When Zack Snyder was announced as the director of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer's Superman, it nearly broke the Internet. Just as many were for Warner Bros' decision as against it, and the rumor machine (Snyder was only picked because he had a clear schedule; the script is a mess; Darren Aronofsky is crushed) began immediately.
The furor has died down, and now we all wait with bated breath. What will Snyder's Superman be? While the story remains under tight wraps (bylines abound from "Superman travels the world debating whether to be Superman" to "He fights General Zod"), we can make a few educated guesses based on what we know Warner Bros wants, what Snyder has done before, and what Nolan and Goyer favor for their DC heroes. For now, here's what to expect when you're expecting Snyder's Superman.
1. It will be controversial.
There is little that Snyder has done that hasn't sparked furious fanboy arguments before it even hit theaters. His audacity in remaking the classic The Dawn of the Dead (with a new story and fast zombies, no less) marked him a brigand. His decision to film 300 against green screen caused complaints with those who wanted a straight up Gladiator style epic, and who wanted Russell Crowe to play King Leonidas. (It also killed any adaptation of Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire for the foreseeable future which also angered many.) And Watchmen! Didn't he know Watchmen was unfilmable? How dare he pick [x] to play [y] when everyone knows it should have been [z]? Didn't he know Alan Moore hated him and anything he would do to his beloved graphic novel?
So, Snyder is a given. But let's remember the days before The Dark Knight hit theaters, and was dubbed The Greatest Freaking Movie Of All Time. Remember when he cast Heath Ledger? Fury! Remember when a set photo leaked of Ledger riding a skateboard, and no one believed it could possibly be just of Ledger riding a skateboard? Rage! And oh, how skeptical fanboys were when the first official image of Joker was released. I believe the refrain was "I dunno. Joker wears make-up. That's too much. I think I liked Nicholson better." Nolan has enjoyed his fair share of skepticism, and he could spend through the fickle fan goodwill if he makes some wrong steps on Superman. We live in a hypersensitive age, and even the combined currency of Inception and The Dark Knight can be spent.
Even Dark Knight devotees admit Goyer is a dark horse. Remember, he wrote The Unborn, Jumper, The Crow: City of Angels, and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield. Most of his stuff is rather Gothic and grim a'la Blade or Dark City, a far cry from the shining Man of Steel. He is in charge of writing the script, not Nolan or Snyder. It all hinges on him, and there's already grumbling.
2. There will be many photoshopped pictures of Jon Hamm as Superman.
Until they cast Superman, expect a lot of Hamm fan art. He's one of the most popular fan casts, and no one is going to stop clamoring for him until Supes is officially picked. Since Hamm has made his name by looking sharp in a suit and fedora, it won't be hard to Photoshop him into a phone booth or wearing Clark Kent glasses. They will serve as sad and ridiculous relics of when hope was young and alive.
3. It will be dark and defiantly real world.
When Warner Bros first announced they were "rebooting" Superman, their goal was to make it dark and gritty. The common belief is that Superman isn't relevant unless he's somehow Christian Bale-ed up, and given a ghettoized Metropolis. The selection of Nolan as producer, Goyer as screenwriter and Snyder as director suggest this will be a harder and edgier Superman no matter how you spin it. See #1 for how fans are going to react when the script and stills begin trickling out to a curious public.
4. There will be speed-ramping.
I'm a big fan of Snyder. I like that he has a compulsive stamp to his work that was evident even in Guardians of Ga'Hoole. I appreciate that it's so obsessive that the more fans complain, the more he uses it. (Watchmen seemed to be a particularly subversive use – as if he was commenting on his own comic adaptations and his flair for the camera tricks. Or maybe it was just a middle finger to his detractors.) There's no doubt that he's going to go crazy using it with a superhero who is legendary for being faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Come on, even the detractors have to admit that Superman doing any of these things in slow motion will look amazing!
5. Cast announcements will include familiar faces.
Nolan and Snyder have a penchant for reusing cast members. (And composers!) Nolan has cast Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy multiple times. (Caine seems to have a permanent job with him, and who can cry foul?) Snyder has repeatedly sought the talents of Gerard Butler, David Wenham, Carla Gugino, and Stephen McHattie. Expect a familiar face from one or more of their films. Rebecca Hall or Lena Headey as Lois Lane? Caine or McHattie as Jor-El, Pa Kent, or Perry White? Gerard Butler or Dominic West as General Zod? Eli Snyder as Jimmy Olson? Jon Hamm as Superman?
6.There will be a slavish devotion to the source material, and fans will complain.
Snyder generally can't win with his DC adaptations. The same people who decry him for being too free with the source ("How could he alter Frank Miller's 300?") will often complain he followed the panels too closely ("Why didn't he change Watchmen more?"). Whatever side you take, you can bet that Snyder will follow Superman to the letter, and mimic whatever iconic panels he can find time for.
7. There will be significant departures from the source material, and fans will be utterly torn between love and a desire to see this or that story.
There isn't really a definitive Superman story except for his origin. The challenge for writers has always been to keep coming up with new things to throw him for a loop. Alan Moore gave him everything he wanted, and bruised his soul. Mark Millar pondered what he would be like as a Communist. Paul Dini portrayed him as a hero unable to grasp political complexities. Richard Donner cherry-picked the comics, television, and radio serials and gave us the Big Blue Boyscout, whose weakest spot was Lois Lane. Expect Nolan and Goyer to follow Donner as well as their own Batman model, and mash everything essential together for one original story ... but to make one cosmetic change (Joker's scars, Blade into a half vampire daywalker who uses swords) that really alters Superman in an appreciable way.
8. Brandon Routh will be asked how it feels to lose the role of Superman until the end of time.
Poor guy. It was clear he was grown from a strand of Christopher Reeve's hair just to be Superman, and yet it's 99% certain that he's not going to reprise the role. Think about how it must feel to get to play the most iconic of superheroes, believe yourself to be set for life, and then lose it because of a film as disappointing as Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. It isn't even comparable to being in a bad movie that the world eventually forgets about. You're going to be seeing someone else's face on merchandise for years -- and every entertainment journalist is going to ask you about that when you're doing a junket for something else.
9. The casting rumors for Superman will make the Captain America search look like a cakewalk.
It depends how closely you follow the ins and outs of the comic nerd world, but the hunt for Captain America was a pretty furious one. Rumor has it that John Krasinski had the part until angry fans made too many jokes about his facial profile. Every blond actor was offered up to the process like a sacrificial lamb. Fans screamed for Aaron Eckhart or Matt Damon. This will be just as fraught with peril, perhaps more so since it is that dreaded and ugly thing known as a reboot. It's going to tear the Internet apart. It could break it for good. This may be one of the last times we speak to each other! Savor it.
10. A fantastic and spellbinding trailer.
Whatever you thought of 300 or Watchmen, I don't think you can argue that the trailers were lousy:
The same goes for the trailer for the upcoming Sucker Punch -- it's baffling, but it's jaw dropping. Snyder's start was in music videos and it shows, because he certainly knows how to cut and score a hook. Nolan's trailers are equally clever, and The Dark Knight and Inception were as tight and classy as his set design. Whatever you think of any decision Nolan, Goyer, and Snyder make between now and 2012, when that first trailer hits, you will believe a man can fly. I'm not saying he will continue to soar come opening night. But for that span between trailer and ticket purchase, it's going to be everything you hoped it would be.