Whether discussing 300 or Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the films of reputable filmmaker Zack Snyder have long been the subject of division amongst film theorists, critics and enthusiasts. To some, the Snyder film is one of style and little substance, whilst to others his films are a welcomed alternative to the bland and samey output of blockbuster cinema in the modern age. His films are long, some would say detailed, his editing tricks and instantly recognisable colour palettes reductive, some would say iconic. Zack Snyder is a filmmaker who has almost exclusively made adaptations of stories from other successful visual mediums for the big screen, his films deconstructed by critics as too heavily reliant on the source materials and celebrated by fans for their loyalty to the original words, panels and graphics.
Having initially made his name in advertising and the direction of many a popular music video, Zack Snyder – whether beloved or not – took the lessons learned in these mediums to forge himself into a fundamentally rhythmic filmmaker who imbues each of his feature releases with an undercurrent of momentum that is unmistakably and uniquely his. His filmography is one that has delved into the horror genre for Dawn of the Dead and even animation with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, though it is through his partnership with Warner Bros and DC that Snyder has made much of his reputation, being a leading force in the construction of the DC Extended Universe.
With ten feature releases to date, including both versions of Justice League, Zack Snyder is now close to two decades into a noteworthy career that has spanned almost the entirety of the budgetary spectrum and a wide range of genres, his films being met with divisive reactions every step of the way. In this edition of Ranked, we here at The Film Magazine are looking at each of these ten feature length directorial efforts to judge each in terms of quality, longevity and contextual relevance, to see which Zack Snyder film can be ranked as the best and, first, which can be ranked as the worst…
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10. Justice League (2017)
To describe the 2017 version of Justice League as divisive would be an understatement, but to class it as a Snyder film would at this stage be a disservice to the director whose work was chopped, changed, re-shot and then mangled back together.
The CG was shoddy, likely owing to the re-shoots that were reportedly going on until very close to the film’s release, not to mention the controversy of Moustache Gate – Henry Cavill’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout moustache had to be removed in post-production due to contractual obligations that didn’t allow him to shave it off whilst still filming for the Paramount franchise – and the story didn’t seem to have any real stakes or drama.
Visually, it was like watching a Frankenstein’s Monster of a movie, with shot after shot seemingly worked on by entirely different film crews; something almost impossible to lobby at any of Snyder’s other feature films.
Ultimately, it would be unfair to rank this film in any position other than at the very bottom of this list; because when a director hasn’t even seen a film, can it really be his?
9. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)
Zack Snyder’s foray into animation was met with dismissal by critics and disinterest by audiences, despite being adapted from a hugely successful series of fantasy books and having the backing of Warner Bros.
Sensationally animated and lovingly voiced, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole expressed so many of Snyder’s better qualities as a filmmaker, his expressive nature coming to the fore in a film filled with Snyder-esque moments and genuine inspiration.
For any director, controlling every element of a film (as one does in animation) is the true mark of their creative expression, yet Legends of the Guardians is often forgotten about when thinking of Zack Snyder’s feature output, thus landing at number 9 on this list not because it’s bad, but because it’s relatively forgettable.
8. Sucker Punch (2011)
Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch was filled with all sorts of issues during its production, but none reared their ugly head more than the ongoing rumoured confrontations between Snyder and distributors Warner Bros over the film’s age rating.
Recently confirming the rumours and revealing the existence of an R-rated Snyder Cut, Zack Snyder’s vision of a more brutal and violent release was ultimately scaled down in order for Warner Bros to reach a larger target market by making the movie PG-13 – a decision that clearly wasn’t in keeping with the film’s themes of mental, physical and sexual abuse. This led many, including lead cast member Emily Browning, to speak out against the film and openly criticise the decision that she felt took something away from Snyder’s original vision.
Despite this, Sucker Punch oozed the visual trademarks Snyder has made himself famous for, all the while centring the story around a group of women who straight-up kicked ass; an aspect of the film that Snyder delivered in spades but was never enough to shake off the stench of its convoluted plot and apparently difficult to decipher thematic explorations.