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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