Waiting for Snyder’s Superman

There has been much talk recently about the move to put Zack Snyder in the director’s chair for the upcoming Superman movie. The decision could prove to be an interesting collaboration between Christopher Nolan (who will produce the film) and Snyder, or it could be the final blow of Kryptonite to a franchise that is struggling to get fans into theaters. While I am a big fan of comic books and comic book movies, I have never been a huge follower of Superman. Yes, he’s an icon, but it’s hard to tell a good story with a character who can do almost anything. What makes a Superman story interesting is not how hard he can punch, or how fast he can fly, but his motivations and tests of character. Sure, he could easily take over a whole country and put himself in charge, but he doesn’t. He fights for what he believes in, often codified as “truth, justice, and the American way.” And why does he get involved at all? He does it because it is the right thing to do.

This is what worries me about Zack Snyder directing the next Superman film. I have seen all of his movies so far (except for that Owl movie) and enjoyed them very much. It’s obvious he has a love and respect for the medium of comics, and uses care in translating them to the screen. I honestly believe he made the best Watchman movie he could while being beholden to the source material. However, he is probably the least subtle filmmaker this side of Michael Bay.

Snyder handles spectacle and action sequences with ease, but does not handle emotional depth well. Ironically this is one of the things that suited him for Watchmen. The deepness of Watchmen is not in the plot of the film, it’s in the way the story is told as a comic. Plot-wise Watchmen is about as subtle as a hurricaine. Nuanced yes, but that’s not the same thing.

However, I am still optomistic for the new film. David Goyer wrote the script, and Christopher Nolan is sheparding the project. While the recent Batman films may not always be subtle, they do allow for the characters to grow and stretch, which is more than can be said for earlier comic book efforts. Nolan has said they want to update Superman for the modern era without straying to far from the character’s core.

What made the Christopher Reeves films so magical was how understated Reeves’ Superman is. He is quiet and reserved, letting his actions (and later, Lois Lane) speak for him. He knows he doesn’t need to be flashier than his primary colored costume to be an inspiration to people. His Clark Kent, by contrast is loud and bumbling, a Kansas-bred boy finding his way in the big city. What makes Superman interesting and relatable is not his flying through clouds with Lois in his arms, it’s Clark barely working up the courage to talk to her.

Overall I look forward to finally having a Superman film with a distinct aesthetic from the films of the Seventies (and Returns). Let’s hope that Zack Snyder remembers that while Superman is from beyond the stars, Clark Kent is from down the road.