Films Directed by Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder movies are easy to pick out from the crowd. First, there’s the distinctive Larry Fong cinematography. Second, there’s the tendency for music and action to work hand-in-hand with stunning results. Third, there are the slow motion fight scenes. Lastly, his subject matter tends to be of the fantasy, horror, or comic book variety. In short: Zack Snyder is like a gift sent down from the gods of geekdom.Prior to directing feature films, Snyder cut his teeth with television commercials and music videos. This helped him craft his unique visual style, as well as the ability to break the narrative down into easy-to-swallow chunks of action. Think of him like David Fincher, but without all the critical acclaim and Oscar nominations.
Since I’m a confirmed fanboy, I’ve been a supporter of Zack Snyder films from the beginning. The following list includes all of his works so far, and I even touch on upcoming projects. Whether you’re just discovering his action-packed style or looking for titles to round out your Blu-ray collection, I hope my observations will prove helpful.
Current Zack Snyder Movies
Zack Snyder has directed five films in a seven-year period. Call him the anti-Terrence Malick. These films include:
Dawn of the Dead (2004) – I wasn’t expecting much from this remake of the classic George Romero zombie movie, but I walked out of the theatre with my jaw hanging open. The first scene shows the world descending into an undead hell, and the opening credits are accompanied by the unforgettable strains of Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around.”
But the movie doesn’t take its foot off the gas for a second, as our heroes are quickly thrown into a mall, surrounded by the ravenous dead, and brought into conflict with one another. Ving Rhames is the badass cop trying to reach his brother, while Sarah Polley is the nurse who just manages to keep from being eaten by her husband in the opening minutes. Jake Weber rounds out the primary good guys as Michael, the most level-headed member of the cast.
My favorites, however, are a pair of assholes played by Michael Kelly and Ty Burrell. The former is the chief mall security guard who’s not keen on letting strangers inside, while the latter is the epitome of yuppie scum. Both guys are doomed, of course, but they provide plenty of laughs before becoming zombie snacks.
Snyder passes on all the social commentary that Romero found necessary to shoehorn into his version, and he instead replaces it with more action and a respectable amount of gore. The soundtrack is also off-the-charts cool, with tunes from Disturbed, Johnny Cash, and a lounge singer named Richard Cheese.
While I hold the Romero version in high regard, there’s only one Dawn of the Dead that I have in my DVD collection. This is it.
300 (2007) – A brutal, chest-thumping adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic series about a group of 300 Spartans who valiantly hack and slash their way through thousands of invading Persian soldiers. Larry Fong’s sepia-toned cinematography lends an elegance to the carnage, while Snyder has plenty of opportunities to engage in slo-mo bloodletting.
I recall walking out of the theatre slightly disappointed by this one, as I originally deemed it to be a series of action pieces linked together by little in the way of emotional depth. The hunchback and his ridiculous hat didn’t help things, either. I’ve since revised my position, though, and 300 has become a favorite option when I’m looking to watch something while eating.
Watchmen (2009) – People had been trying to adapt Alan Moore’s legendary comic book limited series for decades, but each proposal would get mired down in the planning process. Then Snyder came along, fresh off his triumphs with 300 and Dawn of the Dead. Years of frustration were suddenly washed away, and pre-production began in earnest.
The finished product makes you wonder what all the fuss was about. Not only does Snyder capture the essence of the story, but he makes it look easy in the process. And all the tiny details are there for hardcore fans, including business signs that look like they’re drawn by Dave Gibbons himself.
Snyder throws in several slow motion fight sequences, including an excellent battle between The Comedian and a shadowy assailant to open the show. Music is drawn from the ‘60s and ‘70s, with Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” being among the most effective.
As for the cast, it’s solid from top to bottom. Jackie Earle Haley is tops as the obsessive vigilante crimefighter named Rorschach, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a close second as the world-weary hero/soldier/assassin dubbed The Comedian.
If you’ve already read Alan Moore’s Watchmen, this makes an excellent companion. If you’ve yet to experience either one, clear your schedule for a day and fit them both in.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) – A computer-animated tale adapted from a series of fantasy books about owls engaged in war, intrigue, and heroism. I’ve never read the books, and I suspect the film was aimed at an audience much younger than myself. To date, it’s the only Zack Snyder movie that I haven’t watched, and I don’t plan on that changing in the near future.Sucker Punch (2011) – The trailer promised girls, guns, World War I trenches, and giant monsters dressed in samurai armor. I went to the midnight showing to see it as soon as possible, but I walked away less than impressed thanks to a weak script and not-so-hot heroine (Emily Browning). When the supporting cast–including Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens–is 50 times more boner-inducing than the lead, you know you’re in trouble.
And while there was plenty of action to be had, it felt thrown together at random. I was reminded of watching a video game cutscene (without having played the actual game), and even the presence of Scott Glenn couldn’t whip this film into a winner. A major step back for Snyder, but I’m going to give him a mulligan and hope for the best in 2013.
Upcoming Zack Snyder Projects for 2013
Zack Snyder’s next project is Man of Steel, the latest attempt to restart the Superman franchise. Scheduled for a June 2013 release, this will be yet another reboot. The cast is shaping up nicely as of this writing, with Henry Cavill (Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Kevin Costner (Pa Kent), Diane Lane (Ma Kent), and Russell Crowe (Jor-El) signing on. While Superman Returns was a huge disappointment, here’s hoping that Snyder can get things turned in a positive direction.
Zack Snyder movies are colorful and violent, and his background as a music video director allows him to combine sound and visuals to create some impressive sequences. While a few of his recent releases have been box-office disappointments, his star continues to shine brightly for fanboys around the globe. If you’re a fan, I suggest heading out in 2013 to support Man of Steel. Otherwise, Snyder might find himself back directing Morrissey videos.