The Studio Heard A Noise
When Zack was hired on October 4th of 2010 to direct Man of Steel, it was met with skepticism. When he left Justice League on May 22, 2017, it was met with sadness. And somewhere in between that, he finished post-production on Sucker Punch, completed Man of Steel, and developed the overall narrative for Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. Oh yeah, he also was working on post-production of Justice League while dealing with a family tragedy. Did I mention he also had the foresight to cast Jason Momoa and Amber Heard as Aquaman and Mera? That film may hit the $1 Billion Mark.
And yet, almost every single film Zack has released has been talked about years after. When’s the last time you heard about Superman Returns? Better yet, why don’t the fans who constantly say they want a ‘Donner’ version of Superman, bring that film up? It was a love-letter to those fans, and it failed. But the bloggers were louder about Zack and what he did to Superman than ever before.
Like The Sky Cracked Open
So when Zack was tapped to create a new and thought-provoking version of Superman, he set out a timeline to accomplish that. To think of creating 5 different films within a 6 year period and have them all released is an astonishing achievement on its own. Take into account, during that time, a narrative keeps building that you’re creating it wrong and you see how detrimental that is. But Zack persevered because, at the end of the day, he was a fan like us. He made films that he wanted to watch.
Now it seems that Snyder was right all along. When Man of Steel came out, Snyder talked about Hollywood making two types of films. Director driven films and films by committee. Out of all of the 5 films that Snyder had a hand in creating, only one was made by committee. That wasn’t his choice either. But in doing so, the studio interference and meddling created an upheaval within the DC fan community.
He Came Down
The studio execs wanted to create a Zero-Sum* Game with Zack. They thought that if Christopher Nolan was confident in him, he would prevail. He did, just not with critics. But that was also because of how the film industry was changing at the time. The Dark Knight worked in 2008 because the fandom knew this Batman was alone in his world. After 2008, however, Superheroes began to coexist within the same Universes. Man of Steel wasn’t the DC version of Iron Man. Yet, critics and bloggers alike we now set in their ways by 2013. If the film wasn’t fun enough or wasn’t a team up, did the film even work? I’m being facetious but you get my point.
Man of Steel was an original story through and through. Clark barely gets his suit and already is facing his arch-nemesis, General Zod. In the real world, if we learned that a Superman existed and within the same day of finding out, we learn there’s another that wants to kill us all? I apologize, but if I have one Superman on our side that is willing to take out the other bad version, I’m happy I’m alive. But no one wanted to see the film that way because this version of Superman didn’t have a smile on his face when he killed Zod. Even if this version of Superman had killed a powerless Zod by throwing him down the crevice in the Fortress of Solitude and smiled, it’d still be Zacks fault.
Then Came Fire
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises both earned over $1 Billion at the box office. Batman was always a pop culture icon but now, he was Warner Bros. guarantee of financial success. So think about the pressure when a new version was set to make a debut just 4 years later. Also, add that the person playing this iconic character was none other than Ben Affleck. The outrage alone was enough to make people wonder how ANYONE would want to see Batman v Superman. And what happens?
This version of the Caped Crusader becomes one of, if not the best, interpretations of Batman we ever get on-screen. Even the jackals bemoaning about the entire film, are quick to highlight their preference for “Batffleck”. And who was the person to cast him? Zack Snyder. Because in this version, rather than seeing him grow into the masked vigilante, he would be a seasoned vet. He knew there was going to be a finite amount of films that could work, and he doubled down.
Even Worse Came After
If you were to judge a film based solely on film critics and aggregate scores, Batman v Superman is a lot worse than Beverly Hills Chihuahua. That film at least sits at a 40% score over Batman v Superman’s 27%. But, ironically, that’s how people base their decisions sometimes, if not all of the time. Or at least, that’s how whoever was running the studio at the time of pre-production of Justice League was basing decisions.
It’s archaic to imagine that some saw opportunity in a time of disaster, yet, I can’t rid myself from thinking it happened. The moment Zack left Justice League, it was as if Scar took over Pride Rock with the Hyenas. In a metaphorical sense, I was Simba not wanting to return home because it didn’t look the same. Nala was Deb trying to warn me that it wasn’t the same, but that I needed to return home to see the monstrosity that was done to the land.
The Fans Attacked
When I witnessed Justice League for the first time, I was embarrassed. I couldn’t understand how the studio thought we would sit meekly by while Zack’s name was tarnished by still showing him as Director. We all know what happened. But I couldn’t handle it. So I stood up and ragged like the rest who could see what I saw. Not only was this a cheaply made imitation of a film, but it went against EVERYTHING Zack worked so hard to establish in his films. Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.
So when I started digging into the entire situation of the debacle that is known as “Josstice League”, it was clear that Zack was not willing to compromise. There was no way ALL of his artistic freedom was going to be castrated because of a committee of bloggers wanting to go back to a smiling, murderous, Superman. So he did what someone in his position does. He gave them the opportunity to make a fool of themselves, and it worked. What’s worse, there was actually critics praising that Joss Whedon (the director who took over) did a better job at Superman than Snyder did in 2 previous films. It was at those moments that I realized the critics didn’t hate Warner Bros. Oh no, they hated Zack. For doing what he wanted and NOT catering to their demands. So he left.
No Mercy From Zack
“I have an idea. How about I give you ALL of my principal photography, let the Avengers director reshoot the film, and see what you guys come up with?” That’s essentially what Zack did to the studio and it worked. He proved to the critics, the studio, and to the fans, that a film made by committee doesn’t work. He also proved that DC fans won’t just flock to anything because we blindly follow anything they release.
The studio also idiotically released a deleted Superman scene from Justice League which I feel was a better representation of Superman than the ENTIRE film tried to do. That just proved that Snyder was going in the direction the bloggers wanted, they just wanted it 2 films prior. Real life doesn’t work that way. So they got Justice League, and how did that turn out for them?
The Bloggers Tried To Run
The world has been so caught up with “Will Zack Snyder direct another DC Film” that nobody has asked if he should direct another one. I think people forget just how exhausting putting together a feature film is, much less a Comic Book Film. So when you realize that Zack worked on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League back-to-back-to-back, you begin to understand how amazing he truly is.
Aquaman worked because Zack envisioned the character a certain way. Same with Wonder Woman. Bloggers wanted Superman to be like he was in Justice League and where are they now? Running to tear down Aquaman’s success because he was chosen by Zack himself. The studio took Zack for granted. Everything he’s touched earned them money. Since Man of Steel, his 3 films have made over $2 Billion at the box office and, at the same time, was critically panned. Of those 3, the highest critic rating just so happens to be the lowest earner for every single DC Film thus far. Coincidence? Nope.
Should Zack Snyder direct another DC Film? No. The studio and bloggers took him for granted and I, for one, am sad we won’t see his brilliance again. He created the perfect Superman for me and my 11-year-old daughter, while also creating our favorite Batman on Film.
As a DC fan, I’m hopeful that other directors will create long-lasting and meaningful interpretations of some of my favorite Superheroes. As a Zack Snyder fan, I hope whatever he creates next is what he wants. I’ll be there to support both.
*a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.*