It’s official: Zack Snyder will direct the Warner Bros. revival of Superman, the first and most famous costumed superhero of them all.
The director of “300” and “Watchmen” will work side-by-side with producers Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, the tandem that pulled the Batman character back toward cinematic credibility with the films “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” the latter grossing more than $1 billion at theaters worldwide. David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins”) is writing the script and shares the story credit with Nolan.
The 44-year-old Snyder sounded thrilled Monday over the phone. “I feel awesome,” he said before correcting himself. “I feel super awesome.”
Snyder has shown a flair for kinetic hyper-reality and he says that in recent days he finds that he “lays awake at night” thinking about the ways to present a Man of Steel who flies across the skylines of a city called Metropolis. He declined to talk about the story or the casting — “He has to be a man … that’s as far as I’ve gotten” — but he said the film production will target a holiday 2012 release.
The producing team also includes Charles Roven (“The Dark Knight”) and Deborah Snyder , the director’s wife and filmmaking partner. Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures will executive produce. Snyder is best known for R-rated fare — with the exception of the just-released “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” — but he said his passion for comics and a character that dates back to 1938 likely earned him the coveted job of relaunching the signature franchise.
“I can’t say why they came to me other than the fact that they know I have a fondness for the character and a real desire to understand him and present him to a new audience,” Snyder said. “The challenge is huge but you know with Chris and Emma and Debbie I have a lot of people I can rely on. And Chris and David have given this the shape with a great story. It is a hard character to crack.”
Snyder met Nolan at ShoWest in Las Vegas in March and their conversations about the possibilities of the Superman revival gathered momentum through the months. The modern superhero cinema puts an emphasis on dark antiheroes and haunted souls, such as Batman and Wolverine, or lovable hard-luck cases, such as Spider-Man and Hellboy while Superman has been dismissively described as a “big blue Boy Scout” for his wholesome aura and that classic mission statement of fighting for “truth, justice and the American way.” The perception that the character may have a bigger past than future may have been reinforced by the solid but unspectacular success of Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” in 2006.
Snyder said the modern movie mode does present a challenge in a pop-culture era of Red Dead Redemption and “Inception” but he refuses to think that a character that rivals Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus in recognizability can ever be considered a relic. “I think he is viable, yes,” Snyder said. “He endures. We all want to know, ‘How will he come to us now?’ He is the biggest and the baddest of them all. The greatest of them all, right? We all want to know how the next chapter takes shape. I want to know how it will take shape.”
— Geoff Boucher
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