Zack Snyder’s role as chief architect of the DC Extended Universe is a polarizing one, to put it mildly. Fans are divided over the visual signature he’s applied to the films alongside his violent and war-torn vision of DC Comics’ still-developing filmverse. While the Snyder factor continues to spark debates over the DCEU’s grim and gritty look, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman appears to have shaken things a bit, injecting heart, soul and redemptive life into the universe.
However, a major part of this film’s success has to be attributed to Snyder; apart from helping write the overall story Jenkins used as her film’s spine, he’s reportedly the person responsible for seeing the superhero in Gal Gadot, ultimately casting her as Diana of Themyscira for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even Jenkins admitted that she wouldn’t;t have cast Gadot had it been up to her, though she now admits her star’s Wonder Woman is the definitive live-action version.
No matter what you think of his filmmaking style, Snyder’s casting of the DCEU’s principal characters is an area where he’s consistently hit the nail on the head. His eye for talent was apparent even before he took over the reins of the DCEU, as seen by casting Gerard Butler and the 300 cast. Despite tour reaction to Watchmen as a film, Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Comedian) were pitch-perfect castings. Even if you have issues with the storytelling approach to his movies, Snyder usually finds the right actors and actresses who brings these superheroes to life.
With Man of Steel, before the DCEU was even a glimmer in Warner Bros. eye, Snyder got the ball rolling with a relatively obscure Henry Cavill, vaguely known for his roles in The Count of Monte Cristo, The Immortals and The Tudors. Cavill had big shoes to fill, given he was following up well-received depictions of Clark Kent and Superman by Christoper Reeve, Dean Cain and Tom Welling. While Snyder’s interpretation of the character was and remains controversial, Cavill’s presentation of a flawed and somewhat ignorant man who was only just learning of a potential superhero destiny still hinted at the Clark Kent/Superman millions of people were familiar with. By the time BvS hit theaters, Cavill resembled even more closely the Clark audiences wanted him to be — a dogged, spectacle-wearing reporter, secretly growing into the inspirational role of Superman.
Gadot’s Wonder Woman may prove be Snyder’s most perfect signing to date; the actor’s appearance in BvS was near-universally praised, and the character was fully fleshed out in Jenkins’ origin story. Despite the negative reaction that rang out loud across social media when her casting as announced, Gadot has since silenced many of her initial critics. Snyder’s decision to cast her at a time when all most audiences knew her for was her role in the Fast and Furious franchise has turned out to be a masterstroke. Overcoming concerns regarding her physical stature or her accent, by the time credits rolled on Wonder Woman, it was clear Gadot’s casting wasn’t a mistake. Audiences saw, en masse, just what it was Snyder saw in her from the start.
Snyder has also already left his stamp on the future of the DCEU. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman looks as if he’ll be the next character to star the spotlight when Justice League arrives in theaters. We’ve seen the actor’s dedication to role on social media, and Aquaman director James Wan, has echoed Snyder’s sentiments regarding how deeply Momoa has immersed himself in the role for the hero’s solo film.
Judging by the Justice League trailers, it looks as though Snyder has meshed Momoa’s inherent badass-ness into the character, resulting in a rougher, less regal feel than we’re accustomed to from comics and animations. He’s a rogue who will initially rough up Bruce Wayne before accepting a role on Batman’s team, and a wild attitude on display when he’s riding the Batmobile before leaping off to attack Darkseid’s parademons. He’s even got a smug-yet-likable jokester attitude on display when he quips about Batman’s costume. Aquaman was one of the trickiest characters Snyder had to cast, and Momoa appears to be perfect for the role.
If you look at the reserved yet charismatic nature of Cavill, the warm and aspirational smiles of Gadot, and the tenacity and rabid drive of Momoa, you realize that Snyder actually has them playing larger than life themselves on the screen. He doesn’t really ask them to become superheroes; he asks them to be themselves, albeit with superpowers and costumes. While the jury is still out on a few other Snyder picks, such as Ben Affleck’s Batman (even after his BvS turn, there’s a lot we don’t know about how Affleck will truly embody the character without the excess baggage of seeing Gotham City destroyed and thus attacking a fellow hero), Ezra Miller’s Flash and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, it will be interesting to see how the DCEU shapes them moving forward. Even with Snyder out of the picture for the foreseeable future as he and his wife Deborah Snyder deal with a personal tragedy, he clearly invested a lot in casting his heroes. As far as impact and legacy is concerned, despite any critiques over how he presents them on screen, he’s proven that when it comes to choosing the right actor to fill the boots of DC Comics’ iconic heroes, in Snyder we can trust.
In theaters now, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Diana, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as General Antiope, Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison and Lucy Davis as Etta Candy.
Set to debut in theaters Nov. 17, Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.
Arriving Dec. 21, 2018, Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Amber Heard as Mera, Patrick Wilson as Orm/Ocean Master, Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko, Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Dolph Lundgren as Nereus and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta.
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