Photo by Gage Skidmore

9 Zack Snyder Movies That Weren’t Meant To Be

Few modern filmmakers split opinion quite like Zack Snyder. Top directors like James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have praised the polarising filmmaker for his contributions to the medium. At the same time, critics of Snyder’s work believe that he’s all style and no substance. Everyone has their own views on the slow-motion extraordinaire, but the fact his work inspires such passionate conversations in the pop culture world suggests that he’s doing something right.

Snyder has directed a few movies in his time, most of which have done some good business at the box office. Of course, like every other successful filmmaker who’s ever lived, some of his dream projects have fallen apart for one reason or another. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Snyder’s unrealised films.

The Fountainhead

Let’s start with Snyder’s most controversial unrealised project. The Fountainhead has been in the works for years, but it probably won’t happen due to the current sociopolitical climate in the United States. Based on Ayn Rand’s 1943 tome of the same name, the story follows an architect who refuses to compromise his vision and buck to the establishment. You can understand why a filmmaker would relate to that. As he told THR, Snyder is drawn to The Fountainhead because it’s a story about an artist at the end of the day.

“I’ve always felt like The Fountainhead was such a thesis on the creative process and what it is to create something.”

Then again, The Fountainhead’s politics are very polarising. The book, which was previously adapted in 1949, has been praised in right-wing circles for its themes of hardcore individualism. Divisive figures, from Donald Trump to Paul Ryan, are fans of Rand’s philosophy, too, which is why it’s no longer happening. Earlier this year, Snyder told the New York Times that the project has been put on hold until America is “less divided.” But will that ever happen?

Heavy Metal 3

Based on the science fiction magazine of the same name, the Heavy Metal movies are animated anthology films that adapted some of the source material’s most noteworthy tales. The magazine is known for pushing the boundaries of good taste, making it a cheekier counterbalance to more mainstream comics. Two films (Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal 2000) have been released since 1981, while the third has been stuck in developmental hell for years.

Several directors had expressed their interest in directing a segment for Heavy Metal 3, including Guillermo del Toro, Gore Verbinski, James Cameron, and Snyder. It also remains to be seen if the project will go ahead as a sequel, reboot, or TV series. Robert Rodriguez acquired the property’s rights and planned on making a show in 2014, though it’s yet to come to fruition. Filmmakers have simply struggled to raise the money to bring Heavy Metal to the screen again, and that’s a shame.

Napoleon Biopic

Stanley Kubrick never got the opportunity to make his dream biopic about Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military leader who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century. Steven Spielberg also tried to turn Kubrick’s script into a television series, but that didn’t materialise in the end, either. If those filmmakers couldn’t make it happen, it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to.

Snyder also considered making a biopic about the French revolutionist, but his film would have been different from the aforementioned version. You see, Snyder wanted to make a Napoleon movie in the style of Scarface, which actually sounds quite fascinating. According to Snyder, his friend wrote a script that’s “fucking awesome.” Maybe they’ll dust off this project again down the line, but nothing substantial ever really came of it in the end.

The Illustrated Man

Snyder signed on to direct this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s book of short stories in 2007, but the project took a backseat after he shifted his focus to Sucker Punch and Army of the Dead. The book — and its 1969 film adaptation — follows the eponymous Illustrated Man as he narrates stories about frightening futures, with tales revolving around virtual entertainment and space exploration. The titular character is also covered in tattoos, with each piece of ink reflecting one of these doomed futures. The world needs more Bradbury movies, so let’s hope The Illustrated Man gets resurrected at some point.

Legend of the Guardians Sequel

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole marked Snyder’s first foray into animated family film territory, and he’s supposedly been keen to make another one. Maybe that’s because he had such a HOOT stepping out of his usual wheelhouse. That being said, the first film wasn’t a massive financial success (it only earned $140 million from a budget of $80 million), so it’s understandable why it hasn’t been a priority for the director or Animal Logic. Given that it’s been over 10 years since the Legend of the Guardians was released, it’s possible that the window for a second instalment has passed.

George Washington Biopic

If Snyder’s history of unrealised projects tells us anything, it’s that he’s keen to make a historical biopic about a famous political figure. But he’s also Zack Snyder, which means that he doesn’t want to make a standard film of this ilk. For example, the director’s planned epic about George Washington’s life would have been inspired by Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting of the first-ever president of the United States. Furthermore, it would also have been stylistically similar to one of Snyder’s previous comic book movies.

Here’s what he told Bloomberg Business about the unmade movie:

“[Leutze] has a picture in his office of the Revolutionary War hero crossing the icy Delaware on his way to decimate the British in the Battle of Trenton. “We were talking about it,” Snyder says. “The first thing we asked was, well, how are we going to make it look? I pointed at this painting. It looks like 300. It’s not that hard.”

I must admit: this sounds interesting. Historical biopics don’t tend to adopt comic book visual styles, so colour me intrigued here. Old George is probably giving this idea the thumbs up from his grave as we speak.

The Last Photograph

Remember when Ben Affleck was set to direct a standalone Batman film for Warner Bros? That meant Snyder had some downtime from the DCEU to focus on other projects, so he briefly turned his attention to The Last Photograph, which he’d been developing with Kurt Johnstad since the early 2010s.

The Last Photograph would have swapped spandex crusaders for the battlefields of Afghanistan, chronicling the story of a war correspondent and special ops soldier who team up to tell the story of the latter’s life. Christian Bale and Sean Penn were attached to star in the film at one point, too. That’s a stellar duo right there.

In a 2019 interview with Comic Book Debate, Snyder confirmed that he has plans to revisit The Last Photograph eventually. Now that Justice League and Army of the Dead are out of the way, he might have some time to focus on this one in the near future.

Wolverine

Long before James Mangold’s Logan gave Wolverine a violent cinematic elegy, Snyder was interested in letting the character unleash the claws in an R-rated offering. As ScreenRant pointed out, he was approached to helm X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though his Watchmen commitments meant that he couldn’t entertain the offer.

However, he did reveal that he wanted to make a film about the character, though he generally seemed more interested in making any violent superhero yarn. “It would be cool, an R-rated superhero movie, that’s just cool, I don’t care what it is. Wolverine would be cool if it was rated R.”

Unfortunately, the cinematic climate wasn’t accustomed to success R-rated superhero movies at the time. With the exception of the Blade franchise, they weren’t successful, and studios just weren’t willing to take the risk. Still, I bet some comic book fans would be keen to see Wolverine claw his opponents to death in slo-mo.

Justice League Sequel

While Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been quite well received, it’s unlikely that he’ll get to make the sequel that’s set up at the end of the film. Warner Bros. seems adamant to take the DCEU franchise in another direction, with Snyder confirming that “they are 100 per cent moving away” as the “theatrical cut of Justice League [is] canon.”

However, the director had plans to make more movies in this universe long before the Snyder Cut was willed into existence by the internet. The follow-up to Justice League would have involved Superman assisting Darkseid — who since seized control of the Earth and turned it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland — after Batman fails to protect Lois Lane, resulting in her death. Naturally, the now-evil Superman would be out for the Dark Knight’s blood.

Check out what Snyder had to say about the planned sequel to Justice League:

“It’s the fall of Earth when Superman succumbs to Anti-Life. And then sending Flash back in time to change one element so that doesn’t happen. And then the big battle where we beat him. When Darkseid comes to Earth, in the movie that you’ll never see, the armies of Earth all unite again, as they did before.

“This time there would be aircraft carriers and Special Forces guys, all the armies of the world would come together, as well as Atlanteans, rising out of the ocean and the Themyscirans coming off their island. That was our big finale. But it’s a long drum roll and guitar solo to get there.”

As noted by Vanity Fair, Snyder also planned to introduce Superman’s son as the new Batman, 20 years after Bruce Wayne died. He also wanted Batman and Lois to have an affair because why not? These ideas are so bonkers that they might just have worked, but I guess we’ll never know. 

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