Man of Steel
Alright, let me start off by saying, I'm not a Zack Snyder hater at all. Dawn of the Dead was a solid remake, 300 certainly established Snyder's unique visual style, Watchmen was probably the best possible film adaptation one could make of the complicated, legendary Alan Moore graphic novel (well the Director's Cut anyway), and I didn't even mind Sucker Punch all that much despite the negative reviews.
It's easy to see why DC and Warner Bros. would hire Zack Snyder to helm their new reboot of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel. After all, Snyder has a good working relationship with Warner Bros., they've helped produce or distribute every Snyder film since 300. Match Snyder with producer Christopher Nolan, fresh off his success with The Dark Knight trilogy, and a script by writer David Goyer, who had his hand in writing those subsequent films, with a new fresh take on Superman. There's no way this film could be bad right? Look at the second trailer, for Man of Steel, which is fantastic.
There's no way this film could suck right? Well, in my opinion, and I'm not the only person who thinks this, Man of Steel was an abomination. Perhaps one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Just a complete miscalculation in every way imaginable. Superman Returns was underwhelming, but Man of Steel makes that film look like Citizen Kane. Why you ask? Perhaps the answer lies in what writer David Goyer said they were going for with Man of Steel.
We’re approaching ‘Superman’ as if it weren’t a comic book movie, as if it were real… I adore the Donner films. Absolutely adore them. It just struck me that there was an idealist quality to them that may or may not work with today’s audience. It just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all, this story would be a story about first contact.
“He’s an alien. You can easily imagine a scenario in which we’d be doing a film like ‘E.T.,’ as opposed to him running around in tights. If the world found out he existed, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history… It falls into that idea of trying to humanise the inhuman. He’s made out of steel, he’s not made out of flesh, metaphorically speaking. We are portraying him as a man, yet he’s not a man.”
In theory, that doesn't sound like a bad idea. Indeed, the newer Superman comic books do highlight his alien qualities, and Superman has never been approached that way in film before. Bryan Singer turned his Superman in to a celeb but a far more interesting angle is to see people react to Superman as an alien to fear. Despite that, very little of what Goyer promised happened in Man of Steel.
The biggest problem, I believe, was the "Nolanisation" of Superman, which may have worked for Batman, because Batman doesn't have any super powers. You have to ask how easy a job it is to make a realistic film about an alien with superpowers? Batman is a man in a suit, Superman on the other hand is an alien who is indestructible. He is much harder to put in a realistic universe, you have to suspend too much disbelief to do it so why even bother?
I don't want to put the full blame on Christopher Nolan. Certainly he has better things to do like writing screenplays that make sense, and making good films. David S. Goyer is the man to blame for the Man of Steel travesty. Now people always tell me, "yeah but he co-wrote the Dark Knight films". Co-wrote is an interesting term. Goyer did co-write Batman Begins, but he only got a token co-story credit for the remaining two. The overall impact of his involvement in the two sequels has been debated. Let's take a look at what David S. Goyer has done BY HIMSELF, with zero help, writer-director. Such classics as Blade: Trinity, The Invisibles (so bad it wasn't released in theaters), and The Unborn. All three were bad, so ask yourself, is David S. Goyer a fraud?
The origin story of Superman has been told many times, and Goyer doesn't bring anything new to it in Man of Steel. Told in flashbacks, showing Superman trying to stay incognito while hiding his powers (which he does an extremely poor job of), all this tells us is that Kent is an extremely unlucky person that you don't want turning up after the blue. Every place Clark goes to he ends up being the center of attention. The one instance where his powers would have been used for something good, saving his father in a tornado that comes out of nowhere (boy, Clark has some bad luck), he doesn't because his father urges him not too. Powerful, right? Not really because when he finally meets his real father Jor-El, he basically says "yeah screw that use your powers."
Which brings me to my ultimate point, Superman/Clark Kent seems to cause more damage than actual saving in [Man of Steel](movie:15593). Every person he encounters has a dumbfounded reaction to his powers because he uses them in awkward, dangerous ways. The ultimate sin of Man of Steel is it's ending, when we're supposed to believe Superman had to kill Zod because he was about to kill 3 or 4 random people, meanwhile during the entire film thousands die because of Superman's recklessness. He made no effort to bring Zod away from human destruction.
Ok, so Man of Steel sucked, and despite it's impressive opening weekend, didn't gross the numbers that Warner Bros. was looking for (although solid). Warner Bros. announced two sequels, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the big one, [Justice League](movie:401267). Both will be directed by Zack Snyder. What's interesting, is that Warner Bros. seems to be distancing itself from Nolan and Goyer. Last February, when news came that Jesse Eisenberg would play Lex Luthor in the sequel, Warners issued this statement.
The new film is currently being written by Chris Terrio, from a screenplay by David S. Goyer. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Wesley Coller, David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers.
Two things immediately pop out, one is that the film is being re-written by the Oscar winning screenwriter of Affleck's Argo, Chris Terrio, and two, Christopher Nolan's name is nowhere to be found, not even as an executive producer.
What you're seeing here is a re-branding of this franchise away from Nolan and Goyer. Man of Steel's promotion was all about promoting Nolan's name coming off the success of his Dark Knight trilogy, which was a huge critical success and a box office juggernaut. However, Man of Steel made a rather underwhelming $668 million dollars. Compare that to Marvel's films, which have two billion dollar plus films, The Avengers and Iron Man 3, with [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) almost guaranteed to make a billion, and Captain America: Winter Soldier, which grossed an impressive $714 million worldwide.
So looking at their competitors numbers, it's easy to see why DC/Warners wants to get their cinematic world going. Whether good or bad, lots of people will flock to the theaters to see a movie with Batman and Superman in it. Warners seems to not blame Snyder for Man of Steel, obviously, but the structural choices made at the time. With Snyder having more freedom and the addition of Affleck and Terrio, who seem to like the direction Snyder wants to go with this franchise, it's likely that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be much different in tone than Man of Steel. Evidence from the leaked comic con footage suggests that as well. Is Eisenberg’s Luthor inspired by two particular Superman stories, Birthright and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel?
The possibilities are, I admit, exciting. Whether or not Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be a definite success or a complete disaster, we don't know yet. Despite the big risk, I am encouraged by Warner moving away from the tone of Man of Steel, which was a failure on all levels, even Warner themselves know that.