I’ve been kind of out of the loop on movie news due to my post-Fantastic Fest hangover, so yesterday afternoon I had no idea why my Twitter feed was suddenly all aflutter with people complaining about how bad of a filmmaker Zack Snyder is. I didn’t think much of it at the time and just chalked it up to yet another spate of angry grumbling on Twitter. It wasn’t until the evening that I realized why people were complaining: Warner Bros. had just assigned Zack Snyder as the director of their upcoming Superman reboot. I instantly understood why people were complaining.
Actually, I should clarify. I understood that Superman was the reason people were complaining about Snyder; I still don’t understand why people are complaining about Snyder as a director.
Before digging into the merits of Snyder as a filmmaker, though, let’s consider the alternatives. Tony Scott, Matt Reeves, Duncan Jones and Jonathan Liebesman were all names being floated around at Warner Bros. as possible heirs to the Superman throne. Would any of those directors really be a better alternative to Snyder? Considering how many cameras and edits Scott uses, I can’t even imagine that he and producer Christopher Nolan — a man whose films are known for meticulous camera setups and fairly traditional editing — would have ever agreed on anything. Does anyone really want a Superman that’s edited together like a Tony Scott movie? Hell, I barely want Tony Scott movies edited together like Tony Scott movies.
And really, Scott was the only plausible alternative. As much of a fan as I am of Matt Reeves (Let Me In is pretty damned good) and Duncan Jones’ work (Moon is a love note to sci-fi geeks like me), I’d rather see both of them escalate towards big-budget blockbusters instead of being tossed in. And Jonathan Liebesman, as great as a guy I’ve heard he is, just doesn’t have the track record to warrant him captaining a film as high-profile as this.
So of all who were considered, it’s only logical that Snyder’s name rose to the top. Yet I still don’t understand the disdain for the man that comes from film fanboys. It must be solely because of 300’s visual style — I can’t think of any other reason. His remake of Dawn of the Dead has grown dear to the hearts of geeks everywhere, so it can’t be that. Watchmen is a pretty divisive film, but even still, those who hate it don’t hate all of it. People tend to walk through his adaptation of such a holy graphic novel as though they were walking through an apple orchard, plucking down the individual fruit that looks most appealing to them. Even if you don’t like everything on display, there has to be a handful of elements in Watchmen that you like; if there aren’t, I simply don’t understand why you watch movies.
Then there is his latest film, Legend of the Guardians. It’s an animated kids film about fighting owls on a life-or-death adventure. It’s dark and gloomy and basically an antidote to the recent glut of animated films out of Hollywood that are all happy-go-lucky, smirks and smiles and so-innocent-no-one-can-complain kids flicks. The derision that movie has received by people who haven’t seen it just does not make sense to me. It’s a gorgeous, original and thrilling alternative to the cookie-cutter flicks the rest of the industry makes, but because it’s got owls who fight and Snyder’s name attached to it, it’s not cool enough of for your approval. Get off your high horse, you’re breaking its back trying to ride it onto the anti-Snyder bandwagon.
People complain that there’s no originality in Hollywood, that every movie looks the same and that the Golden Era of the blockbuster ended years ago. And yet Snyder receives very little applause from his core fanbase for delivering films that are original, that don’t look like every movie on the block, and that try to make lining up at a movie theater on opening night worth the wait and the $10 price tag.
Zack Snyder is a director that has proven time after time he cares more about building icons than he does on appeasing the widest possible demographic. How does that not make him an ideal candidate for a new Superman film? And with Nolan at his side overseeing the entire thing? I struggle to think of a better choice.
If you want safe, simple blockbusters, go seek out Brett Ratner or Len Wiseman or Louis Leterrier or Tony Scott or Sam Raimi. Don’t demand films with edge and verve and style and then shun one of the few people in Hollywood who makes them. Not only does that make little sense, but it makes you a hypocrite.