The ‘Justice League’ director will court controversy with his superhero follow-up.
Zack Snyder could be called a unique director who has delivered some gorgeous images to the big screen. His quest to marry a distinctive visual style to mass market appeal has been documented time and time again as he tackles our favorite comic books and superheroes. However, Snyder has only ever made polarizing movies because of his unwavering directorial choices. He never adequately balances out his storytelling responsibilities and a commitment to aesthetics. But all in the name of his singular vision, right?
As Snyder preps his post-Justice League comeback, he seems to be courting his most controversial film to date in a story that prioritizes so-called “artistic integrity.” As revealed on Vero (and relayed on Twitter by a fan — see below), Snyder is pursuing The Fountainhead as his next cinematic venture.
The Fountainhead is officially Zack's next project instead of The Last Photograph. pic.twitter.com/pKS84l3uO8
— ςняιѕ яανєи (@ChrisRa7en) May 28, 2018
Honestly, another adaptation of Ayn Rand’s infamous, infuriating novel doesn’t immediately inspire a ton of confidence (a 1949 film version was made by King Vidor). “The Fountainhead” is either fascinating or just plain repulsive, depending on who you ask. The novel centers on an uncompromising architect named Howard Roark, who serves as Rand’s “ideal man” that embodies a philosophical system called Objectivism. In a nutshell, Objectivism prioritizes the pursuit of one’s own happiness and disregards collectivism in favor of upholding self-interest. According to Rand, a truly free individual doesn’t feel accountable for how his actions affect others. In the case of Roark, his idea of visionary art is inherently linked to his brutality and selfishness.
Between its discussion of shifting architectural trends of the 20th century and its portrayal of the supposed “true artist,” it’s easy to see how the book could speak to a filmmaker like Snyder. When initially announcing his intent to direct The Fountainhead back in 2016, the director even said:
“I’ve always felt like ‘The Fountainhead’ was such a thesis on the creative process and what it is to create something.”
In always trying to push the envelope with blockbuster filmmaking, Snyder has been called an “auteur.” But that may be a premature designation, because his risks haven’t always paid off. Snyder’s work can be visually stunning, but they remain self-indulgent to the point of emotional emptiness. Audiences have had to sit through montage after montage of slow-motion action sequences and gratuitous collateral damage in any given Snyder film. The visual bloat only makes it more apparent that they can be tiresomely shallow.
I’ll cop to going against the grain of critical vitriol that is aimed at Snyder’s work at times (namely Sucker Punch and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). I find some of his movies endlessly re-watchable as well (his Dawn of the Dead remake and Watchmen are okay!). But even at their best, Snyder’s films are never enjoyable viewing experiences through and through. If the action isn’t dragging on so long it isn’t fun anymore, his films don’t actually challenge audiences in a way that adds to the blatant sensory overload of their visuals. Snyder’s adaptations or remakes never ask refreshing questions that their source material haven’t already posed. Meanwhile, his original scripts are paper thin from the get-go, hollow and pointless in their grimness but shiny and pretty at the very least.
On the one hand, Snyder’s insistent innovative approaches to mainstream content push his work further away from the appeal and success of typically praised blockbusters. On the other, the criticism that his work is merely style over substance isn’t unfounded either. Snyder seemingly embodies both the lavish emptiness critiqued by The Fountainhead while simultaneously being a parallel to Roark due to a commitment to artistry. This makes his potential version of The Fountainhead feel more than a little parodic in its self-referential nature.
Ultimately, we can’t ignore the book’s hardline, self-invested political sentiments either. Nor can we only apply them strictly to art when the principles of Objectivism have been embraced in real life (usually by conservatives and libertarians). Even more pertinently, in the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up — when artists are rightfully being called out for unacceptable behavior regardless of their value to the entertainment industry — the question of whether we should even be getting an adaptation of The Fountainhead is a real elephant in the room.
In the last couple of years, Snyder has had politically-driven projects lined up outside of his comic book adaptations. Alongside The Fountainhead, he is also reportedly set to helm The Last Photograph, a film centering on a war photographer based in Afghanistan, sometime down the line. Although it was initially announced that The Last Photograph was going to be Snyder’s official directorial follow-up to Justice League – and there was even a rumor going around that the film was due to start filming in June – he seems to have shifted his priorities. In the wake of Michael Cimino, Phil Joanou and Oliver Stone, we’ll soon see if Snyder ever gets his adaptation of this divisive novel made.