7. Man Of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is the kind of movie that leaves many a fan of the alien superhero wondering what could have been. The ideas were promising and some of the visuals were standouts of the genre, but the film really didn’t live up to its billing in many ways including its overly long run-time – a criticism levelled at a lot of the director’s work.
Although it was a success at the box office, negative word of mouth and a number of reviews that criticised the picture for seemingly everything but its “most Snyder moments”, made for a less fruitful financial return than DC expected and did little to kick-off the DC Extended Universe in the manner the studio had hoped for.
Coming out of Man of Steel, it seemed audiences had become distracted by the movie’s insistence upon other-worldly damage to its host city Metropolis and saw the film as too desperately trying to capture the dark and thrilling magic of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Whilst time and a removal from the context of this film’s release has been somewhat favourable to its reception, the years have only highlighted its many deficiencies, making it the worst of Snyder’s central DCEU trilogy (Justice League 2017 not included).
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6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Dawn of Justice was probably the most divisive of Snyder’s collection of hugely divisive pictures at the time of its release, with many an audience member being dismayed at the nonsensical editing of the action scenes and the rather limited explorations of many of the picture’s secondary characters and themes.
Snyder did successfully oversee the rebirth of the Batman character in a post-Dark-Knight landscape however, and the director managed to present the caped crusader as a viable opponent to the almost overly powerful Superman character. Zack Snyder also successfully inserted a number of Easter eggs that gifted the movie a rewatchability and even brought about a fair degree of interest for his reportedly more adult-themed cut of the movie that was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Featuring an epic score from Hans Zimmer and a top performance from Ben Affleck, and being the first time key figures in the Justice League had been featured in a film together, Batman v Superman offered more than the initial reactions suggested and is looked back on with kinder eyes in the post-Zack Snyder’s Justice League world than it was at the time, its tension, action and characterisation all much easier to stomach away from the expectation of being like an MCU movie or replicating the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
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5. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
After circulating as a music video and advertisement director – including being the key creative on the iconic Budweiser chariot superbowl ad – Zack Snyder got his first big movie break on the horror remake Dawn of the Dead (2004).
The relatively low budget zombie film was an over-the-top festival of thrills, jump-scares and gore, and was successful both critically and financially for its fresh and visually appealing take on the story.
A zombie movie before zombie stories came back into fashion, and on a scale seemingly unimaginable in most zombie cinema to that point, Dawn of the Dead set a marker for Snyder’s career, illustrating his abilities to find rhythm and style, and proving the catalyst for all to come.
Whilst much of Snyder’s work has matured over the years since, there remains a genuine thrill in seeing the filmmaker excel in the early days of his career, Dawn of the Dead being a reliably entertaining film to this day.
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4. Army of the Dead (2021)
Whilst early 2021 release Zack Snyder’s Justice League had the feeling of a director finally finding closure with regards to one period of his creative life, the release of Army of the Dead felt a lot like the director welcoming the birth of another period, like he was finding a new voice.
More akin to a 90s blockbuster in terms of dialogue, pace and fun than Snyder’s more stylised and serious early career entries, Army of the Dead took from the great zombie films of the past, combined them with an 90s-Emmerich-level blockbuster team-up, and gave us all a glimpse into a filmmaker unshackled by the expectations of comic book adaptations and unburdened by studio interference.
Beneath the laughs, the gross body horror and some terrific action sequences lied a heart that was simply too hard to miss, Snyder’s first film since the tragic passing of his daughter by no coincidence centring on a father sacrificing everything for the love of his child, the ever-allegorical zombie the poisoned villain of his piece.
Army of the Dead wasn’t a knock out in terms of any individual aspect, but it was a surprisingly welcoming presence with a deep personal touch that shall be fondly remembered by fans and-or sympathisers of the director for years to come.