4. Dawn of The Dead (2004)
Dawn of The Dead is a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 film of the same name, and marked Snyder’s feature film directorial debut. The film was well received, and performed well at the box office.
Snyder’s Dawn of The Dead remake was seen as a terrific addition to the genre, and many were impressed with his fast paced and exhilarating take on the classic zombie film. Snyder was able to successfully mix both elements from the original film with his own fresh take on it, and cemented himself as a new talent to watch, if not necessarily making him a household name.
Even though Dawn of The Dead is Snyder’s first film, it already displays some of the elements that would go on to become part of his trademark style. For example, the wild action sequences and emphasis on visuals.
Dawn of The Dead may appear less recognisable as a Snyder film now, but it set in place many of the elements that would make up Snyder’s career, and trademarks which would define him. Dawn of The Dead took an already established piece of work, and made it faster, bigger and full of action. Now, of course, Snyder has gone on to make several films in the same vein.
The fact that one of Snyder’s smaller films is one of his best shows that he is able to work on a smaller scale, as well as a larger one. Only time will tell if he decides to return to his roots.
3. 300 (2006)
Based on Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s comic series of the same name, 300 is an epic, war fantasy film. The visual style is unique, and uses a super imposition chroma key technique. This technique helped to create and replicate the imagery of the original comic book, giving 300 the look and feel of a graphic novel.
300 has often been criticised for being all style over substance. It received mixed reviews upon release, and critics continue to be divided on the film. The film has also been the subject of controversy, with questions raised on the political aspects of the film. As well as the historical inaccuracies.
However, 300 was the first film that really showed that Snyder was a visionary filmmaker. 300 also showed that Snyder had a strong style of his own, one which he would continue to develop and build upon. The visually arresting imagery, the fight sequences and the unflinching violence, set 300 apart from other films in its genre. With many seeing it as an evolution in the cinema experience.
300 has also earned a place in popular culture, being the subject of many spoofs. It is also seen as highly quotable, and has often made it onto the ‘most quoted films’ lists. Whether 300 is a film which you love, hate, or love to hate – it remains one of Snyder’s most recognisable, and crowning achievements to date.
2. Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)
Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is Snyder’s animation debut as a Director. The film received mixed reviews from critics. It performed mildly well at the box office, even though it was the first one of Snyder’s films not to reach number one at the box office on its opening weekend. Responses to the film may have been mixed, but criticism of the film was nowhere near the same height as the criticism of some of Snyder’s other films.
Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is billed as a family film, but is actually better described as a fantasy adventure film. There are some genuinely dark and scary moments. And certainly, a younger audience may find some of the themes slightly too downbeat.
However, some of Snyder’s trademark flourishes come into their own here – differentiating Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole from other animations, and making the film engaging and highly watchable. Snyder’s aptitude for stunning visuals, and action sequences work well here. And his penchant for super slow motion, works surprisingly well for an animation.
As almost always with Snyder, the story runs out of steam slightly. But Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, is a reasonably successful change of steam for Snyder, and it is interesting to see how he works with different material. It is doubtful that there will be a Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole sequel, but it would certainly be exciting to see if Snyder decides to direct another animated feature.
1. Watchmen (2009)
Snyder’s best film to date looked like it would never get made at one point, as it was stuck in development hell for a number of years. Finally, in 2005, Snyder was hired to direct the film. As with his previous comic book adaptation, 300, Snyder opted to try and stay as faithful to the source material as possible – modelling his storyboards on the comic book.
Watchmen opened to split opinion – with reviews of it tending to either be strongly in favour of the film, or incredibly critical of it. Fans of the film praised Snyder’s unique take on the superhero genre, the cast and the strong visuals. Whereas critics derided its long running time, the complex plot, and the darker themes it addresses. Still, it is felt that Watchmen is one of the most faithful adaptations of a comic book ever made.
With Watchmen, Snyder’s penchant for hyper stylised visuals came into its own. The visual appeal of the film is one of the things that makes Watchmen so iconic. And Snyder’s love of slow motion and speed ramping helped to make the fight scenes original and engaging. Some of the usual weaker aspects of Snyder’s directing style, such as character development and plot, are stronger here than they have been in his other films. Overall, looking at all of Snyder’s films so far, Watchmen is the standout film of Snyder’s career so far.