A Brief Interview With The World’s Most Hated Director

Sorry Michael Bay, it's Zack Snyder's turn.

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Zack Snyder isn’t very popular. Partly because of the projects he works on, and partly because of his often eccentric visual style, the director behind the new Superman movie, Man Of Steel, has become a perennial punching bag for comic book fanboys and casual online dissenters, regularly subjected to the kinda hate that was once reserved only for Michael Bay.

Just trawl through his IMDB page’s messageboards (featuring ongoing threads with titles like “Alright my reasons why I hate him.”, “Great now this hack has destroyed Superman”, and the impressively succinct “*beep* you Snyder”), and you’ll find the evidence.

I mean, just look at this:

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And this:

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Someone even started this blog — titled ‘Snyder’s Superman Sucks’ – but it’s so hilariously over-the-top, it’s probably satirical.

People don’t like him. And it’s kinda undeserved. Ever since his debut — one of the better modern zombie flicks, Dawn Of The Dead (2004) — the guy’s regularly showcased the nutso creativity that made 300 and Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole in particular so exciting, all unexpected visual flourishes like choreographed contemporary dance sequences and slow-motion, mid-air battles.

With this week’s release of Man Of Steel came the stream of criticisms. Viewers have been bemoaning its severe sombreness, its lack of lighthearted humour, and, its over-the-top 9/11 evocations. It’s like these people went to a comic book movie to giggle at stupid shit like Superman’s underpants, and instead got dealt some severe Plato-style thesis on morality and something about families. You can understand why they’d be pissed; it goes on like this for two-and-a-half hours, and no popcorn lasts that long.

On the other hand, it’s probably one of the least Snyder-ish films, with his signature green-screen, “where the f**k did that come from?” moments only really appearing in one great scene, where Superman’s dad, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), offers an explanatory life story to his son Kal-El (Henry Cavill), and the scene’s background swirls through a delightful mish-mash of art deco reliefs, mythical 3D hieroglyphics and Diego Rivera-esque worker murals. The rest of the movie is buildings falling and people dying.

So anyway, it’s hard to address all this shit in an interview setting without just straight up screaming “EVERYONE HATES YOU! How do you feel knowing everyone hates you?” into the guy’s face for 10 minutes (especially when people like Larry Emdur and David Campbell are knocking down the door waiting for their turn). So, I beat around the bush.

1. Serious stuff

What I asked him: A major aspect of the film is the way you tackle the fantastical, almost ridiculous elements of the story with this handheld, realistic aesthetic. Why’d you decide on that approach?

What I meant to ask him: Why are you so f**kin’ serious, dude? It’s just comics.

What he said: All the movies I’ve made have had some sort of ironic angle to them. I have a hard time making movies just straight because I feel like it’s a movie and there’s a manipulation of reality that I’m really conscious of, and I kinda think that’s super fun. And so, the irony in this film is that it’s not ironic. I liked the idea that the most realistic movie I would ever make would be about a character called Superman who could fly and came from another planet. Also, you’ve gotta hire, like, really good actors. You’d be surprised how easy it is to suspend your disbelief or make a real thing out of something that doesn’t feel real at all. Like, Russell Crowe… He believes it! And so you’re like, well, if he believes it, then I believe it.

2. 9/11 stuff

What I asked him: Evoking 9/11 has been a big part of action films lately, but this film kinda goes all out on it. What was the thinking behind that?

What I meant to ask him: Buzzfeed got a scientist and ‘longtime disaster expert’ to watch the final scene of this movie. You killed 129,000 people and injured about 1 million. Justify that shit!

What he said: Well,  just from a straightforward storytelling standpoint, we wanted the Kryptonians to create a real problem — the stakes need to be super high, it’s really the end of the world. That’s when I felt like, well, there’s gotta be some real destruction that occurs, the consequences for the planet have to be substantial, it can’t just be “Oh! He stopped it just before…”. I mean, we were talking about whether or not Superman acts like a modern myth that allows us in some way to deal with the impossible dangers of the 21st Century. Does he take some of that tension or terror that you know you can feel living in this crazy world we live in? Does it give us a small sort of comfort that he’s out there to help? You couldn’t do it [the 9/11 stuff] with a superhero other than Superman; they have less gravitas, less history and less pop culture resonance. Like Superman’s alright; we’ve all accepted him, he represents the human race in some weird way. But if you did it with, like, The Flash or Martian Manhunter, you’d be like, ‘That’s not cool.’ (laughs).

3. Annoying nerds stuff

What I asked him: The fanbase for your films can be pretty obnoxious. I mean, you get criticised for making Watchmen too faithful, you get criticised for making 300 too stylistic. Do you ever feel like just going off and making some period piece?

What I meant to ask him: (No, that question’s pretty funny.)

What he said: Yes, I know what you mean. The thing is, they can complain all day long; they all go to the movie anyway, right? (laughs) And, the truth is, you can imagine if there was a Watchmen movie that wasn’t faithful to the graphic novel, what they would’ve felt about that. So, you know, you can’t win on some level. But, I honestly don’t think about it in terms of “Oh, I’m gonna go make another genre film”; I just follow whatever keeps me up at night, whatever makes me start drawing, and for whatever reason, it’s these ridiculous movies.

Man Of Steel is now showing in cinemas nationally.