Zack Snyder's very first film was this strange film about Michael Jordan

The big picture

  • Zack Snyder's first directorial work was the short film
    Michael Jordan's Playground
    and shows his unique style and love for slow motion.
  • The film examines Michael Jordan's competitive mentality and the early years of his NBA career, emphasizing his will to win and his commitment to improving.
  • Both Michael Jordan and Zack Snyder shaped eras of pop culture, with Jordan's dominance in basketball and Snyder's influence on the superhero film genre.

One of the most stylistically famous directors in the industry, Zack Snyder'S Films vividly illustrate his unique vision. Although many of them differ significantly from each other (Dawn of the Dead is perhaps the furthest comparison to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole)The majority of his filmography testifies to his unmistakable flair: dramatic special effects, a remarkable penchant for slow motion and grandiose explorations of the lives of heroic characters. His historically inspired action epic 300 brought the mythical figure of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) with unforgettable and bombastic action sequences, while his work on the DCEU brought the legendary Justice League to live-action films after shaping the superhero genre for decades. While these films and franchises are completely different, they are all exceptional examples of Snyder's directorial vision. Although he is best remembered for these major blockbusters, Snyder had already developed his iconic style from the moment he first sat in the director's chair. Even the most ardent fan may not know it, but Snyder's first outing as a director was a short documentary about another mythical figure who, like The Man of Steel all these years later he amazed people by proving that a man could fly: His Airness himself, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.

“Michael Jordan's Playground” was Zack Snyder's first film as director

Image by Jefferson Chacon

A direct-to-video short film that is equal parts sports documentary and motivational story. playground (also referred to as Michael Jordan's Playground) was an unconventional but entertaining start to Snyder's career as a director. Although it was essentially a Michael Jordan documentary, the film was set against the backdrop of the story of a high school basketball player named Walt (Tyrin Turner), who was kicked out of his college team. But despite his hard preparation in the year following this rejection, Walt doubts his own abilities and is not sure if he even has a chance of being accepted into the team at the next tryout. But in this pessimistic moment, something incredible happens: Michael Jordan inexplicably enters the court like a basketball geniusto give some strong motivational messages and advice to the young athlete and spectators everywhere.

“Playground” underlines Jordan’s competitive mentality and successful career

While playground Technically, the short is about Walt's high school tryouts, but the overall framework of the short is ultimately about Michael Jordan and his early NBA career. Although basketball fans today look back on Michael Jordan's career with awe and respect, and consider him the greatest of all time, this short is not The last Dance. It doesn't look back at MJ's illustrious career in retrospect, but rather looks at Jordan as someone who was still something of an outsider and hadn't yet fully proven himself. playground was released in 1990, a full year before MJ won his first championship ring, and although his career had been very successful up until then, Jordan's inability to reach the pinnacle of NBA success weighed heavily on his shoulders. MJ has an impressive career trajectory to his name, including an MVP, multiple scoring titles, and Defensive Player of the Year honors, but without that championship ring, it was impossible to truly rank him among the greatest players in NBA history, no matter how great he was as an individual athlete.

But even though Jordan lacked the championship hardware that would be the focus of his post-career docuseries, The last Dance, playground is probably even more impressive because It expresses faith in the Bulls player and his inescapable desire to win at the highest level.As polygon describes it aptly, playground was a “pointed shot,” a confident declaration of success before the basket went through the net. Or in this case, before Jordan brought the Larry O'Brien trophy back to Chicago and before he established himself as arguably the greatest of all time. Jordan tells Walt about his own mindset when it comes to competition, and talks about how he worked tirelessly to improve his game and become a better player because all he wanted to do was win. It's this relentless competitiveness and dedication that Jordan tries to instill in the young player, and it's these traits that were borne out by the tremendous success he would soon achieve in his own playing career.

“Michael Jordan's Playground” is full of 90s nostalgia

Michael Jordan stands in front of a basket at “Michael Jordan's Playground” holding a basketball during an atmospheric sunset.
Image via NBA Entertainment

playground may not have the longest running time, but The film is bursting with classic 90s nostalgia and the burgeoning beginnings of Snyder's preferred directing habitswhich makes it exciting for basketball and movie fans alike. While the motivational story is basically formulaic, the basketball highlights and commentary from other NBA players make it a completely unique viewing experience. Jordan's advice to Walt is combined with dynamic clips of his greatest highlights, broken down into different aspects of his playing career, such as his relentless ability to win close games and his burning desire to prove his defensive strength when critics doubted his abilities.

It's hard to summarize it all Michael Jordan's Playground because there is nothing comparable. Between Jordan's own narrative, interview scenes are interspersed with other well-known NBA players who competed with him, such as Magic Johnson, Isiah ThomasAnd Clyde Drexler. While they all heap much well-deserved praise on MJ, it is interesting to look back at a time when Jordan was not yet crowned the GOAT. The players talk about Jordan's struggles against Dominique Wilkinsa more comparable rival at the time, although a six-ring difference has since changed history. And in 1990, Jordan's underdog path to the top was aided by the Detroit Pistons, a team so notorious for its defense that it was nicknamed the “Bad Boys” (and later a 30 for 30 your own documentary film). If playground Since the film didn't feel '90s enough, it was interrupted for a few final moments of lighthearted entertainment with a fully choreographed dance routine by the Full Force All-Stars and Jordan himself.


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And while Snyder had not yet fully defined his distinctive creative style, playground showed some of the characteristics that would define Snyder's taste. While Jordan's play on the court was certainly not under Snyder's direction, his highlight video speaks for itself, as MJ was one of the most dynamic and exciting players to ever touch a basketball. With his acrobatic layups, fiendish defense, and jaw-dropping dunks, Michael Jordan truly looked like a man who could fly, with the inexplicable ability to stay in the air longer than any of his competitors. ​​​​​​But this is where Snyder's eye for action shines through, as his direction of the court sequences and organization of the basketball highlights all serve to maximize the tension and action of Jordan's talent, including slow motion in even his simple one-on-one match with Walt.

Zack Snyder and Michael Jordan shaped eras of pop culture

While Snyder's career took a little longer to really reach its peak (he didn't direct his first feature film until 2004), Michael Jordan's ascent to Everest happened quickly after playgrounds Release. His Airness brought the Chicago Bulls six championships, including two impressive three-peats in a row from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998. And in between those championship runs, Jordan returned to Hollywood to make one of the best sports movies of all time: Space Jam. No other athlete has dominated pop culture as much as Michael Jordan did in the era that was shaped by him both on and off the pitch.

Although the ranking of athletes in sports is ultimately subjective, the ranking of film directors is arguably even more undefined. Although Zack Snyder has no championship trophies to his name, he too would be a defining player in the entertainment industry with his extensive work in the superhero genre. Guardian in 2009 through his work on the DCEU, Snyder may be a divisive director, but Few could deny that he was unforgettable and made a significant contribution to the ubiquity of superhero films today. While Jordan rests on the laurels of his illustrious career and Snyder continues his creative endeavors with the recent release of Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scar GiverIt's inspiring to consider that in the years leading up to their career-defining successes, the two worked tirelessly and scored their goals at the basketball hoop on the playground.

Michael Jordan's Playground can be rented or purchased on Prime Video in the US

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