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Zack Snyder’s baffling vision for superhero movies, explained by Zack Snyder

Director Zack Snyder attends the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice New York Premiere at Radio City Music Hall on March 20, 2016, in New York City.
Director Zack Snyder attends the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice New York Premiere at Radio City Music Hall on March 20, 2016, in New York City.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Warner Bros.'s upcoming Justice League franchise is looking a little shaky these days.

Last week, Seth Grahame-Smith, the director of The Flash movie, which is scheduled for 2018, left the project, citing creative differences. And there have been rumors that director James Wan is getting cold feet with his Aquaman movie (which Wan later dispelled).

The turmoil reportedly stems from director Zack Snyder, the man who bungled Batman v Superman, a film that Warner Bros. believes didn't live up to expectations at the box office. Snyder is also the creative lead for the Justice League franchise and part of the Warner Bros. braintrust for the DC Comics cinematic universe. Ergo, because Batman v Superman disappointed, executives are now worried that Snyder's vision — a grim Superman, a Batman who tortures and brands people for death, lots of scenes in which Batman does Crossfit, etc. — isn't the best way to go.

But Snyder's plans for his comic book superhero movies shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, including critics. Back in 2008, Snyder gave a revealing interview to Entertainment Weekly about how he sees comic books, superheroes, and his upcoming movie (at the time) The Watchmen. The piece has been making the rounds on Twitter for how much it traces the psychology of Snyder's movies, from older titles like The 300 and Suckerpunch all the way through Batman v Superman.

The Q&A touches on a lot of different topics, but one of the most striking parts of the discussion comes when Snyder talks about his dislike for comics without gore or sex. He said:

You could call it "high-brow" comics, but to me, that comic book was just pretty sexy! I had a buddy who tried getting me into "normal" comic books, but I was all like, "No one is having sex or killing each other. This isn’t really doing it for me." I was a little broken, that way. So when Watchmen came along, I was, "This is more my scene."

Snyder not liking comic books where people don't kill each other explains his Superman; traditionally, Superman's entire existence is about inspiring and being bright and hopeful, but Snyder's iteration of the character kills someone in Man of Steel.

Later in the interview, Snyder talks about Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, revealing that if he'd been at the helm, he would have gone a lot darker than Nolan did by incorporating prison rape:

Everyone says that about [Christopher Nolan’s] Batman Begins. "Batman’s dark." I’m like, okay, "No, Batman’s cool." He gets to go to a Tibetan monastery and be trained by ninjas. Okay? I want to do that. But he doesn’t, like, get raped in prison. That could happen in my movie. If you want to talk about dark, that’s how that would go.

It's a mystery why Snyder believes that prison rape, sex, and death are what people want to see in superhero films — that comic book fans who love Superman really wanted to see him start killing people, or that Batman fans would really relish seeing the greatest detective alive not be able to tell the difference between a boat and a crime lord.

There's a reason these superheroes and their comics have endured. And even when Frank Miller and Alan Moore introduced grit and darkness into their worlds, it wasn't darkness for darkness's sake — which is what Snyder seems to be obsessed with.

Of course, the most baffling part of all this is that unless a shakeup happens at Warner Bros., Snyder is very close to making all of his terrible ideas come true.

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