In true “New Year, New Me” fashion, Zack Snyder has launched a new production company that will be a “sacred creative space”. It’s called The Stone Quarry. I want it to mean he’ll get to make a film without the interference of a studio. I doubt it means I’ll be getting the Snyder cut of Justice League.
What’s certain is that Snyder is a man who has made comic book movies unashamedly for the fans, not the critics, and I’m here for the jammy goodness only he provides.
Welcome to my TedTalk…
If you don’t know who Snyder is and why any of this is important, don’t panic my geekless ones, I’m here to help.
First, the origin story.
Zack Snyder is the director of 300, Watchmen, Batman Vs Superman (hello the Ultimate Edition and only the Ultimate Edition) and Justice League. They are movies with more Easter eggs than a supermarket the day after Boxing Day.
If you read only critic reviews of Snyder films, you’d think he was almost as bad as Michael Bay.
But fans disagree (with each other and with critics).
The problem comes from critics who watch a comic book movie, while thinking the comic book shouldn’t factor into their assessment. This wasn’t a problem because it didn’t impact fans in any meaningful way before.
The movie 300 had its share of decent criticism, but the main negativity seemed to centre around the violence and historic inaccuracy. This showed a distinct lack of understanding that the movie was based, quite heavily, on the Frank Miller comic and not history books (comics have a tendency to not be historically accurate. See: Amazons living on Paradise Island, Hellboy helping out during WW2 and Raph from TMNT punching Hitler).
I’ll admit Batman Vs Superman cinematic cut wasn’t the best. It’s what happens when the bones of a decent comic book movie are there, even after being cut to shreds by studio neckties that don’t get it. But the director’s cut, Ultimate Edition, with its extra 40 minutes, is a master class in comic book movies.
The problem, however, was when critics failed to understand that Batman Vs Superman, cinematic or Ultimate, wasn’t a superhero movie. It wasn’t Superman as a DC stand-in for all-American good kid Captain America, tut tutting the narcissistic but quirky millionaire playboy of Batman. Batman Vs Superman was an unravelling of Gods. It was meant to be uncomfortable to watch. It was made to make you think. But largely, critics didn’t bother to think about why this superhero film wasn’t interested in just entertaining them for a few hours.
They certainly weren’t interested in a bigger picture for which they didn’t bother to gain a frame of reference. Critics went in expecting a Marvel movie draped in a DC cape and what they got was a comic book movie.
Not that Marvel films aren’t entertaining, they just run on a superhero formula, not a comic book one. My favourite Marvel film is where that guy who has trouble playing well with others fights that impossible enemy and discovers that the true power is in teamwork. In other words, all the Marvel films (save for Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and Spiderverse because those are next-level).
None of this would matter, save for the fact that the knock-on effect of making a film for fans and not critics, appears to be a studio stepping back from the expansive world Snyder was creating.
It’s not all lost. Patty Jenkins and Wan make films in the same vein, but with a lighter touch. The dynamic shots, the scale and textures feel lifted from the pages of a comic book. Jenkins captured the vibrant resilience of Wonder Woman, against backdrops of misery. James Wan is a master world builder of lighting and detail. Their characters were meant to be more likeable than Snyder’s because of what he was building up to for them (hint: Flash Point Paradox). Snyder’s films are meant to be dark, to provide real contrast for his fellow DC Directors brilliant efforts.
Throughout Snyder’s DC films, if you’re paying attention, you can see the threads making the wider universes and the knowing wink to a fellow fan. These are the love notes that Snyder leaves us and that’s what makes him great. It’s sadly what too many negative reviews miss and in their inability to value them, label the movies worthless. And now, we may never get to see a Justice League not hacked at by studio execs, who filled it with Joss Whedon putty and slapped a weird CGI fleshtache on Henry Cavill. We’ll likely never get our Flash Point Paradox on the big screen.
Snyder’s Justice League, his version of the DC Universe, had so much promise. So much got in the way and there’s not enough time to tell you everything what you’re missing out on. But any time you’re ready to pick up a comic book, watch the DC animations or learn more about the characters, we’ve got a fandom right here waiting for you. We’re ready to show you all the references and share the in-jokes. We want to share the joy with you.