Zack Snyder has become a somewhat polarizing figure in comic movies of late. He has been the director of 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League film. He has been the main architect of the DCEU since it was handed to him from Christopher Nolan. He is also an executive producer and has story by credit on Wonder Woman film. His movies make money, but tend to be derided by fans and critics for being too dark or not understand the characters. Snyder has recently stepped away from directing reshoots on Justice League due to a family tragedy and director Joss Whedon has stepped in.
Now I’m not someone who hated BvS or Man of Steel. I definitely think they could’ve been better and can see the points that people complain about. But I think a lot of the negativity towards Snyder is based on his interpretation of the characters and their motivations and how that is portrayed in the film. These often differ greatly from what we’ve seen in the comics over the years. But when you look at Snyder’s craft as a director, he is very talented and uses the latest technologies as well as anyone in the industry.
Yesterday, Legendary released a youtube video of the opening credits for his 2009 film Watchmen. It’s been years since I sat down and watched it, but recently I’d done a table read of the Sam Hamm script so the characters were in my mind. I clicked on the video and realized just how much story Snyder was able to pack into the credits. They’re just over five minutes long and are set to the tune of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing from 1964, and in that five minutes we are shown everything we need to know about the original Watchmen group, how they were heroes but they were brought down through a variety of issues or prejudices.
But the interesting thing here is the use of photographs and televisions as framing devices. I occasionally teach classes on comic writing, and one of the things I use to try and convey the major difference between comic scripting and screenwriting is the idea of trying to tell a movie in still shots or photographs. How do you get the important parts into a single image and what you can leave for the readers imagination. That is the approach Snyder uses in these credits. We see decades of American history through quick little photo set ups. Yet we know the history of the golden age Watchmen and the set up for the new ones. Information that is not crucial to the story but adds to the universe that Snyder is bringing us into. Information that Alan Moore felt was needed when he and Dave Gibbons did the original comics.
So, in the midst of all this negativity towards Zack Snyder, I wanted to point out five minutes of really strong film work.
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