If you walked into a comic shop and said the name “Zack Snyder,” you may receive some strange looks. Snyder’s name can be a polarizing topic of conversation among comic book fans, because for just as many “haters” of the director’s work, you’ll likely find just as many ardent defenders. This is, of course, because Snyder has tackled two of the most beloved comic book properties in existence, adapting them for the screen with two very different goals in mind for each.
The Fans vs. Watchmen and Man of Steel
Watchmen was what Snyder has called a “labor of love,” as he describes himself as a massive fan of the seminal Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons limited series. When recently discussing his 2009 cinematic take, Snyder went to bat for it against some relatively high-powered Hollywood criticism from Joel Silver, and told the Huffington Post recently that he made it because he "knew that the studio would have made the movie anyway and they would have made it crazy.”
Watchmen is an example of a comic book movie that could’ve been made to look nothing like the original work it was based upon, and in that sense a lot of fans can appreciate the meticulousness with which Snyder adapted many elements of the book.
Perhaps more polarizing for people is the director’s work on last year’s Superman reboot Man of Steel, since the character of Superman is the most recognized name in the entire pantheon of superheroes. While Snyder told a story that in many ways was reminiscent of and reactive to the last 25 years of Superman in DC Comics, many fans took issue with the way in which Superman resolved his conflict with General Zod in the film. Be that as it may, perhaps the most interesting part of Man of Steel was in its divided reaction by critics and audiences. Critics were lukewarm to the film at best, while audiences helped make it into the top 10 highest grossing films for the entirety of 2013.
So, now we arrive at Snyder’s forthcoming project that will place the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight in the same frame for the very first time. While it was relatively easy for some Superman devotees to spot where the director and writer David Goyer took inspiration from the comics for Man of Steel, many fans have been wondering which classic Batman/Superman stories the creative team would be mining for the new film. Maybe Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness? How about the issue of The Man of Steel by John Byrne, where the two characters first met to take down the villainous Magpie?
Or is it… nothing? You can’t make a modern comic book movie without adapting something from the source material... or can you?
The Audacity to Adapt... Nothing?
Apparently, that may be exactly what Snyder will attempt to do. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Snyder talked a bit about his approach to creating this rather historic uniting of arguably the world’s two most well-known superheroes, and had this to say: “[The movie] literally takes the Man of Steel and “Batman” universes and explodes them. You’re not as tied to the mythology. In Man of Steel, we had to create an origin story, a mythology, and there’s a lot of energy into that, which we love doing. Don’t get me wrong. But when you think about how fun it is too — now that you’ve got these characters — to now let ‘em loose. That’s fun!”
“Not as tied to the mythology?!” On the subject of fan outcry to the casting of Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg, he went on to say, “We know the material. Unfortunately, the fans don’t know the material. So, we’re casting according to what’s happening in the script. And we’re hoping that leads to enough originality, enough perspective on what we’re doing that you get something fresh and exciting. I understand the canon. I’m not crazy. I know what these characters need from a mythological standpoint.”
Well, as a comic book fan, movie fan, and all around Superman and Batman freak, I have a message for Zack Snyder, and that message is: "Good! That’s your job, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with."
It’s no secret that fans love when we get to see elements of comic book stories we're attached to adapted into big multimillion dollar movies, but sometimes the material demands that we get something entirely new. When the film opens in May of 2016, will we be completely unable to recognize the characters that we love so much? No, that likely won’t be the case at all. Snyder has a great team behind him in the form of David Goyer, screenwriter Chris Terrio, and producer Geoff Johns. Goyer and Johns are both intimately familiar with what makes the timeless versions of the comics characters so enduring, and Terrio is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter.
It's Okay to Have Faith
The elements are all there for a great movie experience strictly from a written perspective, and that’s before getting into the immense stylistic talent of Zack Snyder himself. The future of DC Comics on film is riding on what this creative team will come up with, and there were undoubtedly some lessons learned from the approach taken from the release of Man of Steel. Fan expectation is going to be up in the stratosphere by the time the film is ready to be released, and nothing can stop that.
That’s it for Comics on Film this week, be sure to come back for an all new edition in seven days!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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