or not the Superman reboot will be utterly horrible, especially as Christopher “Wild Card” Nolan is producing, but this new image of Henry Cavill in costume as the Man of Steel does give us a hint of what to expect: slow motion.
Man of Steel (just like Dark Knight, geddit?) is scheduled for release in June 2013. You should definitely all check it out because if there’s one thing cinema needs, it’s a new Superhero movie.