Whenever that name get’s uttered, I can’t help but smile. The name of Zack Snyder is one that turns heads, and perks eyebrows. And for good reason.
Zack Snyder is one of the most gifted auteurs in cinema with one of the most passionate fanbases of any filmmaker. And with that passionate fanbase also comes his critics. It seems pretty rare that people have mixed feelings about a Zack Snyder film. They either love it or hate it. But why is Zack Snyder so divisive?
FIGURE OF CONTROVERSY
I’ve pondered this for quite some time and I’ve come up with two reasons.
One being, Snyder tackles very popular IP. From Dawn Of The Dead to Watchmen to Batman V Superman. Snyder’s filmography consists of pre-existing IP. And with approaching any existing property, you carry the baggage of the fanbase and expectations that comes with it. And given Snyder’s unique style and if we’re being honest, straight up ballsy narrative choices, they’re held up to extreme scrutiny. With Dawn Of The Dead, Snyder was always gonna be compared the George A Romero’s classic. And with Snyder’s DC films, he was always gonna be held up to each fans interpretation of each character. It was an impossible task, but one Snyder was willing to take on.
AUTEUR V BLOCKBUSTER FILMMAKER
Another reason for Snyder’s divisiveness, is Snyder toes the line between being a well respected auteur and a blockbuster filmmaker. And this makes sense considering his influences. Being a fan of films like A Clock Work Orange, Excalibur, and Star Wars, those films have definitely informed his affinity for genre.
Snyder’s influences are of some of the most well respected filmmakers of all time, but he also likes stuff that’s just cool. It’s an interesting marriage, but it’s something a lot of fans relate to. How many of us grew up watching Kubrick or Scorsese films, but also read comic books?
Snyder represents his own niche, but it turns out, he has a lot of fans who feel the same way. And they they finally found a director who GETS them. Snyder’s the type of guy that looks at most things with the same lens. While others may see comic books as a lesser artform, Snyder sees no difference between those and the novels that came before it. To him they’re just stories. And stories can be emotional, thought-provoking, and yes, they can even be cool.
This line that Snyder rides also subjects him intense criticism. Often complaints of his films being “too long and pretensions” or making films that have “too much action and style with no substances”. It’s an interesting dichotomy. But at the end of the day, I’m damn glad he doesn’t listen to his critics and instead makes the movies he wants, because there is none like him.
MUST THERE BE A ZACK SNYDER?
Snyder’s films may have granted him a passionate fanbase, but it also granted him passionate critics. And it turns out those critics have pretty loud voices and at times, can control the narrative around his films. And when that happens, the studios are forced to respond. We saw this happen with Batman V Superman. With Man Of Steel, Zack had Christopher Nolan as a producer and he was able to get the “suits” off his back.
“When I sort of pitched him my vision for the film. He was like ‘that’s amazing’. He’s really become an incredible defender of the way I wanted to do the movie… He has a lot of power at the studio as you can imagine. So he was really able to keep everyone off my back.”
But when the film came out in theaters it received very mixed reviews. And due to Nolan working on Dunkirk, he wasn’t able to provide the same backing for Snyder for Batman V Superman.
Long story short, Snyder had to shrink his 3 hour epic in order to fit more screenings in at movie theaters. This is understandable from a business standpoint. But not if you’re compromising the integrity of the film. Just imagine watching a shortened version of the Irishman, The Godfather, or even Lord Of The Rings. If you have a short attention span, you’d probably like that, but if you’re a film fan, you want to experience a directors complete vision. And one thing we know about Snyder, is that even though he incorporates a lot of action, he works in the nuances and is great at establishing a tone early on. And in BvS when the first act was cut to shreds, the tone struggles to find it’s footing and those nuances were lost.
DING DONG THE DCEU IS DEAD
Fast forward, this decision cost the studio. Opening up to mostly negative reviews and the film grossing $872 million, it was below Warner Bros expectations. And though $872 million is nothing to sneeze at, all WB could see was their competitors Marvel crossing the billion dollar mark time and time again.
Skip ahead a year and Zack Snyder would be screening an early “compromised” cut of his Justice League to WB execs. From changing the script because it was too scary to changing Steppenwolf’s design, and overall making the film more bright, to appeal to the Marvel fanbase. It apparently wasn’t enough as execs deemed it “unwatchable”. They then began to move away from his vision overall. And unfortunately during this time, Zack’s family suffered a terrible tragedy and the last thing on his mind was making a superhero flick.
So after stepping away to be with his family, WB brought on Avengers director Joss Whedon to finish off the film. And what resulted was one of the biggest box office bombs in cinema history, with Justice League grossing a total of $655 million. Not only did not not please fans or critics alike, it completely alienated the legion of Snyder loyalists that have come to love Zack’s vision. To call it a cinematic disaster would be an understatement. And with everything that transpired with that film, you find yourself wondering what would’ve happened if WB just trusted Snyder’s vision?
TOO BIG FOR LITTLE MINDS
Man Of Steel grossed $667 million. Which was more than the previous Superman film, Superman Returns which grossed $391 million, with a budget of $184 million, barely breaking even. And Snyder’s sequel, BvS made $872 million, which was 3.3 times it’s budget, which is well over what it needed to be profitable. And in case you couldn’t tell, all these films made more than Justice League…
What this tells us is that, although Zack’s films weren’t doing the insane numbers of Marvel. They were on an uphill trajectory, gaining loyal fans along the way. But the second they abandoned that vision, that trajectory went crashing down.
If WB trusted Zack and let him release the superior version of BvS in theaters, the “Ultimate Edition”, it probably would have opened to better critical reception and would have past the billion dollar mark. And for Justice League, if the execs weren’t so worried about securing their Christmas bonuses, and just let Zack take his time with his family and come back and finishes his movie, if definitely would have crossed a billion. I mean, look at the movie business right now, they’re definitely not above delaying a films release date.
But here we are. WB shortsightedness, cost them on making billions. All they had to do was employ the true Marvel method. Which isn’t making lighthearted comic book romps. But trusting the filmmakers to execute their vision. At least that’s what the Marvel method use to be. But that’s a conversation for another time…
So again, I ask. Must there be a Zack Snyder? Well…
All the trials and tribulations I recounted were trying times. But luckily, the past is just that, the past. Because Zack Snyder’s best days are ahead.
With the immense disappointment of Justice League (2017), fans took to social media and demanded his true vision. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement was born! And no sooner than 3 years later were their prayers answered. On May 20, 2020, Zack Snyder announced his version of Justice League will be released. And to that we thank HBOMAX. For they saw in Zack Snyder what we all saw, one of the most unique and prolific auteurs of our time. They saw the shortsightedness of the execs before them and decided to right the wrongs that have been done to Zack Snyder.
And they weren’t the only ones.
MEN ARE STILL GOOD
Netflix decided to sign a deal with the man himself. Zack Snyder will be returning to the zombie genre with Army Of The Dead releasing exclusively on Netflix in 2021. Plus, not only that, Netflix greenlit a prequel series to the 2021 feature, titled, Army of the Dead: Las Vegas. And if that wasn’t enough, Netflix also signed Snyder on to helm a Norse Mythology anime series, in which he’ll collaborating with long time friend, and respected animated director, Jay Oliva. And the great thing about all this is, is they’re on streaming. So when those negative reviews come in. And trust me, they will. The cries of the critics will have no more bearing on the success of his projects.
And the best part of it all is Snyder is finally getting the creative control he wants. For Army Of The Dead, Snyder wrote, shot, and directed it by himself. And for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Snyder will be not be compromising at all. And he was even able to shoot additional photography for Justice League. So the version we’re getting will be even better than what we would’ve gotten in theaters 3 years ago.
Need I say more? Justice has never tasted so sweet! As a fan of Snyder, I couldn’t be happier. The way he was treated was inexcusable. To see him appreciated and seen the way fans see him, simply brings joy to my heart. There’s none more deserving. And as a fan I feel spoiled. In the coming months, we will all bear witness to a Zack Snyder Zombie film, Norse Mythology anime, and his original vision for the Justice League! And all that’s left to say, is…
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