Living in a Dream World

I do not understand writer/director Zack Snyder. We have very similar tastes in movies and we are only a few years apart in age, but his viewpoint regarding how to best implement the genre of comic book movies and mine are far, far apart.

He’s best known for five comic book movies (300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League). His kinetic, muted and slow motion style to his films work really well in 300 and Watchmen. That same approach is what people hated in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League. For the most part, I don’t think his aesthetic works for every kind of movie and probably works best in his original creations like Sucker Punch. Similarly, Tim Burton’s original creations with his unique style, approach and aesthetic work really well and his movies based on existing intellectual properties more often than not fall flat. Much in the same way as Snyder, I don’t think I would understand Tim Burton either.

I’m not saying Snyder (or Burton for that matter) are hacks because I don’t always think they are good fits for the movies they direct, I just think they are making movies that aren’t for me. I get annoyed when I feel the director and/or the screenwriter doesn’t understand the intellectual property they are translating to the silver screen or have twisted and morphed the character into something unrecognizable. Snyder picks and chooses aspects of Batman and Superman that depict them in ways that seems off and wrong to general audiences. On a side note, Burton’s Batman movie is not that good because he was way more interested in the character of Bruce Wayne than Batman and so it doesn’t quite work in his film unlike Christopher Nolan who understood Batman is the character and Bruce Wayne is the façade.

But I digress.

I took my girlfriend, now my wife, to see the Snyder directed Superman film, Man of Steel. I did not like it. When Jonathan Kent waves away his son, who could have saved him, the only lesson here was fear. It’s the wrong lesson to learn in a Superman movie and the absolute wrong lesson for Clark Kent’s father to impart. I audibly said, No” in the theater and was visibly upset by the script’s turn of events. She had to restrain me from getting even more upset.

The combination of David S. Goyer writing a Superman script that wanted to be more science fiction and less super hero and Zack Snyder and his muted colors and brooding, dark performances told a terrible Superman story for mainstream audiences. His Superman killed innocents pretty much at random. It was an odd feeling watching it unfold. Man of Steel is simply a bad Superman film. Superman Returns is a better film and that one is not real good either.

Recently, Snyder had some profoundly stupid things to say about superheroes and killing.

Once you’ve lost your virginity to this fucking movie and then you come and say to me something about like my superhero wouldn’t do that.’ I’m like Are you serious?’ I’m like down the fucking road on that.

It’s a cool point of view to be like my heroes are still innocent. My heroes didn’t fucking lie to America. My heroes didn’t embezzle money from their corporations. My heroes didn’t commit any atrocities.’ That’s cool. But you’re living in a fucking dream world.

I hear your argument and dismiss it outright. I get that you are a small, cynical man-child and you want your heroes to be anti-heroes and if anyone thinks their heroes should be anything other than flawed and broken their point of view is wrong. What he’s saying is, You nerds don’t understand the real world. Comic book are dumb. Superheroes murder people and if you don’t like it, you just don’t get it.”

Except… I think most of us do get it. It’s condescending that he thinks we are all rubes for not living in his specifically understood dream world. Sure, the anti-heroes of Watchmen sit nicely in his superhero worldview. However, Batman and Superman are not Rorschach and Ozymandias.

I can get behind a movie that has Superman and Batman having to murder someone, but not one that justifies it by saying essentially, Of course they kill people! Duh!” It confuses or annoys audiences because that really isn’t who these characters have been for decades. The Punisher kills people. You can write a ton of interesting comics, movies and TV shows about a character who wants to kill criminals. That character probably doesn’t need to be Superman and really shouldn’t be Batman.

The justification of Snyder in having Batman and Superman kill is one of many reasons Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League are cinematic failures even if they made a lot of money. Remember Wonder Woman or Aquaman, and likely Shazam made more money by eschewing the Snyder aesthetic and worldview.

Snyder deconstructed Batman and Superman into characters he wanted to see on screen. That’s his prerogative and likely what the DCU wanted him to do initially after the success of 300 and Watchmen. I can respect that vision and at the same time I vehemently reject it.

Batman doesn’t kill. Superman doesn’t kill. Let’s make entertainment with that aesthetic. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

I’m sorry Zack if my dream world is different than yours, but it’s all imaginary stories anyway right?

March 26, 2019


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