‘Justice League’: Can Zack Snyder Marvel-ize DC?

Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Zack Snyder may not have been the name most often seen atop fans’ lists as their dream “Justice League” director. But he turned out a hit in “Man of Steel” and is working away on an expansion of that world in the movie tentatively titled “Batman vs. Superman.”

So it wasn’t a total stunner that Warner Bros. is sticking with Snyder for “Justice League,” as the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday in an article that also confirmed the studio finally has plans to make the movie based on the DC Comics characters in the first place. A story in the Hollywood Reporter then followed, saying the studio plans to shoot the film on the heels of “Batman vs. Superman” -- significantly choosing not to wait to see where that film lands commercially.

Warner Bros. head of production Greg Silverman explained the Snyder choice simply. “It will be a further expansion of this universe,” he told the Journal. “‘Superman vs. Batman’ will lead into ‘Justice League.’”

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He was only beginning to hint at the deeper rationale.

There have been two major trends that have worked in this era of comic-book cinema. One is to entrust a franchise to a single director (Chris Nolan with Batman, Sam Raimi with Spider-Man and now Marc Webb with the Spider-Man reboot, all of them taking the reins for three movies apiece).

The other is, as Silverman implied, to add characters in successive films so that you soon have one supergroup of a movie (Marvel, which with one exception has resisted the first trend of repeat directors, innovated this approach, with the Thor, Iron Man and Captain America films all leading to “The Avengers.”)

With “Justice League,” Warner Bros. is now attempting both of these trends -- a buildup from “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs. Superman” and an attempt to bring all three movies under the same director.


On paper it’s a good idea. Filmic universes are smart not only narratively but on the marketing front as well, with each movie coming as a kind of de facto advertisement for the one you’re planning later. Meanwhile, trilogies tend to work better when guided by one master, who can conceive of a larger world and also learn from mistakes on each film.

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Whether it actually works is another matter. There’s a chance for some serious superhero overload by 2018 (or later) when “Justice League” is likely to hit, a point at which we’ll have at least another “Avengers,” a third Spider-Man film and that second ‎Superman movie.

And though a trilogy in the hands of a single director is theoretically a good idea, it of course ultimately depends on who that director is. Snyder has had as many misses (“Sucker Punch,” “Watchmen”) as hits (“Man of Steel,” “300”). His emphasis on visual style makes for strong individual set pieces, but it’s less clear that that will translate to the kind of long-form storytelling required for three movies about the same characters.


The move by Warner Bros. is a vote of confidence in Snyder as he holds the reins of the studio’s best-known property, and also a sign that the studio has been studying what’s been effective in the past. But one needs powers beyond X-ray vision to see whether it works years from now.


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