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Zach Snyder – Creative Or Cracked?

Reber Gets Real – is self-proclaimed visionary director Zach Snyder immensely talented or twistedly cracked?

Welp, today’s the day. Fans will be treated to a project that has been bloating for over two years – and that’d be Batman Vs. Superman: The Dawn Of Friendship, err, Justice. Yes, it’s a mighty long title and, yes, the trailer looks as pretty as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader on gameday. Like that cheerleader, grinning and jumping with her pom-pom’s, appearances can be deceiving. Expecting a wholly different movie than Man Of Steel three short years ago? I really hate to report bad news – seriously, I do – but early word is that that Snyder’s latest is more the same as before, a dark and gritty and surreal experience that polarized fans the world over. Not even darting around the planet to travel back in time could save the visage that DC now has eschewed onto comic book and movie fans. Actually, I don’t even think Reeve’s Superman could save us, the fans, at all.

C’mon now. Are we just going to sit here blindly while we totally forget that the same geniuses who shook up Superman are now responsible for even more characters? At least Affleck can rewrite his own dialogue, but that isn’t saying much. The follow-up looks nearly the same as its predecessor. No heart, all spectacle, pandering to the audience, long soliloquies, little action. Gee, sounds familiar. Like most other Snyder projects of the last several years.

That brings us to the subject at hand. Someone here sitting smirking has to be the blunt of scrutiny. No, not David Goyer. We know he lost his edge after churning out three somewhat decent Blade films for New Line/Marvel Entertainment. No, not Chris Terrio. He’s going to have face some serious questions about his DC knowledge for trying to turn a disastrous script into something workable. Just ask Neil Purvis and Robert Wade as they tried
to fix Spectre, and even they couldn’t fully pull off a miracle. No, it’s Zach Snyder, the self-proclaimed comic nerd who wants to stick to the books and serve the fans what they want.

Hey, Zach? Here’s an eye-awakening tidbit for you. You haven’t. Maybe you need to pick up a comic book first to see what the material was before DC’s New 52.

Snyder has the right eye and style, that much we know to be true. He was forced to take shelter from IED’s we all hurdled when Universal, coupled with Working Title, aimed to bring a new take of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead back to screens. I remember being in college and going to a sold-out midnight screening. Right, his zombies ran and blazingly fast, you’d think that they were just methheads aiming for a fix. I was overly concerned that the original vision would be lost. Instead, settled comfortably inside a packed theater, I was proven wrong. Dead at least introduced wholly different characters, selecting bits and pieces of the original story, and gave us Snyder at his hungriest to make his re-imaging damn compelling. That midnight showing, because the crowd was so hushed, did make people leap from their seats with cheap boo scares. (Yes, myself included.) Sure, I’ll take Romero’s gem any day of the week, but the re-imaging was a start. I was mildly happy.

Then he gave crowds 300. I’ll save a paragraph here because I’ve no problem with that project at all. (Hey, his slow-motion action and eye for detail worked out favorably. I’ve got no qualms.) I will, however, address Watchmen. It took years to get Alan Moore’s acclaimed mini-series to hit screens. Snyder, however, kept his feet planted firmly. Many of us in fandom have no soft spot for the three-hour super-hero epic. I do, though. Seeing that property on an IMAX screen was almost like going back and reading the comics all over again. Snyder kept David Hayter and Alex Tse’s script intact as they had intended. Hell, Warners wanted to move the action to modern day and completely cannibalize the essence of the story. For the first time in his career, Snyder stayed true to a property’s roots. Sure, some of the theatrical elements were a misstep (did The Comedian’s funeral scene need to take up nearly twenty-plus minutes?) and the musical cues were of poor choice, but the visuals were there. The film looked beautiful and an adult comic book came to life in front of our eyes.

Flash forward past Legend Of The Guardians (did anyone actually watch that?) and Sucker Punch (all visuals and not a damn sense of a plot nor character), we get to modern day. His visuals and aesthetic style should have been perfect for Superman. Instead, Snyder made Superman a total head case, raised to worry about himself and not another single damn person. So what if he destroyed half of a mega-city? And snapped a villain’s neck for the sake of saving millions? No no, this was the true version of Superman, at least in Snyder’s head. Now, maybe I’m wrong, and many an editorial have been written in the years since, but wasn’t Superman for truth? Justice? The American way? Selfless, but omnipresent. Superman stood for someone. The “S” wasn’t for hope – it was a family crest. That had meaning. If Superman was before you, your mouth opened and your tongue wagged. I mean, Richard Donner understood the importance of Superman. He cared for the world that took him in. Instead, with Man Of Steel,
Kal-El was raised to fear his abilities and worry about his own self, not for others. He did let his father die in a tornado. I mean, a tornado. Really now? “No Clark, you go ahead and stand there, just let me silently be usurped by a tornado.” No impact for the emotions whatsoever. When Pa Kent died due to a heart attack, we could see Clark’s pain because, in that moment, he couldn’t save a human life. A tornado? I felt nothing at all. My heart kept ticking and didn’t pain for Kal-El once.

For the sake of story, that measure had to be taken. Superman cared not for the country that took him in. Hell, when your own mother tells you that the world owes you nothing, you would have to feel the same way. Damn the millions screaming for help. That’s not the Superman I know. And this is how I perceive Snyder to be totally cracked instead of creative. Instead of presenting a modern day take on the Man of Steel, we get a man more afraid to use his abilities for the good of the world. He’s dogged by guilt. He’s scarred. He’s burned mentally. He’s The Comedian in a militaristic Kryptonian battlesuit with a flowing red cape. Oh my, the red capes are indeed coming. I’m not awestruck. I’m bored.

Superheroes are not grounded in reality. They’re extraordinary. They’re more than just someone you meet. Their concern is for safety of the masses. I look back at Keaton’s Batman and Reeve’s Superman and I could tell where their hearts were. They were with the cities they protected. Batman didn’t need to kill to get his points across. Neither did Superman. I suppose Nolan’s trilogy with the Dark Knight forever changed how gritty, real, and
grounded our superheroes should be. So now we’ve got a Superman who’s a psychological time bomb waiting to go off. We’ve got a Batman who murders to enact revenge for the death of a Robin, presumably Jason Todd. Oh, and we’ve got a Joker with chrome teeth and enough tattoos to make Rob Zombie look like a hipster wannabe. Oh good. So while Marvel has smartly and slowly built up their universe across the better part of a decade via television and film, DC is just going to throw it all into one movie now. Why build up to a Justice League movie? No, let’s have a Batman movie that shows a bitter and angry old man looking for revenge of the destruction of his Metropolis office. Sure, we’ll throw in Lex Luthor, but we’ll make him so unlikable and annoying that, without a few shots of Fireball, you’ll want to smack your head on the plastic seat ahead of you. My love for DC is based upon Bruce Timm’s long build into a cohesive DC animated universe. That kicked off in 1992 and ran for two decades. Hell, in a way, it’s still going. We had to earn what we got on the screen though. We weren’t given everything in an ornate Easter basket ready to go from day one.

So, creative? In terms of style and visuals, Snyder is hard to beat in that department. Creative as a storyteller? Well, when you’re begging for action to happen, then you may have a slight problem on your hands. Slight? No, not slight. Major. Such was the case with Man Of Steel and, from early reports, more of the same with Dawn of Justice. Show me the hard hits. Show me stunts, for cryin’ out loud. Haven’t we all learned by now that fights with CG characters is a cheap ploy and cheapens the biggest of brawls? You know, I may not be the biggest fan of how Christopher Nolan approached the world of Batman, but one thing he got right – reel in the movie-goer’s attention. To showcase your version of the character. Take an iconic character and do something different with him. There were laughs to be had. Chase sequences so dizzying, you felt at the driver’s seat oft times. Characters so fleshed out as real that you got a sense of motivation, drive, and purpose. Sure, David S. Goyer helped flesh out the stories – but he didn’t have a single word on the screen like he did with Man Of Steel or Dawn Of Justice. Nolan is an old-school filmmaker. You have the earn the audience’s trust to get them all to buy into what you’re selling. You don’t need a world mapped out by a computer to thrust viewers into situations. Hell, even Burton managed to pull all this off, especially with Batman Returns. Why is it that Zach Snyder is too worried to outdoing every movie he’s ever done for the sake of making something pretty to screen? Movies take more than just looking darn pretty to be effective. They do need a story. And
heart. And character. Snyder lacks those key ingredients.

Two recent tidbits of news most people would discard fuel the fire of Snyder’s delusions. Firstly, and maybe someone can fill me in, why the hell would he want to do a George Washington biographical flick in the tone of 300? Anyone? Because when I picture Washington crossing the Delaware during the harshest of winters, I envision bullets slowly whizzing past his canoe and good ole George firing dueling pistols back at the British. Sure, okay, it worked for the tale of the 300 Spartans, why not just diddle with our nation’s history too? Oh, but then Snyder was asked why, oh why, did he go ahead and spearhead Watchmen? His answer was matter-of-factly. He didn’t want the “Terry Gilliam’s of the world” to make a mess of Alan Moore’s most beloved mini-series.

Wait? So, years ago, you told the press you made the movie so Warner Brothers didn’t rip the comic classic to shreds. You stood firm and delivered a movie that, yes, was a dead-ringer for Moore and Gibbons’ landmark mini-series, albeit a bit shaky in the third act. Now you make it so a true visionary like Gilliam can’t get his HANDS on a project like this? To coin a quote from Enemy Of The State, you’re either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid.

Stupid. No, you’re so stinkin’ bonkers that you can put your flair of style up against a storyteller like Gilliam. When any, and I do mean any of your movies have the lasting appeal of the likes of Brazil or Twelve Monkeys, you give us a call. I hear Twitter’s a popular platform to speak to millions of people these days.

As this weekend comes to pass, it’s no doubt that Batman Vs. Superman will win the weekend and assuredly easily. Early tracking figures show the film to ultimately pull up around $160 million dollars in the States alone. In case anyone is forgetting, Deadpool opened to $132 million itself – but against a $58 million budget. (Dawn Of Justice? Reportedly $410 mil. Ouch.) If Snyder’s latest offering for the DCU fails to make numbers akin to The Avengers – Houston had best be ready to admit there’s a problem in Warnerland and that Snyder’s creativity isn’t what the fans need. $160 million domestic is a Chiptole-induced fart floating in the wind for a film that’s taken two years to bring to screens. If Snyder hopes to have fans buy into his vision, this is his last stand. It’s do or die time. I’ve been praying for years for a DC film to capture the spirit of its sources. Batman versus Superman, how hard is that to screw up? The people will indeed be the deciding factor. I just hope Snyder’s ready to face the fire if a second misstep throws him off the rails. I just don’t think he’s ready to admit he’s doing the fans a disservice just yet. (However, given that even the most faithful of DC fans are irate with Dawn Of Justice so far, I get a feeling the pitchforks actually are coming. May I suggest Greg Berlanti? Nah. Warner Brothers already did him dirty once. He’s doing great things on the TV side anyway.)

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Jerrold Reber

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Jerrold spent his childhood in southeastern Pennsylvania ingesting far too many TV shows and movies, thus creating a stark-raving mad geek. He’s a movie aficionado, binge-watches Netflix, and is a total TV junkie. His addiction has led to an unhealthy and rabid obsession of various geek pantheons – Star Trek, Star Wars, both DC *AND* Marvel,
cult 80’s and 90’s television, Supernatural, The X-Files, Doctor Who, and, and…holy overload. He’s still waiting to run away in a 1967 Impala or a a blue police box.

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