How Did Zack Snyder Become the Bizarro Joss Whedon?

| April 28, 2014

Today, Warner Bros. announced that Zack Snyder will be directing their Justice League movie probably sometime around the summer of 2018.  Snyder, who has already turned out one extremely disappointing DC movie with Man of Steel, and is in production on the sequel Batman vs. Superman has to be one of the worst choices I can think of to direct Justice League.

Now, I imagine this will be a very polarizing decision within the superhero fan community.  If you like Snyder’s work on 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Man of Steel, chances are you’ll have nothing to fear from his further exploits (pun intended) in the DC universe.  Personally, I can’t stand any of Snyder’s films other than Dawn of the Dead, which is one of my favorite zombie movies.  As a remake, it contributes some really interesting character development and reimagined concepts to Georg Romero’s classic original.  I give a lot of credit for the quality of the film to screenwriter James Gunn, who wrote and directed this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  However, credit where it’s due, it takes a competent director to make a horror movie actually be scary, and Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is one of the most effective horror movies I’ve ever seen.

I also give Snyder some credit for Man of Steel.  It’s a very interesting sci-fi alien movie, but it’s not a Superman movie.  Ever since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, in which Batman was thrown into a gritty, realistic, modern world, countless superhero movies have tried to imitate that style to varying degrees of success.  This style works for the Batman character, who has always been the darker, scarier anti-hero.  Superman is a boy scout; noble and honest to a fault, so it’s not aesthetically pleasing to see him jammed into a Dark Knight type of world.  Not to say there aren’t dark days in Superman’s past, but they have to be earned by building on the groundwork of the traditional interpretation of the character.

A lot of people were up in arms about the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in Batman vs. Superman.  I can see it working well; to bring in a Batman at a point in his life when he has the age and experience to hold his own against the flying indestructible god that is Superman.  That dynamic is interesting to me, and I think in the hands of a better director, it has a lot of potential, but I’m not holding my breath that Snyder has what it takes to pull it off.

People are already calling Justice League a rip-off of The Avengers, which is wrong.  Actually, The Avengers’ first appearance in the comics came 3 years after the first appearance of the Justice League, so if anything, The Avengers were Marvel’s attempt to cash in on early popularity surrounding the JLA.  It seems poetic then that Warner Bros. would force their Justice League movie into production to capitalize on the immense success of The Avengers film.  I have no problem with this.  My concern is largely based in the fact that the DC universe has had a number of failures these past few years.  The Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds was dubbed one of the worst superhero movies ever made, Man of Steel violated numerous rules for making a Superman film, and The Dark Knight Rises was boring and full of plot holes due to the fact that Christopher Nolan was contractually obligated to direct it even though he had no interest in doing so.  Add to all of this the fact that Warner Bros. hasn’t been able to get a Wonder Woman movie off the ground, and it’s hard to imagine that putting all of these characters in the same movie is magically going to solve the problems with the individual franchises.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe definitely has its shortcomings, but they never forced anything.  Kevin Feige’s vision for how each installment would unfold into the next, and his commitment to getting the best possible talent to execute that vision is remarkable.  When Marvel first hinted at an Avengers film, I was as skeptical as anyone.  We’re dealing with completely conflicting egos both on screen and off, and writing a compelling story for such a dynamic ensemble cast is near impossible.  The only person I could imagine taking it on (Joss Whedon) ended up actually making The Avengers and doing a fantastic job.  Now a Justice League movie has been announced and I stand by my assertion that the only person who could make that movie well is Joss Whedon.  Unfortunately, he’s busy.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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