Superhurm! Thoughts on Zack Snyder Directing Superman

 

As I write this on Monday night, my Twitter feed is, yes, a'twitter with news of Zack Snyder directing the new Superman.  Some folks are totally excited, and others are just sneering with sarcasm as they re-tweet the announcement. It's quite the controversial bit of news, I guess. Of course, no matter who was picked, the announcement would be controversial, which is both half the fun of being into all of this and half the aggravation of being into all this–everyone's so freakin' dramatic all the time!  I know there isn't a lot to go on right now, but I wanted to share my thoughts about the announcement and see what everyone else was thinking after getting a chance to sleep on it.

I guess I was surprised that so many people that I follow on Twitter were so irritated with the choice. At first glance, it seems like great news, right? The ultimate fanboy gets a chance to direct a blockbuster of a movie featuring characters from one of the most admired comic books of all time…oh..right. We've…we've been here before, haven't we? We've been in this position of getting exactly what we wanted before, right? I mean, the only way to ensure a great comic book movie is to make sure that someone who gets comics should make the movie — if they don't get it, the movie's not going to do well, right?

Right?

I was talking to my friend Brian Huberd about this and his comments were, "well, he's enthusiastic about the material he works with."  I mean, we can all agree, that no matter what you think of Snyder's previous films, there's a sense of balls-to-the-wall passion about the material and his films positively ooze with a sense of sincerity. Or, maybe sincerity's not the word… respect? A single-minded focus to do this thing right? You watch the behind-the-scenes footage and Snyder is practically bouncing out of the screen, talking about the material and you get the sense, that with Watchmen and 300, he was well aware of the responsibility he had to the source material.

There's a commitment in Watchmen — to make a movie that is faithful, as much as could be tolerated, to the book.  There was a fire in 300 to bring that sensation, that brazen force, that energy to the screen.  I haven't seen the animated owl movie, but it certainly looks…well, it certainly looks detailed, with the feathers. And the armor.  All snarkiness aside, Snyder brings a dedication with him, an exuberance, that can, at times, overshadow the movie.  I get it–I respect it. When you are dealing with passion, it can be difficult to "bring it down," especially in film. If anything, I would have loved to see Snyder direct 300 or even Watchmen for the stage–that would very interesting. The energy that permeates a Snyder production could be incredible on Broadway.  No, I don't want a musical of 300  or Watchmen. No. I do not.

I haven't seen all of his films, but from what I have seen, our man Snyder makes films that know how to make an entrance.  There's a forceful determination in this director that I admire, there's a passion of his that I relate to and hope to keep alive, and, for me, the sense that he's still figuring out what he's good at.

What do I mean?  Well, I guess, with the films of his I have seen, I get the feeling that he's a director that swings for the bleachers: to hit a grand slam of an adaptation, to bring to life stories and emotions that were hitherto impossible to bring to life on a movie screen. His expert use of technology and his faithful adherence to the page have resulted in big, bold and…well…serviceable? movies.  You know what I mean? Watchmen was good–but there was a coldness to it, there was a lack of emotion to it that, quite honestly, felt right in the book, but oddly discomforting in the film.  I didn't feel anything in that movie.  I watched the story happen but I was never emotionally involved.

For me, Superman is a story of emotion. It is a story of loss, it is the story of friendship, of love…of hope.  Superman is hope. He is less about power and more about ability–despite being so far above what a human is, his stories are all about teaching us what being human is all about.  And, unlike, Watchmen or the characters in 300, everyone knows Superman.  Everyone has a relationship with the myth. Everyone knows what "Superman" means to him or her and will bring that concept into the theater.

In a way, I think Snyder is more than ready to do Superman. I would hope that he doesn't feel the need to prove that he can make a film with this character, that he can take his experiences with the last movies and recognize what worked from a technical perspective and trust that the technology will support him in a way that he can really enjoy the relationships in the story.  I would assume that he is well aware that he is doing yet another high profile comic book movie, and that he wouldn't take this project on unless he felt that he could do the film he wanted to do, a film where he could have more control over the story, with less pressure to live up to an established plot line and associated expectations.

Do you know what I mean?  Like, with 300 and Watchmen, he was hired to make those specific plots happen, to translate the inks on a page to minutes on a screen.  With Superman, he is being hired to tell a story, a story that we know nothing about (other than Zod being the villain, that is). At least, I hope so–I really hope so. We know already that this is not a sequel to Superman Returns, but my hope is that this is not another origin story. If it is, then we might have a bit of a problem.

But push all this aside–push all this touchy feely "Superman is love blah blah blah" away and let's talk about this as a movie project. Let's all focus on the fact that Christopher Nolan will be producing this picture, which means that Snyder will have a mentor, a partner and a confidant in this production. Christopher Nolan would not have gone with Zach Snyder unless he believed that he could collaborate and help Snyder with key decisions (and, frankly, have the clout to say "no" to Snyder).  Nolan and Snyder are wonderful tone poets when it comes to films–they make a film feel a certain way, they have a sensibility to them that, at first glance, does not seem to have much in common…which makes the news that they will be collaborating that much more exciting. Also, if we have learned anything from the past few years, is that no matter how passionate the fillmmakers might be, you need to have a great script if the movie is going to have a chance to do well in the box office, and even then, it's a crap shoot.  Look at Scott Pilgrim — the movie did everything right (as a movie–I think the marketing department did their best to market a film that was almost impossible to market) and it got beat out by Sly Stallone's 80s action revival.  But that's a rant for another day.

One of the things that I have learned over the years writing for this site is that I still love the characters and stories I loved as a kid. You see that image of Chris Reeve flying right at the camera?  That poster was hanging in my room or in the garage from the year the movie came out (it was a birthday present) until I left for college. Every day, I would walk by the poster and, somehow, whether I recognized it at the moment or not, the idea of Superman permeated my day. And not just the character–the movie itself would stay with me, the music, the acting, the technical wizardry, making it possible for the audience to believe that a man could fly.  In so many ways, the message I was getting from that poster was, "you, too, can fly, no matter what happens."

Zack Snyder grew up with the same movie (heck, he probably had the same poster). Zack Snyder grew up with the same character.  With Superman, he can tell a story that would have inspired his 9-year old self, you know?  He can tell a Superman story without having to worry about how big the blue guy's cock is going to be, or if the word "hurm" will sound right or without making sure he captures a scene at the right angle because that was the same angle some other artist used in some other medium years ago.  He can be free to celebrate an ideal, not a plot, unencumbered by legions of fans ready to compare his movie to someone else's book.

He can, finally, make a comic book movie–not a movie of a comic.  I think he's learned a lot, both technically and creatively from his work on 300 and Watchmen, and I think that, with the help of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, we are going to see Zach Snyder's best film.


 


Mike Romo is an actor in LA and, by the time you are reading this, camped out in front of Zack Snyder's house. Email and twitter away.

Comments

  1. I wrote a blog post about it on my own site, but really, one the most important things to do for this new movie is to just leave the Donner films behind. That doesn’t mean there needs to be a new origin story, but it’s best to just start anew without any built-in continuity. Also, they should keep Routh. He was great.

  2. I just wish they’d transition Tom Welling directly to the film franchise starting here!

  3. Tom Welling is my pick to play the role!

  4. @bansidhhewail, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere hasn’t proposed that very idea.

    If Tom were a slight bigger name, then it might be possible. (Kelsey Grammer played the character of Fraiser Crane for about 20 years, it’d love it if Tom Welling could do the same with Clark/Superman.) 

  5. So long as Nathan Fillion plays Superman, we’re fine.

  6. @RapidEyeMovement, as long as Nathan can still play Hank Pym, I’m fine with this too.

  7. "He can, finally, make a comic book movie–not a movie of a comic." Exactly. He was stuck with watchmen by having to make it panel by panel. Here he should be able to move and flex the story the way he wants to. With Nolan as producer this story will be different but in a good way. In Batman Begins the Joker was not the Villian, which made for a better movie. So hopefully no Lex or very little Lex. Lois is a very important part of the story. Kate Bosworthwas horrid as Lois. She just didn’t connect with the character. I am excited about the movie, hopefully DC is moving in the right direction with their movies.

  8. @ccarney, I agree about no Lex.  The Batman and Spider-Man movies had a big range of opponents, and I’d like to see a Superman villian who isn’t Lex (he can have a cameo, but that’s it!) or not Zod (kneel before this!).

    That was the really good thing about Batman Begins.  Even though it was a reboot, restart, there were two main characters who had not appeared in any of the Batman movies before. I thought that was a great move on their part.  I think it allowed for old and new viewers to have a fresh adventure. 

  9. I agree with @ccarney, and of course you mike "He can, finally, make a comic book movie–not a movie of a comic." You also have a great line mike, "I mean, the only way to ensure a great comic book movie is to make sure that someone who gets comics should make the movie — if they don’t get it, the movie’s not going to do well, right?" and i think a lot of trouble we find sometimes is that someone gets comics and that’s enough, but someone should also get characters, and even get movies, because really, thats what they are doing making a movie not a comic.

    Nolan won’t mess around. If he feels something isn’t right or gelling, he’ll say so.

     

  10. Nice Article Mike!  BTW did I see you on a Target commercial during The Event last night?

  11. Fantastic, fantastic article! An excellent analysis.

    You raise an excellent point in that we’ve never seen what Snyder can do with a property that isn’t a direct, almost religious adaptation. I, for one, am very interested to see if he can maintain his energetic style while bringing something heartfelt to the picture. Can’t wait.

    Also, Tom Welling would be weird. He’s TV Superman, not movie Superman. I’d have Remy Zero in my head the whole time.

  12. @CaseyJustice: Yeah, that’s why Tom Welling won’t even be considered.

  13. Looking through Snyder’s movie credits at actors he’s worked with before, I’d love to see Billy Crudup as Superman if they were going for an older Superman, but I highly doubt they would.  Plus, if they were going for that age range, they’d most likely get Jon Hamm, right?  Please no Tom Welling though, nor Brandon Routh (they are both excellent at playing Superman, but it’s time for someone new again so this thing feels fresh).  

  14. I think Hamm would make a great Zod. His Don Draper practically seems that way. Cold, distant, unemotional. Not ideal for Superman.

  15. way pumped for this.

  16. I would second Nate Fillion!  Who would play a good Zod though…?

  17. Snuck "blue guy’s cock" in at the end there, didn’t you Mike?

  18. oddly, i had a glorious day home to myself last thursday and saw Watchmen for the first time. Mike it was great, I had the system turned up as loud as i wanted and it was pretty good. I actually really enjoyed Watchmen and for the next day or so kept thinking about it.

    and dude, the Expendables was a great ride!

  19. I think Zack Snyder is a great choice. He understands heroics and action and can deliver the kind of awe that Superman should be drenched in. He also has Christopher Nolan looking over his shoulder. I for one can’t wait for this!

  20. Karl Urban for Zod!

  21. Snyder is a good choice. I believe he can capture the grandeur and mythology that is Superman.

    I disagree though – I think Superman is due for a reboot. I would love to see the origin of Superman from the point of view of Lois and Jimmy, investigating strange occurrences and reports of a man more powerful than a locomotive, etc. 

    Q: Any Superman historians out there know who Clark Kent replaced at the Dailey Planet when he got his job there?

  22. @RoiVampire: That’s just crazy enough to work, great idea!

    I’d like to see Hamm or Welling in the role of Superman. I know some people can’t get over Tom being Clark in Smallville but he isn’t the same kid he was at the start of the show , hell he’s 30. I like to see him get the role and play it differently than his Smallville counter part.

  23. @JesTr: Those "some people" are Warner Bros., the film division is not going to base their franchise around a ten year old property from the TV division.

  24. Hey, I am up to giving Snyder a fair try. He’s good people. Really wish Routh could be in it.

  25. Thanks for the great discussion guys!

    My original article (which will appear next week) began discussing Superman:Secret Origin and the whole six year comic book reader lifecycle thing (again, will explain next week)–so it’s interesting that not everyone is as opposed to a reboot as I guess I am.  

    I do think that Donner handled the origin story fantastically–so well, in fact, that elements of that film obviously persist today (Smallville’s Fortress of Solitude is the most obvious example)–that I don’t think it necessarily needs to be done again, given that Superman Returns did touch on it as well.  I am all for origin stories, but for me, personally, I am not as interested in them because I already know the origin story and am satisfied with the definition of it that I grew up with.  That’s why I liked Dark Knight so much–Nolan could just tell a kick ass Batman story and not worry about spending a third of the film dealing with the origin story. But, obviously, that’s not me.

     Despite the fact that I think Welling’s abs are perfectly suited for a Snyder film, it might be distracting (too much for a Smallville: The Movie feel) to have him play Superman. (And I say this as a big fan of Welling and Smallville.)

     Karl Urban for Zod is an inspired casting choice, I think.

     And yes, Josh–I had to sneak it in. I mean, I actually do remember a fair amount of speculation on the Blue Member…I never get saucy in my articles, you know?  Had to be done. 

    @rocrusso– you finally watched it? good man.  I enjoyed it but I don’t have the same emotional connection to the characters as I did the original Superman Movie (but then again, I am not 8 years old or whatever either).  I have the special "even longer" edition, which I will watch during the same week long blizzard when I will be watching all of my Lord of the Rings expanded editions…

      

  26. I think Lex could work as a villain in a Superman but he needs to be built up over the course of a couple of movies to develop the dramatic weight he needs.  He also needs to be Lex and not some generic gangster with a green rock looking for high-concept real estate scams.  All-Star Superman’s Lex would be a great villain to cap off a trilogy.  I do think using Zod is going to be a tall order since comparisons to Stamp’s Zod will be inevitable and probably harsh.  I think Brainiac works better as a intro villain especially since you can use him to tie the movie into the origin without actually having to do the origin.  Metallo or Henshaw might be interesting for a part two or even Manchester Black before Lex comes out swinging in part three.

  27. @conor: That’s true, I’m sure they want a "fresh face" for the role. Hey I know, Thomas Jane anyone?

  28. Jon Hamm as Superman – Start the movie like a bond movie, let him deal with a big bad right off the bat and then move into the Daily Planet set up the characters and start the story with Zod. 

    No origin story at all. It’s Superman everyone knows the story, it’s been done a dozen different times and done well, do something else. Work back to the origin story in movie 3 or 4 with Kandor or something.

  29. I actually think John Hamm would make a better Bruce Wayne than a Clark Kent. He plays jerk-offs pretty well and lets face it, Batman is kind of a douche. I hope they keep Routh as Superman. He’s pretty talented, it’s not his fault that Singers stab at the property was less than stellar.

  30. Nice article Mike!  I totally agree with your perspective.  I’m interested to see Snyder make a movie with an original story.  Plus, I think his relationship with Nolan will only be positive. 

    I think who they cast as Supes will depend on what direction the movie goes in.  If it’s an origin pic (or has parts of an origin), my thought is that it will be a young gun or a no name.  If they’re looking at later in Supes’ career, I’m inclined to guess Hamm and other men in his age range would be up for the part.  My gut tells me that it will probably lean more toward an origin early pic than later in life one.

  31. "Let’s all focus on the fact that Christopher Nolan will be producing this picture, which means that Snyder will have a mentor, a partner and a confidant in this production. Christopher Nolan would not have gone with Zach Snyder unless he believed that he could collaborate and help Snyder with key decisions (and, frankly, have the clout to say "no" to Snyder)."

    That’s where it’s at in my opinion. The greats mentoring the greats. I look forward to witnessing the result. To me, this is pop culture history.