Zack Snyder isn’t a filmmaker. He’s a bro with an entourage that happens to have cameras.
I’m not saying this to offend Mr. Snyder or his fans. I think they’re all aware of this. I’m saying it as a DC kid who grew up to watch his heroes become selfish man-children. And honestly, I’m not as outraged as I thought I would be after watching Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Because it’s hard to be upset when you ask Pauly D to be Pasolini.
Snyder, who comes from music videos, never evolved past his MTV prime. (Even though so many others have.) The thing of it is, he didn’t even seem to try. He owns what he is. His narrative beats. His choppy editing. His mise-en-scene. His overwhelming bro-sthetic. All straight from someone just shooting visuals for a Soul Asylum single.
It’s not shocking that Snyder’s “Desolation Row” music video from the Watchmen movie he also directed is infinitely better than the film itself. And it’s certainly not shocking that from start to finish, Batman v Superman works on the emotional level of a meathead with only two feelings: Confusing sadness and fist pump.
I won’t say superheroes weren’t meant to be this way, it’s just that these superheroes weren’t. Snyder doesn’t seem to understand that, nor does he seem to care. So the question here is why let him shepard the DCEU? Why a man who with Man of Steel and now BvS has shown outright contempt for Superman as a character? Why a man whose greatest contribution to cinema is a mediocre remake of Dawn of the Dead? Why a man who has only ever made long trailers and short music videos? Why Zack Snyder?
A studio gave its most valuable and potentially lucrative franchise, one steeped in history and ingrained into the American cultural consciousness, to a dude whose greatest concern is, “Can I make this look awesome,” without ever asking if it should. Worse, the stuff that should from a dramatic perspective doesn’t to a mind-boggling degree.
Case in point: In Batman v. Superman Snyder has a shot of Superman, floating stoically above flood victims for longer than necessary despite the family’s obvious and immediate need for rescuing. Cool, bro. But when we actually get to the film’s money shot, the meeting of Batman and Superman for the first time in costume, it’s a dark, distant, indistinct long shot with zero impact.
Or how about in the very beginning of the film when Bruce Wayne saves a little girl from being crushed under the falling debris of Wayne Financial Tower. Fucking awesome. Why you may ask is a little girl in the business district alone during the day while her mother, as the child indicates, is supposed to be up in the building that just collapsed. Because mega awesome.
There’s a gross, bro-ish quality to every decision Snyder makes, like he arrived on set everyday wearing a skin-tight, deep-v, all-over Batman t-shirt. That sentiment obviously inspired crossfit Batman, which is actually a thing in this movie. It lead to the execution of Superman’s pal and apparent CIA operative (?) Jimmy Olsen, which is also actually a thing. It turned Diana Prince into Selina Kyle and it made Lex a nerdy twerp that meatheads could fight. Why? Because awesome, bro
Snyder doesn’t care just how stupid Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman appear when they have to feel… anything. The supposed World’s Finest mostly just seem bewildered that grown men would have emotions at all. In Snyder’s world, this makes complete sense. These aren’t characters. They’re just moving costumes who have the emotional range of autistic toddlers. They only need to appear… EPIC. Give the image a bleak color grade and the characters a frowny face, and this is what Snyder considers drama.
None of this is surprising. Anyone who has muddled through Snyder’s filmography understands this. He’s the guy who made Sucker Punch and The 300, after all. What’s disappointing is that legendary pop culture icons have been reduced to roid-raging jocks in an effort to make them “relevant” or “badass.”
This also means they’re not superheroes. In Snyder’s world, Batman and Superman are superheroes in the same way Donald Trump is a politician. While that might get Warner Bros. a billion dollars, it makes these characters unrecognizable to anyone who ever really cared for them, anyone who was inspired by them.
Now it’s the DC heroes who need rescuing from bro Snyder. Until that happens, we can only ask ourselves, in the truly depressing way Snyder wants us to, “Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?”