We are about a month and a half away from the release of the highly anticipated superhero movie Justice League directed by Zack Snyder, his third DCEU movie after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Snyder stepped away from the project prior to its completion due to the tragic suicide of his daughter and Avengers director Joss Whedon was called in to complete it.
We will have to wait until November 17 to see how much of the film is Snyder and how much is Whedon. But it is a good time to take a look back at the popular director’s filmography. With a SPOILER ALERT and some slo mo effects (you will have to imagine those) let’s get crackalacking:
#7 Sucker Punch
Never was a movie so aptly named because after watching Sucker Punch you will feel like you have been sucker punched by Iron Mike Tyson. Now the film does have hot chicks in hot outfits and some sweet action sequences straight out of a video game. And Scott Glenn’s mentor character is cool. When is Scott Glenn not cool? But the mental asylum/brothel/weird dance trance/item quest set up is stupid and offensive, the dialogue is dumb and the movie insulting to the intelligence. This is one of the few films Snyder also wrote and from an original concept. If he is going to make more like Sucker Punch he should probably stick to directing. Thankfully for Snyder this is the only unequivocally bad film on his resume.
#6 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
This is Snyder’s sole animated film and it is a charming little movie. The idea of fighting owls may seem weird but he makes it work. The superb animation alone makes the film worth a watch and the brother-versus-brother dynamic is interesting. The story is nothing you haven’t seen before though and it pretty much ticks off all the fantasy adventure tropes. It’s still a hoot though. Get it? Owls? Hoot? You get it.
#5 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Anticipation was high for this squaring off of DC titans and second film in the DCEU but what fans got was mostly disappointment. Ben Affleck gave us a strong Bruce Wayne and Batman, Gal Gadot was a revelation as Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill was decent as Superman and there were some solid action set pieces and vivid imagery. But Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was nails-on-a-chalk-board annoying, the story was all over the place, the setting up of the Justice League was via YouTube videos and the less said about that “Martha” resolution the better.
For every thing to enjoy about Batman v Superman you can find something else to dislike. In the end Snyder gave us a very average superhero flick that could not live up to the hype train that led up to it. And while the ultimate edition tightens some plot threads, adds some context and a tad more action it is not enough to lift this movie above the mean.
#4 Man of Steel
After the artsy farts-y, action-lite and dull-as-a-snail-race Superman Returns (2006) Snyder gave us a Superman who could kick Kryptonian backside and take names. Henry Cavill was a solid (if overly serious) Supes and Michael Shannon did a respectable job as General Zod. The action was intense and the special effects were glorious even if Superman inadvertently destroyed a sizable portion of the city and killed multiple people.
But did the film have to be so dark and Dark Knight Nolan-esque, down to the muted colour palette? This is the man who fights for truth, justice and the American way, not the one who hides in the shadows and beats criminals to a pulp. Lighten up and have some fun with Superman DC! Batman he is not. It would have been interesting if we had seen Superman as a hero between finding his suit and Zod’s arrival, and then when Zod demanded he be turned over have the public turn on their new saviour. Opportunity lost there. And I did not have a problem with him snapping Zod’s neck to save civilians at the end but him letting his dad die in a tornado while shouting was just dumb.
It was quite the ambitious effort adaptating Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel about costumed heroes in a world that hates them and the film version succeeds…mostly. The visuals are gorgeous – you can’t really beat Snyder for visuals – and the action is bloody and intense. Jackie Earle Haley’s cynical Rorschach is perfection, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is fun as the vicious, misogynistic Comedian and Billy Crudup’s schlong swinging super powered Dr Manhattan is memorable. Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl, Malin Akerman’s Silk Spectre II and Matthew Goode’s Ozymandias, however, are a little flat and the film is at times too artsy for its own good. Still an entertaining watch though.
#2 Dawn of the Dead
How do you do a reboot of one the most iconic horror movies ever which was written and directed by the grandmaster of zombie films, the late great George A. Romero? Well you borrow the basic premise – people trapped in a mall during a zombie outbreak – and then do your own thing. You have strong leads in Sarah Polley’s nurse Ana and Ving Rhames’ cop Kenneth and Ty Burrel’s trigger-happy anti-social Steve. These zombies are not slow and lumbering but super fast and absolutely terrifying. The action is break neck and gory and does not keep you on the edge of your seat but rather knocks you on your backside. This was Snyder’s directorial debut and he kept things tightly paced and thoroughly intense, crafting one of the best zombie movies ever and one of the best modern horror movies.
Based on the graphic novel by the legendary Frank Miller, which itself is losely based on the historical battle between 300 Spartan warriors and the Persian army, 300 is one the manliest films you will ever meet. Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas oozes charisma, testosterone and body oil and he is ably supported by other beefy warriors, including the spirited Stelios (a then relatively unknown Michael Fassbender). Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo is a fierce female lead and Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes makes for a colorful villain. Wonderfully bloody action, chest-thumping speeches and instantly iconic scenes make for an unforgettable ride of a film and definitely the best by Snyder. With his penchant for comic book properties, slow-motion action, saturated colour palates and striking images 300 was the film he was born to direct. THIS…IS…SNYDER!
So that’s my ranking. What’s your favourite Zack Snyder film? Feel free to comment below.
For my ranking of the Top Christopher Nolan films you can click here.