They've called him every name in the book on every form of social media. There are those who defend him vigorously and there are those who angered by his very existence. Some consider him to be one of the best directors in Hollywood today, while others think he is the absolute worst, even more than Michael Bay.
I've written before about the outright hatred that Zack Snyder has gotten over the past three years since he directed Man of Steel and became the poster child for DC Extended Universe directors. To say that he is a polarizing figure to say the least would be a bit of an understatement. The guy has fans in his corner for what he has done so far for the DCEU and others who want to burn him at the stake for his supposed heresy of their beloved DC Comics characters.
I'm not one of the latter at all, so if you're looking for another hatchet blog piece on Zack Snyder then you have come to the wrong place. Don't worry, there's plenty of angry blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook posts and tweets about how he's the devil himself and his mission is to destroy the childhood memories of every DC Comics fan on this earth. I'm sure you can find them if you just google his name.
No, this is a piece about why Zack Snyder is, without question, the best comic book movie director we have seen to this point, and while that's not an opinion shared by all, it is the one that I am supporting here today. I have been a fan of his work since he scared the hell out of me with the Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. Seriously, I wouldn't touch a zombie movie for the next five years after seeing that one at the theater. Over the course of the next twelve years I followed his work and have considered him to be one of the most solid directors in Hollywood today, despite the fact that so many people seem to hate him and what he has done with his DCEU movies.
Here are my reasons for why I think he's the best in the business for directing comic book movies:
1 - HE IS EXPERIENCED WITH COMIC BOOK MOVIES
Snyder has directed four comic book movies in the last nine years and is currently directing his fifth, Justice League, due out November of 2017. The only other director on his level in terms of sheer numbers of comic book movies directed is Bryan Singer, who has directed four movies in the X-Men franchise for FOX and Superman Returns in 2006 for Warner Bros. Even so, that goes back 16 years to 2000 when X-Men came out and after Superman Returns flopped, Singer didn't direct another comic book movie for eight years until X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014. Snyder on the other hand has been in demand by Warner Bros. since 2007 with 300, then again in 2009 with Watchmen before unofficially kicking off the DCEU with Man of Steel in 2013 and continuing that with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this year. Justice League will mark five comic book movies directed in a single decade for Snyder, a feat that not even Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director of The Dark Knight Trilogy can claim himself. Snyder has been, without question one of the most sought after comic book movie directors in recent memory and his track record says as much.
2 - HE IS TRUE TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL
Watchmen is all I need for this one, but I could point to any of his comic book movies for examples of his faithful reverence to the original comics. In this case, Watchmen is by far his most faithful and I can attest to that having read the book several times. It was considered for years to be an impossible book to adapt for cinema due to the length, complexity and scale of the story. Snyder took on this Herculean challenge and did much more than I thought he could in two hours and 43 minutes in the theater, then bumped that up to well past three and a half hours for an ultimate cut that contained even more from the book itself. It might still be the best film he has ever made to this day and he even "fixed" the ending, in my opinion. I'm sure Alan Moore would disagree angrily, but there are shots in this movie that are lifted straight from the comic panels themselves, the aesthetic of the world and its alternate reality is spot on, and the little touches and easter eggs, like using Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" at the end of the movie to denote the title of the last chapter of the book with the same name is just fantastic.
3 - HE IS FEARLESS TO TELL A NEW STORY
As much as some fans would appreciate a 5-hour long completely accurate adaptation of The Death of Superman or The Dark Knight Returns, Snyder understands that the majority of the paying public audience wouldn't appreciate it, so when it comes time to adapt these characters for the big screen he is more than open to create a new take, which is no different than what comic book writers have been doing with these heroes and villains for decades. It's the hallmark of a great director to be able to take an existing work from another medium, originally designed for a different audience than the cinematic one, and adapt said existing work for the big screen, creating a movie that both long time fans and newcomers can both appreciate at the same time. He has unquestionably done this over the last nine years of his career even in the midst of the vitriol constantly thrown his way for it. The guy takes a beating from critics, bloggers and fanboys like it is his job to do so, but nothing has seemed to deter him yet from telling the stories he wants to tell and that's admirable for a director.
4 - HE IS A FAN OF THE COMICS
All that being said, it is abundantly clear that Snyder is a HUGE fan of the comics and has a true understanding of the work itself. The amount of panel for panel accuracy within Watchmen aside, he might also be the king of easter eggs, tossing so many of them into each of his movie that people are still finding in them today. Lex Luthor's prison number designation tying into his first appearance in Action Comics, the Pb lead markings on Batman's Kryptonite grenades, and the crazy broken window shaped like Superman co-creator Joe Schuster's birthplace of Canadian province Ontario are just a fraction of the small, yet completely deliberate moves that Snyder has made in his comic book movies. It's an astounding level of detail when you consider all of it. In addition, his movies feel like cinematic comic books themselves in terms of the aesthetic, cinematography, action, pacing and plot. How grand and epic is the destruction of the World Engine in Man of Steel? Or the shot of Superman trading laser blasts with Doomsday in Batman v Superman? How well choreographed is the warehouse fight in the same movie where Batman takes out two dozen armed criminals with extreme prejudice? On a visual storytelling level, Snyder has a unique understanding of how comic books can be translated to film and it's outstanding.
5 - HE BELIEVES IN "SHOW, DON'T TELL"
One of the fastest ways to bog down an audience at a movie is to dump a ton of expositional dialogue at them all at one time to describe exactly what is happening at that point in time instead of actually showing you what is going on. Movies are a visual medium and one of the cardinal rules of it is "Show, don't tell." A lot of movies in the last 20 years have gotten away from that ideal though and now it's all about the most quotable lines and drawn out speeches from characters that get the attention and praise instead of what is actually on screen in front of you. Fortunately, that is not the case with Snyder as he paints a beautiful picture for you to look at that tells the story with action instead of dialogue. When people were looking for Bruce to speak aloud his thoughts of sparing Superman's life during the "Martha" scene, we were given the look on Bruce's face and the visual realization by himself that he had become a monster and had to stop to begin redeeming himself. Instead of being told in a news report how many casualties there were during the Black Zero event in Man of Steel, we saw the carnage ourselves and it was left to us to reason how horrible the devastation was. That's so much more powerful than a line of dialogue or a big drawn out speech from any main character and it's just one more aspect of filmmaking that Zack Snyder understands but almost never gets credit for.
6 - HE DOES NOT FAIL AT THE BOX OFFICE
$1.09 billion. That's how much Zack Snyder's seven directed movies have made domestically since 2004, almost all of them for WB. Add in the rest of the planet and his movies have grossed 2.514 billion worldwide. You can talk about studio expectations, production and marketing budgets all the live long day, but when you have one guy pulling in billions by himself for a studio, you can imagine why they would keep hiring him to do his work there. Not only that, but it clearly indicates an audience for his work that is largely going unnoticed by critics, bloggers and the general public. All we seem to hear about is how bad Snyder's movies are and how nobody likes them, yet he's pulling in an average of $359.1 million per film worldwide every time he directs a movie. That doesn't happen if people don't like what he is doing. This is the biggest reason why box office numbers do matter for films that are not critically acclaimed because if they are still doing well, it means the audience has largely ignored those bad reviews and saw the movie multiple times anyway. This was the case with arguably Snyder's mot polarizing movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that made $873.3 million worldwide yet had people calling it a failure because it didn't break a billion and because people allegedly only saw it once. Movies don't make more than three-quarters of a billion dollars if people are only watching it once. The fact is that outside of Sucker Punch, Snyder is a sure bet for success at the box office, especially when it's a comic book movie. The numbers don't lie.
In spite of all of these points I've made here, the hatred for Zack Snyder will continue and critics, bloggers and fanboys will continue to drag his name through the mud with this idea that he is an incompetent director and should stay as far away from the DC Extended Universe as he can so he doesn't continue to ruin it......even though an overwhelming amount of people have enjoyed his DCEU movies and are looking forward to Justice League. In fact, there are people more concerned about WB meddling in his edits and ruining things themselves than there are about his direction, at least among fans of the DCEU. To say that Snyder is a horribly misunderstood director is the epitome of understatement, but of course people are entitled to their opinions on the matter and you don't HAVE to like him or what he does.
The problem is that when you look at other directors that have recently done multiple comic book movies, like Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon, The Russo Brothers and Bryan Singer, it's really hard to say that Zack Snyder doesn't belong in that group, especially since he's really the LEADER of that group.
Keep doing what you're doing, Zack. You're one of the best in the business and we should all be so lucky to have you bringing our favorite comic book characters to life. If only more people could appreciate that.