With all the buts that we want to put to his movies, but something cannot be denied to Zack Snyder : his films are indisputably his. Become the ultimate representative of the vision of the author within the always confusing and complex business of the blockbusters – what opposes him, among many other characteristics that define him, in the Disney style of authors without a lot of personality who invoke spectacular successes but without too much personality, his filmography has as many moments of visual glory as of terrifying shame of others.
If you can compare him with another current film author, it is certainly with Michael Bay. On the surface, and apart from the position of both in the industry – they have gained some fame as filmmakers with gigantism and work well at the box office, but do not renounce a personal aesthetic seal – both are filmmakers obsessed with the value of the pure, isolated and abstract image as a transmitter of sensations. Above all other elements of his works -primarily, the script-, his films are avalanches of images that are often complex to describe.
That is, try to tell someone your favorite sequence of ‘300’ or ‘Batman V Superman’. It is complicated to verbalize them in all their complexity, in all their artifice, in the almost obsessive mime for every detail. Snyder also shares with Bay some basic and very masculine impetus to embed in his cinema with primary messages, universal, often conservative and of a humanism – in the case of Snyder – pessimistic and obscure. We still have to see how Snyder’s future cinema evolves, but thematically it is forging one of the darkest and most hopeless filmographies of recent commercial cinema.
If there is a director comparable to Zack Snyder in impact and style, it is Michael Bay, although Snyder cultivates a much more classical aesthetic.
What separates him from Bay is, despite the obsession of both with the pure image, that Snyder’s visual calligraphy is much more classical. Unlike the director of ‘Transformers’ (also very equipped to capture the chaos and movement on the screen, but more intuitively), Snyder clearly shows what is happening on the screen. Those images that pass, uncut, to be viewed in slow motion, are not only an author’s signature (that too) or a nod to the splash-pages of the comics on which almost all of his films are based (which of course), but an attempt that the spectator does not lose detail of what happens on the screen. And also, at the same time to give an epic touch to everything that is seen.
Because that visual classicism, which connects Snyder more with Christopher Nolan than with Neveldine and Taylor, is also reflected in a brutal seriousness in the approaches. Snyder may be a compulsive reader of comics, but from them he keeps the symbolism and the Great Ideas more than the frenetic action or the inconsequential stories. All this adds a contradictory personality and responsible for both their achievements and their setbacks.
We have ordered Snyder’s films from worst to best (as always, in a completely subjective way). From his great stumbling blocks to his indisputable achievements. This is the work of an author hated and admired in equal parts, epitome of redneck cinema and personal author within the blockbuster panorama.
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8 – ‘Ga’Hoole’: The Legend of the Guardians’ (2010)
Already forgotten and not very lucid immersion of Snyder in animated films, in the company of Animal Logic, the studio that had just triumphed with ‘Happy Feet’ at the Oscars, in the hands of another director with his own name, George Miller. ‘Ga’Hoole’, however, is a reluctant adventure starring owls, which demonstrate well why not usually star in movies, and in any case, fail to convey the epic intended by Warner, to embed three of the original books by Kathryn Lasky in just 99 minutes.
The result, without being a disaster (technically has moments of great interest), has no major significance, not even as Snyder film: far from the experiments of other directors in animation, as Wes Anderson, ‘Ga’Hoole’ is – in a very unsurprising way – the least Snyderian of all Snyder’s films. Paradoxically, his story of owls locked in a kind of concentration camp dreaming of heroes to free them exhibits one of his most humanist arguments.
7 – ‘The man of steel’ (2013)
Let’s face it: Snyder’s film of Superman, his entrance as an elephant in a china shop in the DC Universe, he will never be able to overcome his depressing climax, one in which a disproportionate amount of humans die before the cold look of a Superman completely alien. There has been a lot of talk about that debatable end for a superhero movie (correction: for a superhero movie like Superman), but that confusion and pessimism pervades the entire film.
The least humama film in Snyder’s entire filmography seems to go through that route without his director noticing: Kal-El’s alien father is more concerned with the human race than his son or his adopted father. The fights take place in abstract environments, without people in danger. Superman, in short, wants to save the Earth, in an abstract, cosmic way; he does not care about people. It is the Superman minus Superman in history, and yet, in some way, the result is fascinating.
The problem is that, unlike that spectacular train crash (in slow motion) which is ‘Batman V Superman’, ‘The steel man’ is not too funny. The endless flashbacks, the part in Krypton (ridiculous, but not enough) and above all, a trio of drunken battles of impersonal CGI, make it a difficult journey. Still, the darkness of Snyder’s soul is worthy of study: thanks to it, we see unusually sinister images for a blockbuster (Superman), and some moments remain in our memory forever.
6 – ‘Watchmen’ (2009)
Another of those Snyder films that after a first phase of stupor mixed with a little touch of anger and despair (and a question floating in the air throughout the projection: “why?”), Ends up inhabiting our head in that corner that we reserve for useless, bulky, unserviceable and fascinating productions. Betraying from head to toe the spirit of the legendary printed original of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons while being true to his lyrics, ‘Watchmen’ commits his main mistake by endowing with epic and beauty to absolutely all his images.
As we discussed later on ‘Batman V Superman’ (Snyder’s attempt to weave his own ‘Watchmen’), his idea of superheroes as legendary beings does not allow him to downgrade them into beings as hopeless as humans, such as Moore does. But along the way, and still making mistakes, Snyder is able to offer us some of his best action sequences, a thirteen-year-old boy’s sex concept and an invaluable style guide on how to make a cartoon turn into moving picture.
And above all, it offers us a film whose main value is that of its own gestation. After frustrated attempts during decades, where Terry Gilliam was involved, the director was left with the coveted assignment and he put Warner in a basket of almost three hours that, despite his just results at the box office, is quite an achievement from the point of industrial view So yes: ‘Watchmen’ has problems, but a respect.
5 – ‘Batman v Superman: The dawn of justice’ (2016)
Another disaster as colossal as hypnotic and that still retains those slash of Snyderian genius, half-baked, delirious, inhuman, dark, which make this reappearance of Batman in the DC Universe in a film deficient, but fascinating. And that’s going to the director’s cut : the one that premiered in theaters is directly unintelligible. But the final, despite the elephantiasis of Snyder’s imagery, has things clear.
Thus, Snyder throws to the viewer all that characterizes him as an author, but is inconsistent with the needs of a movie of superheroes to use: Batman and Superman are fueled in a few impressive sequences, but are twinned with the twist of The Two Marthas; Lex Luthor is superbly incarnated by Jesse Eisenberg, but then we are smashed by an insufferable CGI villain; the appearance of Wonder Woman is vibrant, but she knows the rest of the Justice League via Quicktime.
‘Batman v Superman’ is unbalanced, shouted, and yet with everything, Snyder manages to slip his stamp in the film, and portray the superheroes as legendary myths, not as spawn, accidents, mutations or ordinary people. Many things can be attributed to the film, but that message, which is pure Snyder in form and substance, reaches the viewer diaphanously. If only the parchment where Snyder wrote so solemnly was not plagued by spelling mistakes …
4 – ‘League of Justice’ (2017)
A small disaster very funny to contemplate, even as a perverse spectacle: the horrendous ugliness of its climax and its special effects, its anticarismal villain or the imbalance in the portrait of the heroes. All this, coming from the hand of Snyder, perhaps mediated by a Whedon that instead of normalizing, it transformed the whole into an even more artificial and strange spawn, it bears fruit … well, maybe not the movie that Warner wanted, but yes, one that is worth attending.
Above all, because it is not lacking in positive elements: the vision it gives of Superman, far from the insane sphinx of ‘The Man of Steel’; the humor, which Snyder sets in motion in an absolutely anti-organic but sometimes very effective way; its tight duration – here we can believe more in the hand of Whedon – and incessant action, which leaves us with zero character development, but almost better …
‘League of Justice’ is a spawn, but one frankly fun. You have to intellectualize the black holes that had the soul of ‘Batman V Superman’, but this is something else: Warner has put to pursue the Marvel model to the director less marvelita possible. Without prejudices that undermine the experience, we must recognize that it is a good way to generate an hour and a half of evil fun.
3 – ‘Sucker Punch’ (2011)
If you try to find out (through reasoning, it is understood) if ‘Sucker Punch’ is a film that objectifies women with a few fantasies of demolition that include the glamorization of prostitution or hentai for talludite western men, or it is a story of empowerment and vindication of the new role of women in action movies … well, you may end up with a severe headache. The subtext of ‘Sucker Punch’ is so buried that it is possible to think that Snyder only wanted to make a captivating film in the visual … and the rest came from the hand.
Now, only from the aesthetic point of view, ‘Sucker Punch’ is literally unique: its story of labyrinthine imaginary worlds, its “Alice in Wonderland in a wallow” is full of visual icons that together do not make much sense , but that like chromos of a luxurious album without feet or head, they are captivating: from the version of ‘Love is the Drug’ to the touches of giallo, from the Second World War steampunk to the samurai in the snow).
In the narrative, this self-conscious desmadre is preferable than the imposing gravity of his DC films, but whoever believes that the real Snyder, the pessimist and obscure, is in ‘The Man of Steel’ or ‘Watchmen’, who comes to the end eliminated from ‘Sucker Punch’, the most hopeless thing that this man has done. In any case, and taking into account that the film appeared on all the worst lists of that year, we can describe it without problems as the most vindictive film by Zack Snyder.
2 – ‘300’ (2006)
Inspired by the success of ‘Sin City’, the film by Robert Rodríguez that, apart from other considerations (such as the artistic interest of a similar operation, we have already talked about it with respect to ‘Watchmen’), he triumphed visually when translating To images the peculiar aesthetics of Frank Miller’s comic, Snyder decided to do the same with a graphic novel by the same author. The result, which tells the historical Battle of Thermopylae between Spartans and Persians, divided the public and critics at an early stage of Snyder’s career.
Filmed entirely with digital scenes and abundance of tricks that make it basically an animated film with actors, ‘300’ drinks both from the films of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the already discussed concept of Snyder of what should be an adaptation of a comic. The difference with ‘Watchmen’ is that ‘300’ is pure visual (gay) pornography and its message is null. As a historical drama, ‘300’ is a nonsense; as a pure spectacle, the certain thing is that it is incomparable (and very, very influential in the cinema of later action). Whenever you like gladiator movies, do not bother the occasional fascist message between the lines and tolerate slow motion well.
1 – ‘The dawn of the dead’ (2015)
In a sense, it pains to think that the best film of Snyder is the first, when he had not yet developed all his authorial features. And also, starting from a foreign screenplay (extraordinary, James Gunn) and based on a movie of the seventies (the classic continuation of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ by George A. Romero, ‘Zombie’). In the same way, it is significant that, even so, Snyder makes it partially his.
So it happens in the incredible initial section of the film, where the protagonist, a great Sarah Polly, faces for the first time the zombie infection, which has the viral power and the fury of the infected of Danny Boyle. In the general aerial planes of the city desnortada by the chaos is where is where the Snyder is able to observe the violence with coldness and extract its most beautiful isolated components.
There is also Snyder, interspersed with Gunn’s inevitable bad baba, in the opening credits and in his depressing catalog of insufferable characters. And in his transformation from the metaphorical mall of the Romero film into an amusement park to kill zombies, closer to a comic or a videogame than to the symbolic original ‘Zombie’. And still, Snyder and Gunn get the mixture of terror and action is energetic and exciting: because sometimes Snyder is only façade, but only that is very good.