Forgotten Zack Snyder's $187M Sci-Fi Nolan Called a Film 'Ahead of Its Time'

Forgotten Zack Snyder's $187M Sci-Fi Nolan Called a Film 'Ahead of Its Time'
Image credit: Warner Bros., Legion-Media

Love him or hate him, Zack Snyder has changed the landscape of superhero movies.


  • Director Zack Snyder is famous for his work in the Justice League franchise.
  • His work has been controversial and sometimes a disappointment to fans.
  • However, back in 2009 he released a stunning movie adaptation that is still highly thought of.

When you think of a Zack Snyder superhero movie, you probably think of his work in the DCU, where he tried valiantly to bring a dark, tinted edge to Superman and the Justice League. Unless you are a die-hard Snyder apologist, you probably have to admit that the results have been…er… mixed.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the worst offender, prompting memes almost the minute it was released to its half-enraged, half-amused audience ('MARTHAAA!'). On the other hand, the Snyder cut of Justice League got a relatively warm response.

It's easy to be a snob about Snyder's DCU, but there's also no denying that the director brings a distinctive visual flair to all of his films. And the members of the Justice League aren't the only superheroes that Synder has brought to the big screen. Back in 2009, he directed a dark graphic novel adaptation – and Christopher Nolan ( Batman Begins) called the result 'ahead of its time'.

Alan Moore's Masterpiece

Time's list of 100 Best Novels includes one in comic book form: Watchmen, written by comics legend Alan Moore in 1986. In the alternate world of Watchmen, costumed vigilantes were celebrated in the 40s and 50s and altered the tide of many world events, including the Vietnam War and the Nixon scandal. In the 80s, masked vigilantism is outlawed and most superheroes are retired or working for the government.

When someone appears to be murdering former superheroes, the remainder of the Watchmen team try to figure out what's going on and who's behind it. Moore's deconstruction of the superhero genre is dark, gritty, and disturbing. He asks what would happen in a world where ordinary people were gifted with the abilities and start power of Batman. The answer is: nothing good.

Forgotten Zack Snyder's $187M Sci-Fi Nolan Called a Film 'Ahead of Its Time' - image 1

Failure to Launch

Since 1986, there have been many attempts to get a film adaptation of Watchmen off the ground. Director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) tried to make it work for a while; so did Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Mother!). But the ambitious project never took off.

That is, until 2006. That was when the ball started rolling again, this time with a hot new director attached. Snyder was chosen to helm Watchmen because of the eye-catching, totally unique style that he showcased in the blockbuster 300.

That film, about 300 Spartans holding off an invading army, featured everything that would become Snyder's trademark: super slow-motion action shots, bold splashes of color in grimy color palettes, and abs. Lots and lots of abs.

Snyder brought all that and more to Watchmen with a surprisingly faithful adaptation that cemented his place in Hollywood.

Before Its Time?

Watchmen was both praised and criticized for its adherence to the graphic novel. Some were amazed to find that here was a movie that didn't attempt to sanitize, commercialize, or simplify one of the greatest books ever written. Others found that the devotion to the comic book meant that the movie felt like an imitation, rather than its own thing. Watchmen holds a mediocre 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film barely made back its budget at the box office, and was overall a disappointment for its studio. But according to another famous superhero director, the real problem was that Watchmen simply came too early.

Christopher Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter:

'I've always believed Watchmen was ahead of its time. The idea of a superhero team, which it so brilliantly subverts, wasn't yet a thing in movies. It would have been fascinating to see it released post-Avengers.'

Given the chaos over at DC and the failure of the DCU franchise to really take off, it might be some time before we see another Snyder superhero movie. But it's nice to remember that at least once in his career, the man got it right.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter.