We have arrived, friends, at an inevitable point in our journey. For better or worse, we cannot discuss the modern Superman without discussing the most recent film iteration. And no one person has had his singular vision of Superman spend more time on screen than Zack Snyder.
Let me immediately walk that claim back. There are plenty of actors who have clocked more screen time as Clark/Supes than Henry Cavill. The original Superman tetralogy clocks in at a smidge over eight hours total, compared to Snyder’s trilogy at slightly under seven. But behind the camera, things shift quite a bit on those films. The first two are both written by Mario Puzo and mostly directed by Richard Donner. Then Richard Lester steps in to finish Superman II and direct Superman III, and all three of those are under the production aegis of the Salkinds. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace shares no creators behind the camera with the previous three, with the franchise sold off after III sort of tanked.
Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and Justice League (or at least the mythical Snyder cut thereof) practically announce themselves as a unified vision, and if most people don’t think of Snyder’s Superman the same way they think of Nolan’s Batman, it’s not for a lack of trying on Zack Snyder’s part.
So if I’m to be thorough, I need to look at them. And I’m just going to spoil things and say, I don’t love these movies. But I’ve talked in this series about plenty of comics I don’t adore. And since they’re a big chunk of Superman stuff, I want to understand what Zack Snyder was going for, what concerns as a filmmaker he brought to these movies, and where his take on Superman comes from.
The best way to start in on it seemed to be starting with his earlier work. If and when I get around to Richard Donner’s Superman (or Richard Lester’s Superman III, for that matter) I’ll be attempting the same approach, if maybe not as thorough. But yes, we are about to embark on a career-spanning retrospective of Zack Snyder. And I make no apologies for the title.
I say we because I have roped in some fantastic people to comment on aspects of some of Snyder’s work. It’s amazing what you can get lined up if you go to the right New Year’s Eve party. So watch this space as we discuss Snyder’s 90s music video output, his zombie remake, his takes on Frank Miller and Alan Moore, his…fighting owl cartoon? And his one non-adapted film, which, as someone who is almost always here for big sprawling original sci fi movies (Jupiter Ascending is an awesome movie, try to fight me and I will destroy you with bees), looks like it might be something I’d actually like.
And at the end, we’ll look at Snyder’s Superman trilogy, arriving at it again, a little more informed. Maybe.