Sci-Fi Fridays, Episode 9: The Upside to Zack Snyder, Part 2

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Hey there, readers! This article is a continuation of my defense of the polarizing Zack Snyder, who is no stranger to fan uproar at its most viscous. Last week we discussed Snyder’s first three films and now we turn our attention toward his last three efforts, one of which defines the fate of the DC Universe in cinema. Let’s begin!

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)

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 What fans/critics took issue with:

  • Script is too expository for an animated film
  • Characters, while interesting, are mostly underdeveloped
  • Story far too confusing for those not familiar with source material
  • Doesn’t offer much for adults — rather juvenile overall

The Upside: Rather than try to appeal to adults, Zack Snyder respected his core audience consisting of young kids familiar with Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series. You know how people get angry at studios who like to stretch out one novel in a series into three 2-hour+ films (hello, Peter Jackson/Warner Bros.!)? Well, Snyder — smart enough to know that there’s no guarantee a sequel would be made — decided to adapt the first three Guardians of Ga’Hoole books and condense the material to fit into the allotted running-time of an animated film. Fans, who have no time for filler or the long wait between franchise films, were pleased by this choice and valued Snyder’s commitment to staying as true to the original material as possible. While critics found the film “esoteric” (which is a compliment if you’re a hardcore fan of something), the film managed to find success and demonstrated just how extraordinary 3-D technology is if executed in the right way. The flying sequences were widely praised, with gorgeous visuals that made the best of use of the technology since James Cameron’s Avatar. Whatever reservations you have about Snyder, you can’t say he doesn’t stretch the boundaries of our current cinematic landscape.

Sucker Punch (2011)

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What fans/critics took issue with:

  • Blatantly misogynistic
  • Daring visuals don’t match the hollow plot
  • Caricatures, not strong women, abound
  • Horribly misguided view of female empowerment

The Upside: Aside from his consistently eye-popping visuals, I can’t say there is one. I think this a great example of a visual director trying his hand at screenwriting and utterly failing (his writing skills have only slightly improved since — 300: Rise of an Empire is at least Hollywood competent, if barely). Sometimes you have to strike out in a major way to show how utterly wrong you are for a particular field. If the rumors are true that Snyder is writing the Superman vs. Batman script, I sincerely hope he doesn’t go at it alone…or get paired with Sucker Punch co-writer Steve Shibuya. I think failure is good sometimes, and I truly believe Snyder will learn from his enormous mistakes and keep his slightly disturbing female fantasies buried away in a diary that will never come to the light of day. The good news is that Sucker Punch upped the profile of Abbie Cornish, Oscar Isaac and Jena Malone, three undervalued thespians whose careers have since gone to interesting places. Once again, we find Snyder going to bat for the talented and unappreciated, despite giving them material far beneath their worth. But hey, a job is a job…and starring in a big-budget extravaganza only leads to better opportunities. Snyder, thanks for looking out for the little men and women whose breakthrough roles were just a film or two away from yours.

Man of Steel (2013)

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What fans/critics took issue with:

  • Time-jumps were too jarring; pacing noticeably off
  • The actions of Superman weren’t discussed, but instead nonchalantly shrugged off
  • Louis Lane goes from a intelligent, self-reliant journalist to a damsel-in-distress
  • The destruction of Metropolis followed the recent superhero movie trend of destroying major cities to demonstrate a repetitive point of the alien threat to mankind

The Upside: All the faults that populate Man of Steel are primarily caused by screenwriter David S. Goyer. Snyder, in my opinion, finally proved himself to be the masterful visionary I always knew him to be. Instead of following the formulaic methods employed by his colleagues in the biz (clunky action sequences where the actors are at the mercy of the cameramen and stunt coordinators), Snyder understands that the visual action should support the characters, not the other way around. Why sacrifice the inherent qualities of Superman by dumbing down his powers just so an audience can easily track his movements? For the first time EVER in live-action film, a superhero finally fought like a superhero — moving at the speed of light and wielding the strength of a seemingly indestructible God.  I have long begged for live-action superhero depictions to replicate the action fluidity seen in animation, video games and Japanese anime. Snyder finally gives us this and his effects team isn’t even nominated for an Oscar?! Shame on the Academy for that serious, ignorant oversight. With Man of Steel, Snyder proved that live-action superhero films don’t need to be bogged down by the constraints of on-set mechanics. If you put total trust in your visual effects department, you can make a film that 100% respects the powers of our favorite superheroes without any red tape involved. Every action sequence in Man of Steel is astonishing, so much so that even if you can’t always follow the action due to the shakiness of the camera or the speed at which Superman and his foes fight, at least you can be happy with the knowledge that Snyder understands the art of “fictional realism” better than the majority of big-budget directors out there.

Bottom line: With his six films, Snyder has shown that he’s a man who respects source material, a director that values underrated actors and wants to put them at the forefront of his films, and most importantly stands his ground firmly when it comes to staying true to the fictitious worlds he presents to us. A true visionary and a necessity to the future of film, I fully support Zack Snyder despite all his faults (which every director has, lets face it)…and I hope maybe I’ve changed some minds in this defense piece. Sound off below in the comments!