This week on the Geek Beat, we're examining a bit of an old rumor (a whole seven days old, actually) that has refused to die, and that many of the right people are continuing to say has a degree of validity to it. That rumor, to my knowledge first broken by ScreenCrush back on April 22, has said that if Man of Steel is the success that Warner Bros. hopes it is, then Justice League is a foregone inevitability. Not only that, but the man that would be bringing it to life is the current Superman helmer, Zack Snyder. Snyder is, of course, no stranger to the development of comics films due to his adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, as well as the guy that, after numerous false starts and directors, was the one that ultimately had the intestinal fortitude to bring Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' legendary graphic novel Watchmen to life in 2009.
I'm over the moon about practically everything I've seen related to Man of Steel, and as a lifelong DC Comics fan that has yearned for a proper adaptation of the World's Greatest Heroes, Snyder would definitely be the appropriate person to bring the team to life given his previous body of work. Not only does he inspire confidence in huge DC fans (like myself and the Man of Steel Countdown writer Jeffrey Taylor) with much of the prerelease material related to his Superman effort, but he's had a diverse directorial career that showed many of the elements that may be required to bring the League to life with the truth that you'd hope a film would have.
I've identified three elements in his previous films that show Snyder to be the man to bring Justice League to life.
1) A Focus on Multiple Characters: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
While his most recent complete comic book film may be a more likely answer to this particular question, I thought that an example with previously unknown characters may help to show this point a little better.
When Snyder's version of Dawn of the Dead came out I was pretty impressed with a couple of different aspects of it. The first was that he wasn't trying to do a complete remake of George Romero's legendary 1978 original, instead opting to only adopt the main setting, a mall, for his new film. The second, and more surprising aspect, was the fact that he got me to care about practically all of the characters in one way or another. Part of this is from, what I feel, exceptional casting on his part, in addition to snappy writing. Does this film measure up to the original Dawn? No, but I don't think that was the intention at all. It shares the title and the mall, and that's about it (it barely shares a mall, the production crew basically built one entirely from scratch for this movie).
In the film, Snyder really did help to give everyone their moment, from Sarah Polley's Ana to Ving Rhames' Kenneth, and he also introduced me to an actor I've really come to admire over the years in Michael Kelly, who had a great supporting role in Chronicle as well as a fantastic performance as Kevin Spacey's no-nonsense right-hand man in the Netflix original series House of Cards. It's that attention to the personalities (the true stars of any zombie story) that I could've so easily cared nothing about that helps show he could balance all the personalities of the Justice League roster, and perhaps even make you care about them.
2) Multiangled, Easy-to-Follow Action: 300 (2007)
When I first went to see 300, I really wasn't expecting much. The previews looked interesting, and since I was a fan of Dawn of the Dead I was looking forward to, what I deemed at the time, to be an odd directorial choice for the adaptation Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. As most comics fans know, Miller's high level of stylization is pretty unique and, one would think, would be nearly impossible to get the style on-screen with an emphasis on nonstop, unforgiving action.
On my way out of the theater, I shut my mouth all the way up, and firmly so. Not only was the spirit of the book maintained, and maintained well, but the movie was perhaps even more unforgiving than the original book was. Now, the action had a pacing beyond a reader's control (basically just the speed at which you turn the page), and even a beauty that I really wasn't expecting. The action in this film was also very well defined, and easy to follow. While many of the scenes were monumental, the way in which they were photographed and composed seemed to be very fluid and easy to take in.
It's kind of a given that Justice League will have a heavy amount of action in it. With a lot of focused characters, it might be easy to become lost in the mix, but if 300 is any indication, that risk should be mitigated quite a bit of Snyder's in the director's chair.
3) A Great Sense of Scale and Iconography: Watchmen (2009)
Unsurprisingly, Watchmen didn't receive an endorsement from writer Alan Moore (quite the opposite, actually), and the eccentric British scribe has said that he will never watch the film that was made. I think he'd actually be pleasantly surprised if he did. While the book did have a great sense of scale, it was almost hyperrealized for the film adaptation of Watchmen -- a benefit to the finished film. The story is big in the minds of comic book and literature enthusiasts the world over, and Snyder's scale for the film went a long way in matching that for the story itself.
Snyder's film has a dripping reverence for the original material. At the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, I was fortunate enough to be in Hall H for the Watchmen presentation, and to participate in the interviews with the cast and crew. Every member of the cast had a far greater appreciation for the original book than I was expecting, and upon my first viewing of the theatrical cut, one of the things that astounded me was that Snyder treated these characters as icons as long-lived as Batman and Superman, or even Odysseus and Hercules.
It's that respect in the framing of certain shots, in the photography of the characters, and in the devotion to each individual that made me immediately satisfied with Snyder as the director of the forthcoming Superman film, and it's that same devotion to the larger-than-life scale of the characters that he can also bring to bear in Justice League. For comics fans, the Watchmen characters are definitive icons, but they only ever appeared in the one story. While stylistically the films may be quite different, if he does assemble the League, he's the right person for the job.
Besides, just look at the trailers for Man of Steel. If Justice League ends up being a Zack Snyder film, we can be pretty confident. Nothing's ever a complete sure thing, but it doesn't usually get this close.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 5/1)
This week, DC Comics is releasing Action Comics #20, the second issue in what was supposed to be the long run of writer Andy Diggle and artist Tony Daniel on this title. It didn't exactly work out that way, with Diggle leaving due to "professional reasons," this month artist Daniel is writing the script from Diggle's notes. Action #19, the only issue fully written by Diggle, was extraordinary (the best Superman comic the company has put out in months), and that the writer's premature departure was indicative of a company-wide dislike of its own flagship character. My hopes for this issue aren't as high, but I still expect to enjoy it more than some of DC's other recent Superman-related offerings.
The first issue was probably supposed to be the beginning of a multi-issue opening story arc, but Diggle's departure means that it's now truncated to only three issues before a fill-in team comes aboard while the company finds a new creative team. I love Superman, and was looking forward to what the new team would create, but hopefully this latest issue will be a treat in and of itself.
How do you feel about Zack Snyder's Justice League qualifications? Do you think he's the right choice for the director's chair? Sound off below, and we'll see you in seven days!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.