Superman Director Richard Donner on State of Superhero Films

“There are so many people that make superheroes so cynical, it’s depressing.”

Christopher Reeve in Superman

Love ’em or hate ’em (you’ll be in our mentions either way), Zack Snyder‘s superhero movies are a very specific taste. Gone are the brightly-colored, optimistic fantasies of an MCU or Wonder Woman 1984. Instead, to quote a LEGO version of one of Snyder’s subjects, “Darkness!” Snyder’s films like Man of SteelBatman v Superman, and what I can only imagine will be his version of Justice League are desaturated, bombastic, and grim, grim, grim dissections of superheroes. It’s quite the choice…


…so what does one of our premiere directors of superhero cinema think of this choice? In an interview with the Telegraph (via IndieWire), Richard Donner, director of 1978’s Superman, a definitive, influential text in superhero filmmaking that happens to be brightly colored, cheerful, and optimistic, admitted he did not know who Snyder was (though he has watched Patty Jenkins‘ first Wonder Woman and enjoyed it).

However, like Snyder, Donner dealt with an original vision replaced by a new, studio-mandated director on his big superhero follow-up. 1980’s Superman II had lots of initial footage shot already by Donner, who planned on directing it. But when behind-the-scenes fissures with the film’s producers became too fraught to bear, Donner was fired and replaced by famed comedy director Richard Lester, who reshot a new version. Donner eventually had his day in court with the home video release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, released in 2006 as an attempt to restore his original vision of the sequel. With this context in mind, Donner shared his happiness that WB was allowing Syder to have his original vision restored, calling it “wonderful.”


Image via HBO Max

Directors supporting other directors; you love to see it! But something tells me, based on Donner’s more general comments on contemporary superhero cinema culture, that he would not like what he saw were he ever to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, or any of his previous DC films. Here’s what Donner said about the superhero movies of today:

“When you see it done right, by my standards, it’s so fulfilling. I’m very happy and proud when I see them. When it’s done wrong, it’s such a disappointment… There are so many people that make superheroes so cynical, it’s depressing. When they’re dark and bleak and angry with themselves and the world, I don’t find it entertaining. I think there’s enough reality going on for that. We just got over four years of that. I think we crave the opposite.”

Cynical, depressing, dark, bleak, angry… these are all descriptors I would use to describe Snyder’s superhero films, by design and intention. If you’re into that taste, go with God. But if Donner ever decides to taste Snyder’s work himself, he may crave some studio interference after all.


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About The Author

Gregory Lawrence
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Gregory Lawrence (aka Greg Smith) is a writer, director, performer, songwriter, and comedian. He’s an associate editor for Collider and has written for Shudder, CBS, Paste Magazine, Guff, Smosh, Obsev Studios, and more. He loves pizza and the Mortal Kombat movie. For more,

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