Zack Snyder Proved In 2008 That He Didn't Understand Comic Book Movie Fans

The warning signs came after Watchmen...

Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder attending the Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice European Premiere, at the Odeon and Empire Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 22, 2016. See PA Story SHOWBIZ Batman. Photo credit s
Ian West/PA Wire

Thanks to the eternal power of Twitter to uncover long-forgotten information at JUST the perfect time, Zack Snyder's unsuitability to making comic book movies for fans has been reiterated quite stunningly.

Now, before you get too upset, this is not another cynical opportunity to bash Snyder on the back of Batman v Superman simply because I'm a Marvel fanboy. That I am is inconsequential (I just like good comic book movies no matter who makes them): the more pertinent point is that Snyder proved way back in 2008 that he didn't understand the job he's now being tasked with.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly that year, Snyder spoke about his passion project making Watchmen,

Reading what Snyder says about the project, you can see why Warner Bros might have been seduced by his manifesto. He said he wanted to challenge audiences, to make a hard R and to adapt the comic so faithfully that he was willing to stubbornly ignore calls to cut its run-time.

He was seemingly a comic book fan who knew exactly what it took to turn a previously unadaptable comic book in such a way that fans would adore it, talking of a manifesto to make it a "pure, completely unspoiled, certainly the lesser of all the evils."

And I'll happily say it now: Zack Snyder WAS the right man for Watchmen for all of those reasons.

Rorschach Watchmen
Warner Bros.

But what was right for Watchmen isn't necessarily right for building an extended cinematic universe designed to work as a money-making, fan-baiting brand. The two projects are naturally contradictory: especially as the former is an exercise in post-superheroism, seeking to pull not only the world of heroes down, but also the typical ways their stories are told.

As Snyder himself said, Watchmen fed off other established comic books and heroes and consciously sought to satirise them. That was fundamentally a destructive transaction, done with cynicism and by a creative lead who literally revelled in tearing a strip off the genre.

Snyder wasn't actually a mainstream comic book fan; he grew up falling in love with Heavy Metal's sex and violence and when invited to explore others, he just wasn't interested:

"Heavy Metal magazine, so she got me a subscription. You could call it €high-brow€ comics, but to me, that comic book was just pretty sexy! I had a buddy who tried getting me into €normal€ comic books, but I was all like, €No one is having sex or killing each other. This isn€™t really doing it for me.€ I was a little broken, that way. So when Watchmen came along, I was, €This is more my scene.€

Surely that should have set some alarm bells ringing? Sure, when Man Of Steel came around, DC and Warner Bros knew they had to do something different with the character because Superman Returns had done as badly as Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy had succeeded.

They were at that stage, rather unfortunately, tricked into thinking Snyder knew what comic book movies fans needed, whether they cared to admit it or not.

Man Of Steel Superman Henry Cavill
Warner Bros. Pictures

Ignoring the model Marvel were mapping out successfully, they arrogantly chose a different way - bringing in an auteur -led vision that should have ended with Man Of Steel, rather than that being used as a launch-pad. And perhaps it was the way Snyder spoke in public - as in his EW interview - that made them believe he was the man to be different.

The average movie audience has seen well, I can€™t even count the amount of superhero movies. Fantastic Four, X-Men, Superman, Spider-Man. The Marvel universe has gone nuts; we€™re going to have a fricking Captain America movie if we€™re not careful. Thor, too! We€™re on our second Hulk movie. And Iron Man $300 million domestic box office on a second tier superhero! And not to demean Iron Man my point is that we all know about superheroes now.

Does that sound like someone who wanted to follow the MCU model for success? Does it sound like someone in touch with why those movies were already working for Marvel back in 2008?

Snyder always talks a good game, as if he's a self-appointed voice of the comic book fan public: but his fundamental misreading of why Iron Man made as much money as it did proves not only that he didn't understand how to market comic book movies to mainstream audiences, but also that he didn't know what "his people" wanted either.

He claimed - in 2008 - that we were "getting to that saturation level where superhero movies, it€™s hard for them to figure out what more to do." Real finger on the pulse stuff, there.

The director's major issue is that he wants to make comic book movies for himself: for the kid who had Heavy Metal magazine on his wall, and who loves darkness and rails against the mainstream. Why anyone would look at that history and think he should be handling Superman, Batman AND Justice League is beyond logic. It's beyond belief.

And as another warning sign, when EW suggested that Nolan's model for grittiness was a potential point of difference for future comic book movies, Snyder seemed to bat away the suggestion that Nolan's work was even dark:

Everyone says that about Batman Begins. €Batman€™s dark.€ I€™m like, okay, €No, Batman€™s cool.€ He gets to go to a Tibetan monastery and be trained by ninjas. Okay? I want to do that. But he doesn€™t, like, get raped in prison. That could happen in my movie. If you want to talk about dark, that€™s how that would go.

The added darkness of the DC Cinematic Universe wasn't accidental, and neither was it solely the product of Snyder's own creative identity. Rather preposterously, Warner Bros were completely in on the idea as recently as 11 months ago, when Greg Silverman explained why the movies needed to be "dark":

There is intensity and a seriousness of purpose to some of these characters. The filmmakers who are tackling these properties are making great movies about superheroes; they aren't making superhero movies. And when you are trying to make a good movie, you tackle interesting philosophies and character development.

Interesting philosophies tackled in a dark movie by someone whose idea of real darkness is having Batman raped in prison.

In the same interview with THR, Silverman explained that the overall agenda for DC and Warner Bros was about putting "beloved characters" into the hands of highly skilled film-makers. But shouldn't those film-makers have been chosen for their own love of the characters at least partly? Surely, them openly expressing themselves NOT to be fans should have ruled them out of the running pretty quick.

Zack Snyder Jason Momoa Justice League
Zack Snyder/Twitter

It all comes back to the idea that Zack Snyder seems to think he knows what comic book movie fans want more than critics, studios and fans (which presumably means box office results are all lies). Reading back over his comments when Watchmen came out, the very idea that he would be the man STILL leading the DC Extended Universe in 2016 (after two comparative failures other than in financial terms) is unfathomable.

Snyder still feels like a post-populist cynic, attempting to break down the comic book movie genre and fandom popularity even as it hits its zenith, simply because of his own personal agenda. Fair play to him if he's trying to be right at the bleeding edge, but he believed in 2008 that the genre was running almost at capacity, and that should have had Warner Bros looking elsewhere for a creative lead a long time ago.

Do you believe Zack Snyder is the right man to continue leading the DC cinematic universe? Share your thoughts below in the comments thread below.

 
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