5. Man of Steel (2013)
Snyder’s more serious take on Superman is not without its merits. It can feel refreshing to see Superman in a different light and feel so helpless given all the loss he’s suffered through in his life. The action scenes are a little ridiculous with all the casualties Superman brings about, but it was cool to see two virtual gods battle each other on such a large, violent scale. Michael Shannon is a fantastic Zod, and Cavil feels like a worthy successor to Reeves. But there is still something oppressive about watching it. It goes too overboard in going out of its way to make the story depressing, but it is not well written enough to be a sad, moving drama about Superman himself.
By attempting to replicate what Nolan had done for Batman, Snyder robs Superman of the levity that makes him Superman, morphing him into something distant and much less endearing than the Superman we usually love. Nearly a decade removed from the film, it was a respectable, different take on Superman that was perhaps to brooding and tediously somber for its own good.
4. Army of the Dead (2021)
Way too slow for its own good, has too many plates spinning at once when it could have had a more condensed team that would have been fleshed out far better. Still not a pleasing movie to look at by any sense of the imagination. But it largely is Snyder fully aware of the dumb fun he once was known for. It is a bunch of jokes and shooting zombies. It does get repetitive and not all the jokes hit, but it is a good watch for Snyder and zombie fans alike, with a good Batista performance to keep the wheels of the movie turning.
3. 300 (2006)
It can be deliriously fun at times, deliriously excessive at times, but always deliriously stupid. It’s an uber masculine product of the 2000s. It delights in absurdity with every single stab and line of dialogue. Snyder’s style actually feels like it contributes something here. Sure, this could have really used a splash of gore, but Snyder’s slow-mo and comic book inspired framing brings a new level of laughable epicness to the equation. Actually, may be damaging enough to kill brain cells, but this can be quite a fun piece of guilty pleasure entertainment when you accept what Snyder wants to do.
2. Watchmen (2009)
Watchmen is what many will say is Snyder’s masterwork. It is, after all, an incredibly faithful adaptation that brings a more niche collection of superheroes to life. It fails at capturing all the genius of the source material, instead giving a greatest hits collection of events in the comics that cheat the breadth of subversiveness of the comic itself. But Watchmen is still a reasonably important accomplishment, that ironically is the exact opposite of Snyder’s lesser superhero outings. It strives to make the film look like the comic, does not get totally lost dealing in a billion subplots (although it is bloated to be sure), and feels like it has a beating heart.
Occasionally, Watchmen does not just feel like a seamless transition from page to screen, but also a soulful tribute to the storylines and characters of the Watchmen comic. If only this could have been a miniseries. As it is, the story has serious lulls and is too big for its own good. But there is something charming and audacious about Snyder’s attempt to adopt something so impossibly good.
1. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
It is the safe pick for Snyder’s best. It is fun, is not marred by the bleakness of his visual style and tendency to cheaply depress viewers. It has the right number of characters with Ana being maybe his best protagonist to date.
Like with all Snyder films, there is a piece of the puzzle missing. It is devoid of the commercialism critique that made the original Dawn of the Dead so legendary. But it is fun unsullied by the bad habits Snyder developed later on. It is incredibly solid popcorn entertainment, with each zombie encounter showing how talented Snyder can be behind the camera filming tense action scenes. If only Snyder can return to this version of himself once more.