Well, it's Superman, so it has that issue...
Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
March 29, 2011
Kim Hollis: Based on what's happened this weekend, what are your expectations for the Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder Superman project?
Josh Spiegel: Based on the Sunday news dump, timed to make us all forget that Sucker Punch did so poorly, that Amy Adams is playing Lois Lane, I'm sure the project is moving forward. I'm also fairly confident that the Superman reboot is going to prove, once and for all, that Christopher Nolan is a fallible human being. Honestly, if this is his biggest mistake as a filmmaker, I'm fine with it. I have no expectations for the Superman reboot to be good, and I'm also not sure why Nolan thinks Snyder's best for the project. But, it is what it is. I'll just expect the worst, and hope for the best.
Bruce Hall: I don't think it will have any effect. I wholeheartedly agree about the timing of the Lois Lane announcement and I think this means they're just going to put the pedal to the medal and make Superman the best whatever it's going to be that it can be. Snyder did a surprisingly good job with Dawn of the Dead, 300 was just as vapid a project as Sucker Punch but the story was inspiring, it looked good and it made an obscene amount of money for an R rated leather-and-abs bloodbath. Watchmen was less successful but in my opinion it turned out as good as it was ever going to, considering the source material.
I don't know how significant a director he's going to be, or whether Superman is going to be the bloated, vapid, sepia toned monstrosity we're all afraid it might be. But you can't look at him and say that the good will he has in the industry right now is entirely unwarranted. Considering what a disappointment Bryan Singer's take on the Man of Steel turned out to be, it's fair to give Snyder a puncher's chance. Sucker Punch was a vanity project, and it's hard to imagine two such underwhelming Superman films in a row. It would be catastrophic to the franchise. So, I too choose to hope for the best.
Matthew Huntley: I'm a huge fan of the original Superman movie series (save for Quest for Peace), and I've been messaging my friends whenever any new developments/casting decisions are made regarding the Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan reboot. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about it. Superman Returns was enough of a disappointment and I don't think Snyder has proven himself substantive enough to handle anything outside of CGI/green screen effects (Sucker Punch solidified that even more this weekend). If Nolan could convince Snyder to go back to practical effects (the same kind he used in his Batman films) and if Snyder could realize the heart of the Superman movies lies not with action but with characters, I'd be more optimistic, but I'm not convinced that's going to happen. Here's hoping.
Tom Houseman: My expectations are for it be awful, and for me to continue wishing a slow, painful death on Zack Snyder for continuing to make such terrible movies. If it manages to be worse than Superman Returns, I'll be impressed, but unsurprised. God, do I hate Zack Snyder.
Reagen Sulewski: I don't expect these names to have much of an effect overall, except indirectly in that Nolan might take away Snyder's slo-mo/speedup shots. Especially when it comes to superhero movies, audiences don't care who produces them and are largely indifferent to the director. Iron Man became a huge hit with hardly anyone knowing anything of Jon Favreau's work (side note: who saw Gutter from PCU becoming the biggest success out of that movie?). If they can deliver a great looking final product, people will come. Nothing short of that will work, especially for a twice damaged franchise.
Brett Beach: I caught up with Singer's Superman Returns three years after the fact and found at least half a good movie. It desperately wanted to bring back the earnestness of the first two Superman films and its lack of cynicism was refreshing, but it didn't solve the problem of the Man of Steel's near-invincibility and how to factor that in with making a film that is exciting and unpredictable. I think Nolan and Snyder are an intriguing creative pairing, but I ask myself how invested I want to be in a franchise that will apparently be rebooted until a formula for success is found again (too bad that $200 million domestic doesn't quite cut it anymore). That said, they have cast Amy Adams as Lois which falls under typecasting, but also guarantees that I will see this eventually.
Max Braden: Flying at Zack Snyder speeds, Superman will have no shot at reversing the rotation of the planet.
Edwin Davies: When Christopher Nolan announced back in December that he was scaling back his involvement with Superman in order to focus on The Dark Knight Rises, I thought that this meant that Snyder was going to have carte blanche to make it as slow moving as possible, with possibly an awful heavy rock rendition of John Williams' iconic theme for good measure, but this result makes me think that Warner Bros. might either a) try to cajole Nolan into being more hands on, or b) take a much firmer hand with Snyder in order to make sure that he doesn't have quite the same level of artistic freedom that he had on Sucker Punch. Either way, I think that the project has too much momentum now to stop so it will happen, but Sucker Punch's opening might subtly alter just what sort of film it ends up being. It'll still be terrible, but how terrible is the real question.
David Mumpower: Reading the replies about Zack Snyder over the past two days, I'm starting to think that the failure of Sucker Punch has accidentally kick-started M. Night Shyamalan's career. He is now forcefully placed on the road to redemption as the entire internet races to scratch out Shyamalan's name and insert Snyder's whenever they want to make fun of a director. It's like a poorly organized outcry against blue dong and schoolgirl uniforms. But I digress.
We have this discussion from time to time in that Superman is one of those few licenses that matter. The character itself is one that doesn't interest me in that I have always found it to be a lazy take on the Achilles mythos. My opinion notwithstanding, there are people all the way across the world who would recognize the Superman logo. As such, Superman movies foster intense scrutiny in that even a movie as lousy as Superman Returns (sorry, Brett) can earn $200 million even if it does focus an ungodly amount upon real estate barony. A Superman project can and will make a dump truck worth of money independent of quality. Zack Snyder creating a Superman project is something that would tempt me.
A BOP writer has always described the failure of both Hulk movies in simple terms. "Hulk smash!!! How hard is that?" The point of this statement is that people want to be wowed by their heroes rather than talked to death. For all of our jokes about the failings of Michael Bay, this is something he understands. He is a whore, but a self-aware whore. Snyder seems to be following that path. For all of the incendiary vitriol directed at Sucker Punch, what gets lost is that he tried very hard to give the people what they want, sex and violence. It didn't work that time, but if he learns from that mistake, a Zack Synder Superman film has a chance to be a box office behemoth. Alternately, if he makes another Watchmen, a movie I love that almost everybody else hates, Superman as a movie franchise has to go on hiatus for another indefinite period.
Cue the slo-mo...
Kim Hollis: Which of Zack Snyder's films have you seen? What letter grades would you give them? What do you think of him as an artist?
Josh Spiegel: I have seen 300 and Watchmen, and at best, I would call Snyder and his films (or at least 300) overrated. Since he's clearly able to set up a shot and has a distinct visual eye, I wouldn't give either film an F or anything, but I don't think I could be very charitable to either film. The best thing about Watchmen is Jackie Earle Haley, and the only points I can give to Snyder is for casting the man. I think that Snyder isn't so much of a geek director as much as what Michael Bay wishes he was: the jock who directs movies he thinks geeks will like.
Bruce Hall: This might sound unnecessarily harsh, but I have a harder time thinking of him as an artist as I do an Amway salesman with a camera. There's a lot of big talk, wild claims and smoke and mirrors but beneath the presentation the reality is pretty threadbare. Dawn of the Dead is notable primarily because it shouldn't have been good at all and yet it was, for the most part. 300 and Watchmen benefited from strong source material and anything added to it by Snyder's treatment was incidental, as his style lends itself well to that kind of thing anyway. We've already talked about Sucker Punch but as far as Superman is concerned I think that there's reason for optimism.
Some say that David Goyer is just as overrated as Snyder. His work on the Batman franchise seems to disprove this, but there's still plenty of evidence to back up the prosecution's claims as well. Christopher Nolan seems content to let Snyder run the show for now, but if the project looks dodgy early on it's hard to believe Nolan would lack the sense to act on it. Time will tell, but at this point in his career I'd say that the jury is out on Nolan, but that the evidence so far puts to bed any talk of the man being a genius.
Matthew Huntley: Of the Zack Snyder films I've seen:
Dawn of the Dead: B
Sucker Punch: C
I've listened to Snyder speak at Comic-Con and, using only that platform as a determinant, there's not a whole lot to the guy. He's not terribly well spoken; he doesn't seem very complex or emotional; and he doesn't go into a lot of depth when fans ask him questions. To me, he's just a guy who likes mainstream movies so he decided to make a career out of it. I agree with Bruce that the only reason Watchmen or 300 were probably any good was because of their source material. Snyder actually wrote Sucker Punch and it shows (the dialogue is rather pedestrian). He's visionary, sure, but I'm starting to notice a lot similarities between all of his movies as far as their look and design are concerned, so I wouldn't say he's diverse. I think he's mostly a director-for-hire whose movies happen to be financially successful, and now he's being given more offers than he probably should. To me, he's yet to prove himself as an artist.
Brett Beach: Dawn of the Dead (B-)
He had the genius/insight/cajones to give us Sarah Polley, action star. The opening 10 minutes are apocalyptic enough that the pessimism and grimness from them infest and permeate everything that follows. The closing credits footage is cryptic enough to end the film on an astonishingly indeterminate note. This may have been unnecessary but it wound up being not unwelcome.
I saw the last 20 minutes of this as part of a double feature while waiting for the Halle Berry-Bruce Wilis gonzo sex thriller Perfect Stranger to start. My sole thought was that I couldn't fathom having to sit through 100 minutes more.
Having no attachment to or much familiarity with the graphic novel means that I wasn't emotionally invested in the success or failure. It struck me as too tied to its source material in its fidelity, and that slavishness helped keep it emotionally at a distance. I second Haley's performance, even with just his voice at times, and enjoyed the private eye/noir aspects of its being.
Edwin Davies: I've seen Dawn of the Dead and 300. I really, really enjoy his version of Dawn of the Dead. It's nowhere near as clever, funny or satirical as Romero's, but as a action/horror hybrid it's an entertainly visceral experience. It also boasts one of the best opening ten minutes of any film I've ever seen (coincidentally, The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash has just started playing on my iTunes as I type this). I enjoyed 300 in a completely vapid action movie way the first time I saw it, but since then I can't help but think that it's really, weirdly fascistic in its worldview. Combined with how terrible the acting and writing is, the film went down hugely in my estimation when I rewatched it. I've avoided Watchmen for quite some time just because I don't really want to get dragged into the debate surrounding it, but I've rented it to watch this week before I see Sucker Punch.
I kind of view Snyder as someone who could very well be the next Michael Bay. They both have their own distinct style, crappy though they may be, neither of them seem overly fussed about infusing their work with any meaning or depth and both seem to aim they work squarely at the adolescent boy demographic.
David Mumpower: As Edwin states, the Dawn of the Dead re-make is a triumph. I clearly like it more than he does and in fact consider it to be one of the best films of the 2000s. 300 is a movie that doesn't work quite as well for me as it does for some people.
I think that we could have an excellent film criticism discussion paralleling it with Sucker Punch in that the two movies are quite a bit alike. 300 has a better core due to the fact that it's an adaptation from a better writer. Both films primarily focus on mise-en-scène while offering only a loose tether of story. 300 is a B+ while Sucker Punch is a more involved discussion. We'll be posting more about it later this week. For now, I'll simply state that I think it's an average film I will watch a lot due to how visually engaging it is. This will not be the popular opinion, but the honest evaluation is that Snyder did not miss by much here. Still, it did miss in an unforgivably bad way.
The one similarity Sucker Punch has to Snyder's first foray into animation, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, is that the villain is there just to be a villain. Not enough thought is given to the enemy, which is a violation of what I call Hans Gruber's Law. If the villain isn't threatening, I will never be fully engaged by the hero(ine). Ga'Hoole is a mediocre movie (I'd give it a C-) that never finds its path. Conversely, Watchmen delivers a mystery regarding the identity of the enemy and even after that is done, the general public believes it to be another character altogether. I recognize that Watchmen is a divisive title that many BOP readers do not enjoy, but I am squarely in the camp that believes it is a masterpiece. I had it in my top ten for the year and consider it to be an A+ movie that I keep in heavy replay in my movie rotation. A key component of my frustration with Sucker Punch is that it is such a step back from Watchmen. That film had style and substance; his first live action bomb has even more style but no substance whatsoever.
Summarizing, I think that Snyder has made two exceptional features with Watchmen and Dawn of the Dead, a pointless animated owl movie, and a pair of sexually aggressive popcorn flicks that fill a niche but aren't quite what I was looking for.
Kim Hollis: I'm also of the opinion that Dawn of the Dead is pretty terrific. Again, I like Romero's version (a lot) better, but if I'm picking a recent horror movie to champion, Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is pretty high on my list. When I watched it in advance of the series premiere of The Walking Dead this past fall, I couldn't help but notice how well it holds up - and also how much better it was at the zombie thing than The Walking Dead, which I think is just insanely dull.
I skipped 300, as I don't much like Gerard Butler and it just looked like a dude movie reminiscent of Gladiator, which I actively despise. I've never found a reason to watch it and I suspect I would not like it.
Watchmen is a movie that causes me some ambivalence. I do so love the book and am of the opinion that it was nearly impossible to adapt in any cohesive, satisfying way. So, with that caveat, I do think Snyder did about as well as he could and I certainly found myself mostly enjoying the movie - there are little things that bother me about it. (Though I have to say that I can never hear Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World without thinking of Watchmen, so that was clever.)
Owls of Ga'Hoole is a gorgeous film that just left me cold. I *love* owls and could have really enjoyed this movie, but it is extremely so-so. David is spot on about the villain, too.
And finally, there's Sucker Punch. Oh, Sucker Punch. It gets so so so much wrong. I don't even know where to begin with it. I've joked that I want to rewrite the film, incorporating all the ideas and notions that I'd wished he'd used, and sell it to The Asylum or something. (The Asylum is the film studio that releases similarly named films to wide releases direct-to-DVD or cable.) The problem is that my movie would *assuredly* be better than Sucker Punch, and therefore wouldn't make sense as the supposedly lesser version.
So, to sum up: Dawn of the Dead (A), 300 (TBD), Watchmen (B), Owls of Ga'Hoole (C-), Sucker Punch (I have no damn idea. Probably a D+ or something).