This week, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” saw the release of its ultimate edition extended director’s cut – or whatever you want to call it – and for the first time many fans got to see Zack Snyder’s true vision of the film. If you follow my work on TheBlaze, you already know that I quite enjoyed the theatrical cut of “BvS,” and am one of the few professional film critics who did. I am proud to count John Campea – who I have had disagreements with on several occasions – on that list as well. We are, alas, few and far between.Some critics have come out in favor of the film now, having seen the extended cut. John Schnoepp – director of the documentary “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?” – who was very negative of the film originally has said that while not perfect, the ultimate edition does make it a much more enjoyable film. Welcome to the club, John.
Watching the ultimate edition, I began falling in love with this film all over again. While the theatrical cut was a very enjoyable film with some very minor flaws, I began to see that now – finally complete and intact – the film borders on perfection. In fact, I would go so far as to call it brilliant. Quite possibly the greatest superhero movie of all time.
This line of thinking got me thinking about something else: who is the greatest superhero filmmaker of all time? We often rank the films, but rarely ever do we rank the men who made them.
Is it Richard Donner, the man who was first able to see past the comic books and find some real human characters worthy to be treated with respect? Is it Tim Burton, who saw the advantage of a dark and brooding Batman while most of the world was still stuck on Adam West? Bryan Singer? Sam Raimi? The Russo Brothers? If you want my honest opinion – which my regular readers should already know to expect – the answer is none of these.
Many of you are out there reading this right now secure in the knowledge that the answer is, of course, Christopher Nolan. Nolan did something that had never been seen before with the character; he took him off the four-color page and plopped him right smack in the real world. Not the stylized “real world” of most comic book movies, but the really real world where everything could theoretically work. In fact, the redesigned batsuit used in “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” was fully functional. Everything the suit claimed to be capable of, it was actually capable of. Soldiers and police men could really wear that suit into battle with all the protections of being Batman.
He was also able to depart greatly from the source material without causing the nerd rage that so generally accompanies comic book movies that try to do their own things with the characters. In fact, not only was there no rage but the fanboy audience gave him a pass. Sure, the Joker is as far removed from the source material as any can be, but with a performance like that given by Heath Ledger, who really cares?
Yes, Christopher Nolan is the only logical choice. Except, it isn’t him. Rest assured, though, Dark Knighters he does come in a close second.
Believe it or not – and this is my own completely subjective opinion – the greatest superhero filmmaker of all time just might be Zack Snyder.
Think about it. Snyder was able to make a movie out of one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time – a graphic novel that had, at one time, been thought to be unfilmable – and he created a masterpiece out of it. Sure, a lot of fans talk down about “Watchmen,” but very few of them can actually tell you why it’s a bad movie.
“Watchmen” – the comic book, not the movie – was a commentary piece on the superhero genre in comics. It was a deconstruction, and if you aren’t intimately familiar with superhero comic books it can come off as a little odd. If you are intimately familiar with the genre, however, it’s brilliant. Likewise, when adapting the film Snyder had the vision to take that commentary on superhero comic books and refocus it on superhero movies. “Watchmen” is a commentary on superhero movies right down to the set and costume designs.
Look closely at Ozymandias’ costume in the film. What are those things on his chest? Why, they’re Bat-nipples! the same kind Joel Schumacher inserted – to much chagrin – on the costumes of his Batman films. And the Night-Owl II costume looks surprisingly like the costume worn by Christian Bale in “Batman Begins.” The costumes of the original Minutemen are designed to very much look like old superhero movie serials, and they even appear to be made out of the same flannel material. If you are intimately familiar with superhero film adaptations – and you know what to look for – “Watchmen” certainly is a treat to the senses. Like the graphic novel before it, it’s a film for buffs and not the casual viewer.
With both “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Snyder likewise deconstructed the characters in much the same way he did the genre with “Wathmen.” In fact, some of the criticism laid at the latter film was that it felt like “Watchmen” starring Batman and Superman. That was by design. In “Man of Steel” you actually get to know Superman. To peer into his soul. A lesser filmmaker could never have made that work the way Snyder did, nor would he have even thought of it.
The Batman presented in “BvS” is very much the Frank Miller version of the Dark Knight. Even the world presented in the movie just feels like Frank Miller. One could easily see Metropolis sitting on one side of Gotham and Sin City sitting on the other. Frank Miller once brought the definitive Batman to comics and Zack Snyder has finally brought the definitive Frank Miller vision to movie screens.
As with “Watchmen,” the viewer has to be intimately familiar with the characters as well as with the work done by Miller. If you aren’t, I can see the film being hard to follow. Please know, that when “BvS” apologists tell you that you didn’t like “BvS” because you didn’t understand it, this is what they mean. It isn’t a shot at your intelligence, just that this film was made for a specialty audience.
I’m sure man readers will disagree with what I’ve said here. That’s great. This is my own subjective opinion and the reasons why I hold this opinion. I want to hear your opinions as well. Drop a comment and let’s talk about it.