Spotlights: Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder is a fairly divisive director, to say the least, with responses to his films ranging anywhere from general praise to utter disgust. However, it cannot be disputed that he has an eye for visually striking imagery that draws upon well-known classical art, as well as a very uncanny intimacy within the frame itself. To promote his latest superhero romp Justice League, I will be taking a look at four key films from throughout his career, warts and all.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The first film on our list is his breakout hit, Dawn of the Dead, a remake of the 1978 classic of the same name in which, Ana, played by Sarah Polley, returns home from her nursing job only to find that her husband has turned into a zombie. We follow her escape and search for shelter in a world gone mad, later meeting up with a group of stragglers that hole up in a shopping mall. This is where the majority of the film takes place as the group tries (and fails) to tolerate one another amidst the chaos. While Snyder’s style isn’t clearly defined as of yet, there are hints of it sprinkled throughout in his constant use of extreme close-ups and hand-held shots to emphasize unease or tension within a scene.
Standout scene: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Snyder’s second outing and arguably his most well-received, 300 is an adaptation of the graphic novel by Frank Miller. Starring Gerard Butler as Leonidas, the story focuses on the historic Battle of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars, and Leonidas’ quest to kill Xerxes. This film was the first in which Snyder utilizes his now trademark visual style to enhance the story. Through use of dramatic lighting situations and green screen sets, Snyder is able to create shots not normally possible in a realistic setting, transporting the viewer further into the source material itself than ever before. This style would become a mainstay in his later work, with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole being the exception; this is also the first feature in which Snyder co-wrote the script.
Standout scene: First battle scene
Sucker Punch (2011)
Sucker Punch is the first film Zack Snyder entirely wrote, directed, and produced himself, and is considered the weakest of his entire filmography among critics and fans alike. Emily Browning plays the lead, Babydoll, part of a group of friends in a mental asylum who imagine a fantasy world as they try to escape and cope with the environment they are in. Despite the more visual-centric style over substance approach, there is clear time and effort put into each shot of Sucker Punch.
Standout scene: Mirror scene
Man of Steel (2013)
With Man of Steel, we see a more grounded and fully realized Superman character that finds the last his own people and has to decide whether to join them or save Earth. This time around Snyder crafts a superhero film bathed in teal and full of Steadicam shots. That is not to say that these techniques overstay their welcome in the film, as the shots themselves contribute to the mood of the more grounded philosophical moments as well as lend a documentary-style edge to the heart pounding battle scenes.
Standout scene: Twister flashback
Throughout his work, it is clear that Zack Snyder is constantly honing his skills, as evidenced with the trailers leading up to the release of Justice League this November which show a leap forward in subtlety while still retaining his personal signature. Despite the reshoots that plagued the production after Snyder’s indefinite break from the project, one can still hope that the innovative visual flare of this director will continue to shine through on Nov. 17th .