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Director Ranked: Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder paved his way into the trenches of big budget Hollywood by adapting a selection of fan favorite comics and properties into films stamped with his epic cinematic technique. The director indeed sets up quite a frame for the big screen, recreating iconic imagery that often feels like a moving painting. This brings a classic air to our modern cultural mythologies, specifically superheroes, that solidifies Snyder’s visually stunning style as influential to the genre.

As the original spearheader of the DC Extended Universe, Snyder’s take on the characters and settings have served as the ground floor for building DC’s live-action world. There we find a bleakness that has become a staple of his, a harsh fantasy that begs for vibrancy…

  • Watchmen

    1.Watchmen

    ★★★★

    Alan Moore’s original Watchmen comic is essential reading for the industry, so translating it to film is inherently a major undertaking. Zack Snyder’s version does lack much of the original’s bleak satire, instead playing the characters up as the more heroic comic characters movie audiences want to see in big blockbusters. It’s a shame that this important angle is lost, but while integral tonal changes have been made, this is still visually one of the more successfully done comic book adaptations. It's got all of the superhero lore in a story skewed towards adults, allowing more serious themes and complexities to be explored. Snyder's style matches his darker storytelling elements at its absolute best here, especially in the longer Director's Cut of the film which gives the director more time to let those stunning visuals linger. For what it is, it's great. Had it kept the original creator’s tone, it would be damn near perfect.

  • Sucker Punch

    2.Sucker Punch

    ★★★★

    Sucker Punch has been panned by audiences and critics alike, often being called Snyder's worst film. On its surface, this is understandable, but as much of the film is set within a character’s imagination, it is hard to fault. Dreams and thought processes are fluid and ever changing, don't often make sense and differ from person to person. The confusion most audiences find watching this movie is also part of its wonder, although whether that is intentional on Snyder’s part is debatable. The loveliest aspect of Sucker Punch, though, stems from its familiar motifs and imagery that pop up throughout. Whether you love it or hate it, the standout idea that when you are going through the toughest of times, you can find the help and inspiration you might need to get you through it from all of the media and music and movies and video games and literature and anything else that you consume in pop culture is crucial. In a social atmosphere where fandom has become a major part of identity to audiences, this is one way in which someone can armor themselves or find lessons that enable them to survive the seemingly unsurvivable parts of life. This idea truly outshines the flaws the film admittedly has, making it Snyder’s most important work even if not the most well received.

    Knowing the tragic events that would come to Snyder's life years after creating Sucker Punch makes it a bittersweet endeavor, clearly conceived with intention for someone close to him.

  • Dawn of the Dead

    3.Dawn of the Dead

    ★★★½

    The 2004 remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film of the same name manages to give great nods to the original while still being its own film and expanding the original's ideas in great ways. It's one of the better films in a sea of really bad horror remakes, and is Zack Snyder's feature film directorial debut. Being a big studio film with an already well written script that had passed through several hands, including James Gunn also early in his career, Snyder could surely begin to focus on the aspects he would later become known for in their budding stages here: a chaotically beautiful film with great visual style and characters that are swept up in emotional darkness. It should be noted that although Dawn of the Dead is the sole horror in Snyder’s filmography, he does treat it more as an action film, which is also the genre he’d later become more associated with.

  • 300

    4.300

    ★★★½

    The notes for this film reportedly contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    300 is simply gorgeous. It is just a visual feast. Claims that it is historically inaccurate are silly, as it's not a historical film or even trying to be. It's pure male war fantasy and it's not to be taken seriously because of it. The strongest downfall keeping the film from being great isn't its historical accuracy, but rather its depiction of masculine versus feminine roles. It certainly goes out of its way to objectify both female and male characters, but Lena Headey's Queen Gorgo definitely suffers the worst of it. In addition to such specific ideas of gender roles here, the film's villain, Xerxes played by Rodrigo Santoro, is quite the effeminate male, and although he is powerful and formidable, it is clear that he and his armies are no match for the masculinity of these 300 men. How predictable.

  • Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

    5.Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

    ★★★½

    Zack Snyder's visionary style is pretty perfectly suited for animation. Much of the effects in his live-action work already lean heavily this way, so a fully animated feature isn't far fetched for the director at all. Naturally, as always with Snyder, this is a visual feast. All of the director's hallmarks are here, from slow motion action to scenes that are frantic and over the top with movement. And while the characters and settings are beautifully designed and rendered as well, surely eye catching for children, it is not surprising is that this seemingly simple story about owls gets pretty serious and heavy, a kind of storytelling that it doesn’t seem the director can avoid.

  • Superman 75th Anniversary

    6.Superman 75th Anniversary

    ★★★

    This short is an inspiring look at the archetypal superhero Superman and his most recognizable moments throughout his 75 year history. From comics to Fleischer, Super Friends to Christopher Reeves, all the great interpretations are here. It is interesting to note how light, happy and energetic this animated short feels in comparison to Synder's live-action version of the character. This is a true celebration of what the icon symbolizes, making it all the more surprising that the short is directed by Snyder. Indeed, this is arguably the best Superman project Zack Snyder has developed.

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    7.Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    ★★½

    While it's great to finally see all of these DC Comics heroes in live action and on the big screen together for the first time, both of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's title characters don't feel true to themselves and are underwritten. Snyder's signature visual style is palpable, as the movie leaps from quintessential image to quintessential image, yet it isn't enough to pull this film into its own, leaving it as a remnant not only of Man of Still but also of Watchmen which is surely what lead to the director being chosen to lead DC Comics’ shared film universe. How ironic that the Watchmen comic was originally a kind of mockery of the darkness hidden within the fun comics of the Golden Age like Superman and Batman, but its film is seemingly now the template for the DCEU, pushing these once inspirational characters even darker than before. Batman v Superman is a step up from Man of Steel, at least, but there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of Snyder’s tunnel vision.

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  • Justice League

    8.Justice League

    ★★½

    Zack Snyder’s work on Justice League was cut short for personal reasons, causing Joss Whedon to step in as director and finish the project. While some changes made by Whedon may have indeed improved the film, the resulting product clearly suffers from the incoherence of combining these two separate director’s conflicting concepts. That is to say, it’s hard to critique Justice League outside of being the culmination of a complete mess of a production. Still, with the darkness of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman leading into and permeating the entire beginnings of the DCEU and this film, it’s also hard to say whether Snyder’s directors cut, his sole vision, would have been worth him seeing it through.

  • Man of Steel

    9.Man of Steel

    ★★½

    While stylistically and visually a nice film in itself, and an interesting modernization of the lore of Krypton, Man of Steel unfortunately is not fully evocative of what a film about this iconic titular character could or possibly should be. Although Superman is powerful, and the movie is epic in scope, it is also dark, dreary, and uninspired. Snyder’s interpretation is one that swaps the positive outlook of Superman for a personality more reminiscent of the brooding Batman which not only fails Man of Steel as a stand alone movie, but also is a hopeless set-up for a film franchise in which these characters exist as foils to one another.