I hate Zack Snyder. He is a filmmaker who is offensively bad. I have seen many a director that is unskilled at what they do, a few that are ungifted, and quite a few that are at least passionate and committed to the movie they’re working on. Zack Snyder is not unskilled. He is certainly without any considerable gift when it comes to making movies. Each and every one of his films to date has been an adaptation and each and every one of his films to date has offended me in some way. Not because humour oversteps boundaries or because horror oversteps its comfort zone. Because in the process of adapting stories, screenplays for the screen, Zack Snyder has shown me–repeatedly–that he has no idea what makes a good movie.
What makes a good movie, to me? I’ve discussed this before. If you want to know, I suggest you go back and read through a few of my reviews and all of my not-a-reviews dealing with movies. That’s the best and fastest way to get an accurate picture of what movies I like. I’m going to be honest, out of three features Snyder has made, I have seen two. I have not seen his version of Dawn of the Dead, not because it’s a remake but because of–well, why don’t we just start there?
Dawn of the Dead. First off, Snyder chose runners over shufflers. For those not acquainted with zombie movie terminology, runners vs. shufflers is an ongoing debate over which is better or which is scarier: zombies that run or zombies that shamble. I take the maddening movie critic’s stance that both have their positives and negatives. (For the record, however, as a horror fan? I totally say shufflers.) Runners have the edge in visceral terror. How, exactly, do you escape a running corpse? Shufflers are their most terrifying in the massive, uncountable hordes they are frequently seen in. Good runners movie? 28 Days Later. Good shufflers movie? Shaun of the Dead.
Now, Snyder chose to adapt a shuffler movie and add runners. He’s actually spoken about why he did this, and it was his reason for doing it that said “I haven’t thought about this premise at all, and am directing this for cash.” I paraphrase Snyder: “I wanted to have runners because if I kept the camera on them for too long, they looked too close to human.” Excuse me, Zack. What? Y-yes, the point with–with zombies is that… you know, they were human not an hour or two ago. They are supposed to be human and not at the exact same time. These people were your friends, your family, people you see around the neighbourhood. They are human and they’re coming to eat your flesh. That’s the entire horror behind it.
That was the first inkling I got that Zack Snyder doesn’t think about the choices he makes in his movies–he just rolls with his gut instinct. And his gut instincts have always been dark, “edgy” and … well, poor. He has poor instincts. When he was adapting 300 for the screen, he rolled with whatever was in the book, and if ever there were an adaptation where I wished I could grab Hollywood by the shoulders and tell them that it does not mean what they think it means, it’s 300. 300 was not a good movie. It was, however, an excellent adaptation. This is because Frank Miller’s artistic bent is already very close to Snyder’s, so in adapting a sword and sandal story from the creator of Sin City, Snyder is right at home.
It’s a big, loud, dumb manathon that does nothing to advance film as an art form or even entertain. However, it was adapted from a comic book. (Graphic novel?) And because 300 was a (financially) successful comic book adaptation, Hollywood has now said, “well, obviously that Snyder character is capable of adapting comic books! What other comic books of note do we possess?” This is a flawed strategy. A man who makes Deadly Premonition: The Movie would be ill-equipped to handle Halo: The Movie. The two projects require different artistic strategies and sensibilities. Deadly Premonition would require a knack for off-beat, pop cultural humour as well as zombie action, whereas the makers of Halo would need to find a way to tell the story of a guy who solves problems with gunfire without making it stone boring.
Zack Snyder directed one comic book movie that was deemed a good adaptation. It was a big, dumb propaganda film about greasy men fighting dirty Persians. It’s stating the obvious to say that its characters, story and setting were not all that complex. So what does the studio hand the director of Big Oily Men Fighting Brown Guys For Kicks next?
Watchmen. Dan, shut up, it’s an awful movie. What is Zack Snyder’s first choice on getting Watchmen? Well, first, backstory: 300 was mostly forgotten on shelves. Watchmen is the only graphic novel included on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. Watchmen is a dark, complex character study of the kind of people who want to become superheroes, set in an alternate universe 1985. It’s a literary and sophisticated work. Snyder sez: “Silk Spectre should be wearing vinyl and there needs to be more blood and bones.” And it’s not just fanboy poo-pooing that says this movie sucks. I watched it alongside my mom who had never read the book. She was entirely lost. She didn’t know who these people were or why she should care about them, and when your source includes entire issues dedicated to answering those questions that you omit in favour of bad soundtrack choices and worse acting… yeah.
And now, the Man of Steel. What people forget in the kerfuffle around Superman is that he’s never been a dumb hero. Superman, in his best incarnations, is a walking personification of altruism. The hope that America can pull its head out of its ass and be a great nation again. The ideals that we strive for are incarnate in him. He’s intelligent, sophisticated, well-read and kind. And you really want the director of 300 to handle a project about a kind, smart man who saves people because it’s the right thing to do? Superman’s never been a friend to dark and edgy. His best stories were back in the Silver Age. And the last person I trust to realize that is Zack “90s Anti-Hero” Snyder.