Why Zack Snyder is the Perfect Director for Superman: Man of Steel

It's only human nature to watch something as loathsome as Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch and worry about what the director will do with Superman: Man of Steel. I get that. Still, despite Sucker Punch's abysmal critical showing and underwhelming opening weekend, I'm even more excited today about seeing what Snyder does with his much-anticipated follow-up. I'd even go so far as to argue that Snyder is the best director for this job -- even more so today.

First of all, it's not like this is unprecedented in Hollywood. Sucker Punch is Snyder's fifth full-length feature film and the first that can be considered an all out misfire. In comparison, do you know what Steven Spielberg's fourth film was that hit theaters? 1941. Have you ever seen 1941? It is terrible (though, contrary to popular belief, it did make money). I promise you, patrons who paid their hard earned money to see 1941 were not happy with Mr. Spielberg that day, either. What happened next? Spielberg learned, despite past success, that not everyone will just magically love everything he throws on the screen. Should Spielberg have been removed from his next project -- something called Raiders of the Lost Ark -- as a result? Raiders became the classic that it is today in part because of the lessons Spielberg learned from the drubbing he took on 1941.

Of course Snyder, who's been a Hollywood golden boy of sorts thanks to successes like Dawn of the Dead and 300 (and, to a lesser extent, Watchmen, which was a lot of things but hardly a bomb), may not have made Jaws. But insofar as he earned his creative freedom to make Sucker Punch, he also learned a very valuable lesson over the weekend: Everybody, even Zack Snyder, needs an editor. In other words, just because you think that the world is going to enjoy your own personal two-hour weaponized slo-mo masturbation fantasy, it's not necessarily the case. Everyone has an ego, and however challenged his might have been while toning down his sci-fi burlesque, we're witnessing the scathing alternative. There's no question that Snyder's ego is rattled right now, but that's the thing: He'll get over it -- he has to -- and he will make a much better Superman movie as a result.

Of course, a conservative Zack Snyder is still going to make one hell of a stylized film. Which, for any Superman story, is a great thing because, all in all, Superman as a character is boring. Really, in a movie setting, how much can you really do with Superman? It's telling that both the successful television series Smallville and Lois & Clark both focused more on Clark Kent's personal life than it did on a hero who is invincible -- invincible, that is, except for one item I promise you don't own. It's not like Superman films have ever been artistically sure things anyway: One is excellent (Superman), one is good (Superman II -- but choppy due to the Donner/Lester fiasco), one is serviceable (Superman Returns), one is bad (Superman III) and one is unwatchable (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace). How can Snyder screw something up that has such a proportionately low success rate in the first place? And considering the lukewarm response for Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, it's not like the world has been clamoring for more Man of Steel.

But with Zack Snyder attached, it almost by default becomes very interesting.

Interesting on two levels, actually. Snyder is at his best when he has some sort of preordained characters to work with -- see Dawn of the Dead, 300 and The Owls of Ga'Hoole (the source material for The Legend of the Guardians). Watchmen was... OK, but it's not like Snyder had this team of heroes and could do anything he wanted with them; he had to follow an extremely complex storyline. Superman is interesting because Snyder has an iconic character and he also has some freedom -- but thankfully, now, not carte blanche like he did with Sucker Punch. What we're looking at is quite possibly (or at least hopefully) the best of both worlds: a hybrid of all the good things about Watchman and some of the freedom with his characters from Sucker Punch. Additionally, Snyder did not write the script as he did with Sucker Punch; that job went to David Goyer, the co-writer on something called The Dark Knight.

The other interesting aspect is the personal one: How does Snyder rebound from Sucker Punch? Name one other realistic directing candidate out there today with more to prove than Snyder. Every fast, loose, indulgent decision that Snyder made on Sucker Punch is going to be given more consideration this time around (with the ghost of Jack Warner hovering over him, I'm sure). Snyder got cocky, but ultimately this is just a bump in the road -- a really, really bad bump, but still. Has he learned his lesson? How can he not have? As a result, personally, over the weekend, I went from "mildly interested" to "very excited" about the prospects of Zack Snyder's Superman: Man of Steel. Frankly, Zack Snyder's career depends on it.

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Comments

  • Quirky- says:

    Pfft! at him trying to work the Aronofsky look!
    I liked Dawn of the Dead OK, but this guy's a massive hack who will continue to get massive budgets to make films that hurt my head. Which saddens, confuses and irritates me.

  • haydn says:

    And where exactly do you get your "in Hollywood, it's three strikes, you're out?" rule from? Why does everyone on the net talk like they know what they're talking about? Like they've been in the industry all of their lives? Pathetic

  • Roy says:

    I just saw what I did there. 1955. What a fail.

  • I've always been vocal with my dissatisfaction for the choice of Zack Snyder as the director of this new Superman film. He's made some fine casting choices so far (Henry Cavill as Superman, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Kevin Costner as Pa Kent), but also some poor choices (Amy Adams as Lois Lane, far too old to be coupled with 10-years younger Cavill. How do you build a long term franchise with Adams as Lane?) And yes, David Goyer wrote the script, based on an idea from himself and Christopher Nolan, but who's to say Snyder won't attempt a re-write himself? At least partially? I'd say that's a very likely outcome. And it would be a bad outcome. None of this films so far--NONE--have featured anything remotely close to any depth of character or good, succinct dialogue. I was worried before Sucker Punch (as I've not liked any of his films, and all have featured cardboard cut-out characters), but I'm even more worried now.

  • Superman doesn't HAVE to be a boring character. There are plenty of interesting things to be done with him. He just needs to be stretched a bit.
    Here's one way to do it: http://bit.ly/g3QT8E

  • Marlon says:

    I hated Sucker Punch... I am a bit worried about Superman. He's my favourite hero. Yes, as a character he IS boring... what's interesting is what he represents and how that affects those around him. There is nothing more I'd want to see then a Superman/Doomsday fight on the big screen but filmed something like Cloverfield / District 9... partial mockumentary to see how other people are reacting around it.

  • see it stoned bro says:

    everyone needs to go see sucker punch super high, then you'll understand why it is a fantastic movie. stop looking for story and depth where there was never intended to be any.

  • SPBurke says:

    Yes, but Snyder doesn't have the pull in the industry that Shyamalan had at the time. Shyamalan had three top grossing movies and some Oscar nominations under his belt when he made "The Village". And despite their awfulness, his only real flop is "Lady in the Water" and that one broke even. All of his other films have still made a profit, even "Airbender". Though after "Airbender" and "Devil" I'm wondering how much longer he can hold that up.
    Snyder doesn't have that luxury. He's had about the same about of successes as he's had failures at this point. He's even. So I think he's in a position to seriously bring his game for "Superman".

  • SPBurke says:

    After Kate Bosworth in "Superman Returns" and Amy's turn in "The Fighter", I'm happy not only to see an older woman in the role, but one that can actually act!

  • Casper says:

    It's easy to armchair critique, and maybe armchair direct... I don't think most people criticizing here can actually direct on the set, so your words are just bluster. I give Zack a chance, although I thought "300" was a little flamboyant.
    And he has a good agent.

  • Really don't understand the "Superman is boring" argument.
    When he was created he was the most non-boring character ever. It's not the character that's boring, it's ways he's used that's boring. It's the reliance on retracing steps that's boring. It's the fear of going in new directions, of testing the limits of the character. All of those things can be done without sacrificing the things that make Superman Superman, or having him fight mechanical spiders and bears or whatever else Jon Peters' supposedly wanted.
    The fact is the studios are too scared to lose worldwide - and domestic - box office to hire someone who is willing to put the character in new situations. Case in point: Superman Returns.

  • Phil Brown says:

    The Film Studies PHD and critic, Nic Pillai offers some fascinating incites into the film representations of Superman in his article here:
    http://silkwormsink.blogspot.com/2011/03/leap-filmtelevisioncomics-whatever.html
    Excerpt:
    "The first hour of the Christopher Reeve Superman stands up pretty well today as an attempt to place the character in a pulp-screwball tradition of Americana. It also presented the most sustained religious allegory the franchise had seen so far, with Marlon Brando incarnating a dubious Heavenly Father. The knowingness of the script often worked against it, however. In what must be one of the most cringe-worthy sequences in American film, Superman's first flight with Lois Lane became a soupy Freudian ballet. The movie's tagline cuts both ways - this really has to be seen to be believed."

  • eli says:

    Simple, I'd conquer the world; and set up a utopia on earth. It would take ten years give or take. I'd even guarantee it.

  • eli says:

    If i had Superman's powers... Simple; I'd conquer the world and create a utopia on earth.

  • Max says:

    Am I the only person who loved "1941" when it came out? I laughed so hard watching that film. John Belushi, Dan Akroyed, Christopher Lee, Robert Stack -- what's not to love?

  • Rachel says:

    The minute you said "Superman is boring" (even overall) immediately made you lose all credibility with me. As others here have said, Superman does not have to be a boring character. Smallville has proven as much. For all the crap that is thrown at that show, one thing everyone watching it can agree on is that it has always been, for the most part, very entertaining. But the choices they've made on film to try and make Superman interesting have failed. If they took a cue from Smallville or even "Lois & Clark", the execs at WB might actually learn something about what people REALLY want to see.
    When fans seem to care more about the show(s) than the films, there is a problem. Granted, a long-running TV show has room for a lot more depth and character development and invested interest. But it's not impossible to make on film what's already been done on TV. The high quality of a lot of TV shows these days is what's killing the film industry right now. The fact that there are more people flocking towards the tube rather than the theatre has become a huge issue and Hollywood seems to be at a loss at what to do. So far, all that is clear is that reboots and remakes seem to be the only answer to all their problems.
    I have not liked the idea of Snyder directing Superman from the start. The only thing riding on this film thus far is the fact that Nolan is not only involved in over-seeing the project, but that he has so much leeway with the studio because they trust his judgement. After The Dark Knight, and even the success of Batman Begins, WB was finally willing to take risks because of Nolan's accomplishments. He will be the one they risk Superman's reputation on here, not Snyder.

  • Rachel says:

    Oh, and next time, choose your wording differently. If you think Snyder is the "best" director for the gig, that's fine. But no one, not even his loyal fanbase thinks he is the "perfect" choice. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single person who even thought of him for the project before it was announced.

  • Pat says:

    A compelling article, and the best (if not the only) case I've yet seen to give Snyder a shot at Superman. I still feel he's wrong for it on every level, but it wasn't Warner Bros. who picked him for the job... it was Chris Nolan. And that is a man whose judgement I have come to trust. So I will remain cautiously optimistic... although I still wish that this WASN'T going to be a reboot. Superman needs no reboot. The original Donner film was the perfect superhero movie. Superman merely a really good sequel.

  • Walter says:

    TWO WORDS! BS!

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