What Should We Expect from Justice League Part One?
Let me tell you a story, beginning over ten years ago. In late 2005, director Zack Snyder was hired to direct the film adaptation of one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time: Watchmen. A film adaptation of Watchmen had been in development phases for over two decades, but the project never came into fruition until the film came back into the hands of Warner Bros. who decided to place their bets on rookie four-time director Zack Snyder.
Almost anyone familiar with the source material will tell you that Snyder had an outstanding story to work with, as Alan Moore’s graphic novel of Cold War paranoia is one that transcended the realm of comics itself. I can certainly remember that the first time I read Watchmen, I was blow away by the level of detail and depth that Moore was able to include in every page. If you want to know why you should not expect anything different from Snyder’s first Justice League movie, we need to examine his filmography. And we should start by examining his first Dc film: Watchmen.
When the first Watchmen trailer was released in 2008, many were confident that a grand retelling of Moore’s work was underway, and even I admit that the trailer was beautifully shot and clearly displayed Snyder’s ability as a visionary director. Rorschach looked as if he had been ripped right from the source material, and the shots of the Owl Ship springing out of the water excited me by their level of detail alone.
But when Watchmen was released in 2009, the results were less desirable. Millions of fans criticized the film’s overly complex, scattered narrative and excessive use of violence. Moments where Dr. Manhattan tore apart someone’s body in a violent flash of blood, or where Rorschach fought like superhuman as opposed to the physically normal man he was in the comic, made many feel disappointed by what could have been a great film.
Now, to be fair Watchmen did garner a 65% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 71% audience score, and though Rotten Tomatoes is by no means the be all and end all when discussing films, it can be useful when trying to pin point overall satisfaction. And, as many have pointed out, Moore wrote Watchmen to show what the comic book genre could uniquely do. So, it might be fair to argue that given Watchmen’s narrative length and structure, it doesn’t lend itself to a film adaptation. This argument, however, avoids laying blame on the director, and if we want a better picture of what to expect from Justice League Part One, Snyder is clearly the one we need to keep our eyes on.
Snyder later directed Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole in 2010 which pulled in a 50% critic’s score and a 63% audience score. He then directed and wrote Sucker Punch in 2011, which earned a 23% critic’s score and a 47% audience score.
However, it is Snyder’s following Dc films that paint a clearer picture of what to expect. Following the box office disappointment of Watchmen, Warner Bros. decided, for reasons that I cannot quite understand, to give the position of directing Man of Steel to Zack Snyder. And once again, from the very first teaser trailer, I was hooked. The beautiful cinematography of Superman breaking the sound barrier, and the following trailers accompanied with an exhilarating score from Hans Zimmer had me eagerly anticipating the first Superman film in decades.
But when Man of Steel was released in 2013, the results where once again muddled, this time more so than before. Man ofSteel pulled in 55% critic’s score, and failed to come near Iron Man 3’s box office haul. Now, it may be unfair to compare the first DCEU film’s box office to the seventh MCU film’s numbers, and I should also state that Man of Steel earned a 75% audience score. However, I think that most of us agree on one thing: Man of Steel was a very divisive film. Many complained that the film suffered due to its own dark and hopeless tone, which did not match the title character at all.
And as for the title character, Superman decimated Metropolis in his fight with Zod, bringing us to the most controversial aspect of Man of Steel: Zod’s death. Personally, I was not completely upset that Superman murdered Zod given the circumstances of the situation, what irritated me was that, while Superman expressed clear remorse over Zod’s death, he showed none for the people he had taken part in destroying. This conveyed to me, that while Snyder had a clear handle on Superman’s appearance, he was clueless on how to handle the internal aspects of the character.
Cut to Comic-Con 2015, and the second trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was released, this one offering a clear picture of Snyder’s third Dc film. I can recall the reaction very clearly, as I myself shared in the excitement. Seeing Ben Affleck proving himself as Batman and watching Wonder Woman appearing in battle, both of which were framed in Snyder’s fantastic imagery, excited me and before I knew it I was anxiously awaiting the second DCEU film.
Batman v. Superman played out a little differently than Snyder’s past two Dc films, in that the third trailer released was criticized for revealing too much of the film. It is important to note that many fans expressed concern, not only because the trailer had shown too much, but because what was shown did not warrant anticipation.
In March of 2016, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was released, and the film was met with, at best, mixed reception. Pulling in a 27% critic’s score, and an audience score that has now settled at 64%, the film suffered an extreme second weekend drop and failed to gross a billion dollars, a number the film should have had no problem reaching. Many, including myself, were upset with the treatment of characters such as Batman, and the choppy, dark, extremely mismanaged plot.
Putting this all together, a simple pattern emerges: Snyder can certainly work with a camera, but he cannot tell a well-received story. In short: what we should expect from Justice League Part One is more of the same. If you enjoyed all of Snyder’s past three Dc films, then you should eagerly be anticipating his next project. Regardless of how you felt about Batman v. Superman or Watchmen, there is no evidence that you should expect anything different. In fact, Snyder doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes, as according to Rotten Tomatoes scores his Dc films aren’t improving, they’re getting worse.
This does not mean that Snyder cannot turn around and surprise all of us, as directors like Jon Favreau have gone from directing Iron Man 2 and Cowboys and Aliens to Chef to, one of my favorite films of 2016, The Jungle Book.
However, unlike Favreau, Snyder hasn’t really proven himself before, and I don’t expect him to in 2017.