Zack Snyder has dedicated the bulk of his directorial career to adapting the comic books he loves to film -- but he remains a very polarizing figure among comic book fans. "300," "Watchmen" and "Man of Steel" all received mixed responses to varying degrees, but it was this spring's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" that provoked the strongest reaction yet -- with many observers stating that the film was simply too bleak for the first live-action encounter between the two DC Comics icons.
Though "Batman v Superman" had an impressive box office take ($872.7 million worldwide), that number is still considered disappointing given expectations and the track record of the Warner Bros. franchise's main competitor, Disney's Marvel Studios films. Snyder isn't going anywhere -- he's directing 2017's "Justice League" film -- but he is looking to make sure that people know "Justice League" will be a different experience than "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman."
"When 'Batman v Superman' first came out, I was like, 'Wow, OK, woo,'" Snyder told a group of reporters last week during a press visit to the London set of "Justice League." "It did catch me off-guard. I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment... I think the nice thing about working on 'Justice League' is that it is an opportunity to really blow the doors off of the scale and the bad guys and team-building and all the stuff that I think I could justify as a big, modern comic book movie."
Exactly how Snyder's "Justice League" vision translates to a final product will remain a source of speculation until November 2017. Yet based on a scene shown to press shortly before Snyder started his Q&A session -- featuring Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) verbally sparring with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) to highly amusing results, there's more wit and more fun coming to DC Films -- even if the Batmobile still has an arsenal of machine guns mounted on it.
The following is the transcript from Snyder's conversation with multiple reporters, discussing what to expect from "Justice League" and how the film is an evolution from "Batman v Superman."
[The conversation started with Snyder discussing the motivation of showing the Barry Allen/Bruce Wayne scene to press, and whether or not it was to illustrate that the film is lighter in tone.]
Zack Snyder: Well, also because it's one of the first scenes we have done, so I thought it would be cool to show. But I do think it shows a little bit about what Ezra brings to the movie. You know, Batman's Batman. I think Bruce Wayne has this kind of Batman humor -- you could say he's the straight guy, you know? It's what he's good at. When I saw the scene -- we just cut it together the other day -- I was like, "Oh God, this is fun." This is an interesting way of understanding how the movies have gone in a progression. By no means is this the whole movie. There are parts of the movie, of course, where they're facing enemies and they have to get their stuff together. Look at the Batmobile, for god's sake. You know, they're going to be drawn into conflict. But I think the "Magnificent Seven" aspect of the movie, the team-building part of the movie -- you guys know I'm a fan of "Magnificent Seven" and team-making movies. It's fun for me to finally get to this point now in the progression of these three movies where we are building a team and making the Justice League.
You want to make a different movie from "Batman v Superman?"
Well, yes. I would say that to me it's like, again, this evolution. "Batman v Superman" -- I've told you guys, we talked about how we got Batman in the movie, the whole story of, "Who's he gonna fight?" You know, we fought Zod; that's pretty much an alien. Who does he fight next? What do you do? I was with Chris Nolan, and the first idea we had was, "Oh, you know, we'll just show Kryptonite being delivered to Bruce Wayne's house at the end of the movie." I thought, "Oh, that's kinda cool. Huh..." Once we said in the room, "Let's get Batman. What if he fought Batman?" then it's hard to go back. You can't take that away. You can't go, "Oh, you know who else is cool to fight? This guy." Once you say "Batman" out loud, it's gonna be Batman.
I haven't seen anything so far with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Any chance that he's back at all for this? Is he a presence?
Well, I think that that's a little bit of a spoiler, but I think that Jesse's amazing and hilarious and fun. I mean, he's in prison, so who knows? Prisons in the comic book world are pretty porous places, you know? [Laughs]
When you started "BvS," obviously "Justice League" was coming, and you had this whole slate of other movies that were coming. So there's a vision that you have to have for the whole thing, but at the same time, you want to pay attention to what their reactions are. So how does the audience reaction and critical reaction of "BvS" inform you as you come to "Justice League?"
I mean, listen, if it's about putting more fun in the movie or embracing some of the more, what I would call -- I think it's in all the characters inherently, sort of this larger-than-life, big, fun stuff, especially when you're dealing with the Justice League. With [Jason] Momoa, when you see the way that he's interacting with the group, even just in his Jason-ness, the contrast to Ben and to Gal is really interesting and fun.
And just to finish my idea, what I was going to say about the "Batman versus Superman" concept, is that inherently, also, you've got to remember the whole thread of that was to draw those two into conflict. I felt like they were both evolving, in mind anyway. I wanted to get to a Superman that had a reason to be Superman, like a reason to feel the way he felt about humanity, that we all understand from the comic books -- as far as a moral compass goes, he's pretty much the thing. But I feel like he had to go through something to be that. And I'm not saying he shows up in this movie...
But wait, you very consciously ended "BvS" with the dirt moving.
Yes, very consciously!
And he's been absent today. So what can you tell us?
I mean, there's a process, clearly, that would have to go on in the --
How's his hair when he gets back?
[Laughs] Should be perfect. A little longer, I guess! That's what the myths are anyway.
Is he not supposed to be a part of this stage of it?
I guess that's part of the story. If he does appear, I think that that would be a big part of the story, right?
With the extended cut of "Batman v Superman" on the way, will we get more of an idea of how that will translate into "Justice League" and maybe even an idea of how Superman might come back in "Justice League?"
It's been a while since I've seen it -- I don't know if there's anything that's directly related to that concept, but I think there's other stuff. There's other -- well, you'll see.
My point is only that, as far as the idea of drawing Superman and Batman in conflict meant that you really had to dig down into the darker parts of them to make them fight each other. And I really do believe that with this movie, with "Justice League," they've both been freed of the shackles of that, the responsibility to be in a place where they would fight each other. I think that is liberating for us in some ways in making the movie, because really now we have a single enemy with a single objective, and it's really about uniting the team. That, to me, is a fun activity.
Have you had all the Justice League members on the set at the same time, so far?
We've had almost all of them together.
What was it like?
It was super cool! It was really fun. We did have a big sequence where they had to "make the plan." I won't say what it was. It was pretty fun.
Is the second "Justice League" movie still tethered to this? Is that something that you still plan to direct? It was sort of announced early on in a shareholders meeting, but it sounds like they're closing that off for now?
I think we still have a release date.
This isn't "Part 1" though? You're not looking at it as a part one?
Oh, it is a complete movie. I mean, of course there's --
It's not going to end on a big cliffhanger?
Hopefully there's some reason to go -- the movie doesn't end and you go, "OK, well that's the DC Universe!"
There's always extraordinary pressure making any movie, but particularly on this one, there have been reports that you're under more corporate pressure than normal. Has this been a more difficult film for you than you would have hoped?
I don't think so. I would just say that, for me, "Batman v Superman," I think there is a slight misconception about the shooting, anyway, about how much pressure there was on us and the pressure on the movie to perform in a certain way. From my point of view, and maybe just because I don't know how to do it any other way, we make really personal movies. For me, anyway, I love the characters. I love comic books -- maybe to a fault sometimes. Like, I dork out on these hardcore aspects of the comic books, because I'm a grown-up and I love that part of it. I had a great time making the movie, and I don't think that Warner Bros., when we were shooting the movie, that there was some sort of corporate mandate to get Batman and Superman in the movie. Chris and I kind of had that idea, and then it just so happened that that was a way toward "Justice League" -- and it came along at a great time for us, as the studio was moving forward with the other DC titles and getting the DCU to exist. But I don't think the birth of "Batman v Superman" was like some corporate conspiracy to sell tickets, or do whatever. I think it just became this great vehicle that had a lot of focus put on it because of where it ended up in the timeline, you know?
But I think the studio's been amazing with me, and they are a filmmaker-driven studio. They don't really do a ton of things by committee. It's just been a great experience with them as a studio. But for me, it's been amazingly rewarding to work with these characters, because I just love stuff. I love the material, and for me it is personal, a really personal movie. You know, when "Batman v Superman" first came out, I was like, "Wow, OK, woof." It did catch me off-guard. I kind of felt like -- and I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment, and maybe it is my hardcore take on characters as far as I love 'em, and I love the material. I do, I take it really deep. So I think the nice thing about working on "Justice League" is that it is an opportunity to really blow the doors off of the scale and the bad guys and team-building and all the stuff that I think I could justify as a big, modern comic book movie, if that makes any sense.
Will it be "hardcore?"
I mean, when I say "hardcore," I mean sort of canon hardcore, you know? And I would say, yes, we have treated these characters, especially now as we have evolved them into the team, I think we've pushed them a lot more toward what I would consider more the sort of iconic... because that, frankly, was what the evolution was. Not to give anything away or say anything that would be too telling of where we're headed with the movie, but death is darker than, say, resurrection or team-building. It's just a darker concept, like when you're dealing with "Dark Knight [Returns]" or "Death of Superman," those kinds of ideas. As opposed to, "Oh, let's build a team and fight the bad guy!" It's a different energy.
So you're consciously changing the tone this time?
Yeah, I mean, I think I'm obsessed with tone in the movies. Tone has always been the main thing that I go after with a movie, and I really wanted the tone of the three movies to be different chapters and not be the same note that you strike like, "OK, there's this again." I really wanted that, and I do believe that since "Batman v Superman" came out and we've wrapped our heads around what "Justice League" would be, I do think that the tone has, because of what fans have said and how the movie was received by some, is that we have kind of put the screws to what we thought the tone would be and I feel crushed it that little bit further.
So, closer to your "Dawn of the Dead?"
No, no! I think "Dawn of the Dead" -- well, I mean, look, I love "Dawn," but I think the tone of "Dawn" is very hardcore satire, you know? Not that I don't take the Romero movies super seriously and zombies super seriously, because I do -- but I do take this stuff, I probably have more reverence toward this kind of material than I would, say, a zombie film, because I feel like the social commentary and what it means, it's a different conversation.
Batman starts off in this movie like he has a renewed faith in humanity. At the same time, he's facing a huge new threat. How, when you're telling that story, do you balance Batman trying to have faith -- he doesn't hit Luthor with the brand at the end -- but he's facing demons?
I feel like that's the whole thing of him building the team. I feel like the threat and the idea of building the team as a guy who's been a loner his whole career -- that was kind of the other thing when we were making "Batman v Superman." I was really conscious of this idea of -- and I talked to Ben about it -- how can we not be stuck with this single-note Batman. What do we do? And we talked long and hard about, "OK, in 'Batman v Superman' he's here. He's at the end of his career, and he's down here, and he's seen this thing that now he wonders what his relevance is, and maybe he can do this one thing." And then the example of Superman makes him go, "No, you know what? I'm not done. I've got more to do. I've got to persevere and make it right." And that's the Batman you get now at the beginning of "Justice League." He's on a mission, and he's really clearheaded about the mission and about the others that he'll need to complete it.
Can you talk about working with Geoff Johns?
Yeah, Geoff and I have had a great working relationship, even on "Batman v Superman," and on "Wonder Woman" we worked together really closely, and we have a project coming up that we want to do together... I can't talk about that. His knowledge of comics is just crazy. He's like an encyclopedia of comic books. I'll be like, "Hey, is there a weird Lantern from... ?" and he'll be like, "You know..." He's just amazing about keeping everything in canon that I've not even heard of; like, we'll look through some archive.
This film looks like it's going to be a bit more fun and funnier, but one of the things I love about Man of Steel is the crazy and weird opening on Krypton, and it looks like you're going back to some weird stuff with the boxes and demons.
You know, [Jack] Kirby's crazy in a great way, and there's a lot of influence, you know, the New Gods stuff, we were digging on that -- and that's the Mother Boxes and that sort of Apokoliptian world and all that. I don't know if I can call it "weird." [Laughs]
Larger than life?
Larger than life! Very nice, thank you. Yeah, but the kinda scope-y, sci-fi, cool, what I think is fun stuff. I think inherently when you start to talk about a bad guy that would justify the Justice League, you have to have a good threat that's fun and kinda crazy. And the Mother Boxes are always fun, DC-weird tech, you know?
That deleted scene from "BvS" that was released the Monday after, did you deliberately put it out there to sow the seeds for "Justice League?" Most of us are used to getting deleted scenes on a Blu-ray.
I kind thought like, "Oh, that would be a cool after-credits sequence." But then I was like, "I don't know, can I do that?" Because Marvel does that. "Is that a thing?" So we were like, "Oh! Well, maybe there's another way to do it."
"Justice League" is scheduled for release on Nov. 17, 2017.