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Creator / Zack Snyder

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"I think I just have a natural operatic aesthetic. I can't help it."

Zachary Edward Snyder (born March 1, 1966 in Green Bay, Wisconsin) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is well-known for his stylized action movies in which he displays his love for details, crisp cinematography, slow-motion sequences and dark and gloomy color filters, and for creating almost shot-for-shot adaptations of comic books such as 300 and Watchmen. He and his wife Deborah co-produce his films via their company, The Stone Quarry (formerly Cruel and Unusual Films, renamed in 2019).

His biggest directorial challenge to date has undoubtedly been to kick-start the Warner Bros./DC Comics shared movie universe commonly referred to as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), starting with the Superman reboot Man of Steel in 2013, which was followed by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. He signed on as the director of Justice League, but exited in the middle of the film's post-production in May 2017 after the death of his daughter Autumn in March of that year, with the film's completion instead being overseen by Joss Whedon (although Snyder retained the sole director credit). After almost three years of speculation and fan campaigns, Snyder's version of the film (without the 2017 version's alterations) was eventually released on HBO Max in 2021.

Snyder has since struck big deals to provide content for Netflix, including Army of the Dead (his second non-adaptation, which also marked his return to the zombie genre and spawned a franchise), a Norse Mythology-inspired animated series titled Twilight of the Gods (to be directed by Jay Oliva), and the Space Opera Rebel Moon. He is also interested in adapting the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead and the Arthurian Legend.

He is not related to comic book creator Scott Snyder, but has mentioned him among his inspirations for his DCEU films. There were even brief plans for Scott to bring Zack's original vision for the DCEU post-Justice League to comic book form in compliments to the release of the long-awaited Snyder Cut, but they ultimately didn't go through.


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    Films he's directed: 

    Other Works Snyder is credited in: 

Tropes in Zack Snyder's works:

  • Adam Westing: He appeared in the 365th episode of Teen Titans Go!, voicing a cartoon version of himself who lifts weights and projects the eponymous Teen Titans into the ancient times battle of Zack Snyder's Justice League against Darkseid where they get to kick much ass in his serious and dramatic style (there's an animation shift at this moment, from the Zany Cartoon Teen Titans Go! style to the more serious style seen aplenty in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies).
  • Adrenaline Time: His usage of this in 300 popularized it to the point of parody. His usage of this in Watchmen has all but crowned him as a king of this trope. Interestingly, his usage of this has substantially decreased after Sucker Punch.
  • Animesque: Between Sucker Punch and Man of Steel, it's clear that Snyder takes a lot of influence from anime when it comes to the more outlandish and fantastical fight scenes of his films. Besides having the heroines of Sucker Punch dress up in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms while wielding katanas, Snyder has admitted to being influenced by Birdy the Mighty, which shows in the destructive battles of Man of Steel.
  • Art Imitates Art: He studied art history in school and is a trained painter. He storyboards his own films, which are packed with references to classic art.
  • Associated Composer:
    • Tyler Bates has composed the soundtracks of Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch.
    • Tom Holkenborg started working on his productions with 300: Rise of an Empire. He was uncredited on Man of Steel and co-composed the soundtrack of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Hans Zimmer, who had sole credit for Man of Steel. He then worked on Snyder's version of Justice League and Army of the Dead.
    • To a lesser extent but no less effective is Zimmer himself for the two aforementioned movies. He directly asked Zack and Deborah to compose the soundtrack for Matthias Schweighöfer's Army of Thieves (which is produced by them).
  • Auteur License:
    • He had full artistic freedom on virtually every film he made from 300 to Batman v. Superman, minus some truncated theatrical versions here and there. The extremely polarizing reception to BvS prompted some Warner Bros. execs to enforce changes on the original script of Justice League. They then demanded reshoots, and with Snyder stepping down before these happened, the film was dramatically altered without his input.
    • He's also known to have granted a generous amount of this to his fellow DCEU directors like Patty Jenkins and James Wan and to screenwriter Allan Heinberg. While he had a particular vision for the Amazons and the Atlanteans, he was reportedly very hands-off in regards to how Jenkins/Heinberg and Wan wanted to handle things their way, hence the infamous amounts of Broad Strokes Wonder Woman, Aquaman and even moreso Wonder Woman 1984 take in connecting to his DC films. All of it is with his expressed blessing and Jenkins and Wan had gone out of their way to include some loving nods towards his style in their own films out of gratitude for the creative freedom.
    • Netflix, meanwhile, gave him free reins in the making of Army of the Dead and for every subsequent project he has in store for them.
  • Author Appeal:
    • His take on Superman shows him trying to save his adopted mother. Given that Snyder lost his own mother some years before, this may be a personal fantasy for him.
    • John Boorman's Excalibur, Snyder's favorite film, will be homaged in some way. It is no surprise that he has expressed interest in adapting the Arthurian Legend in 2021.
    • Many of his films also focus on parental relationships, both positive and negative, and their effects on the protagonists.
    • Considering his adaptations of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns (in the form of parts of Batman v. Superman) as well as his adaptation project of The Fountainhead, Snyder appears to have some degree of interest in the works of Ayn Rand. Rorschach is based on well-known Objectivist Steve Ditko's The Question while Word of God from Frank Miller has him admit that Rand's work was influential in The Dark Knight Returns. His DCEU heroes however are far from exhibiting such ideology, and his interest in The Fountainhead stems from the novel's "thesis on the creative process and what it is to create something"note  in his own words.
    • The human body is put on display in most of his films, not merely as Fanservice but showcasing a Heroic Build in action. Workout Fanservice is on the low end but also uses Bullet Time as the characters throw spears, swing hammers or are in a Big Heroic Run. He also keeps himself in excellent shape with exercise equipment nearby, reasoning he can't explain to the actors what he is looking for unless he can perform it himself.
  • Breakthrough Hit: He had success with Dawn of the Dead, but 300 was the film that made him a big name.
  • invokedCareer Resurrection: Following the notorious meltdown of the DC Extended Universe after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the questionable handling of Justice League by Warner Bros. after the loss of his daughter in 2017, Snyder's career saw a rebound in 2021 with Army of the Dead and his version of Justice League, with both of which ending up among his best-received works. While it is not certain as of yet if he will work with big film studios again, he's working on a myriad of projects for Netflix.
  • The Charmer: One of his notable non-directing talents is that his naturally passionate and excitable Nice Guy charisma wins over many actors (Ben Affleck admitted he agreed to play Batman mainly because of Snyder's sheer passion for the project despite not totally understanding the outline) and actresses (Amy Adams went so far as to say she'd mop a floor if Snyder told her to) who all praise him as a dream to work with, some of whom demonstrate Undying Loyalty to him (such as Ray Fisher).
  • Color Wash: Even back in the Dawn of the Dead remake, Snyder was playing around with the color palette of his films. A hell of a lot.
  • invokedCopiously Credited Creator: He produced, wrote, directed, handled the camera work, and did the cinematography of Army of the Dead.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • He appears as a soldier/mercenary protecting the evacuation of the Capitol in the opening of Dawn of the Dead.
    • He was a soldier in Vietnam in Watchmen during Dr. Manhattan's rampage on the Viet Cong soldiers.
    • He voiced the traitor Truck in the Bad Future scene of Batman v Superman.
    • He appeared as a World War I British soldier holding a Lewis Gun in the background of the 1918 photo seen in both Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman.
    • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Lois Lane passes by a café near Superman's monument. He can be seen sitting inside said café.
  • Creator Couple: Snyder's production company, The Stone Quarry, is co-run by his wife Deborah. She has been involved in the production of every film he has made up to this day (including Dawn of the Dead in which she was uncredited), and they have taken numerous creative decisions together, including casting choices such as Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa to play Aquaman.
  • Creator Recovery:
    • After leaving the DCEU after the death of his daughter, Snyder found working on smaller films such as the short Snow Steam Iron to be a cathartic experience.
    • He considers Army of the Dead to be a palate cleanser and a fun experience free of the Executive Meddling he had to put up with when making Justice League.
    • Along with his return to form with Army of the Dead following the tragedy he and his family endured in 2017 with the loss of his daughter Autumn, his version of Justice League ended up surprisingly less tragic and more hopeful than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which, to be fair, was the intended goal according to screenwriter Chris Terrio).
  • Creator Thumbprint:
  • Darkhorse Casting:
    • He has the habit of casting then-obscure or lesser-known actors in major parts. Notable examples include Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.
    • An even more glaring example is audiobook narrator and Bit Character actor Ray Porter as the voice of Darkseid in his version of Justice League.
    • He chose an unknown actor, Wayne T. Carr, to play John Stewart in his version of Justice League and even filmed his scene in his backyard, but Warner Bros. vetoed the use of that scene.
  • invokedDevelopment Hell: He has stated in March 2021 that the USA are currently "too divided" for his project of adaptation of The Fountainhead to see the light of day and that he's in no rush to move forward on it.
  • invokedDivorced Installment: The story of Rebel Moon was meant to be set in Star Wars until Snyder left the project and retooled it as a standalone movie set within its own universe after partnering with Netflix.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: With all his action movies he keeps in good physical shape himself, keeping a small gym in his office and participated in the same extreme training the actors went through for 300. He reasons he needs to be capable of showing the actors and stunt team what he is looking for and can't do that without being on a similar fitness level.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Whenever any of his movies feature a happy ending, or at least a Bittersweet Ending, it's earned through much fortitude on the heroes' part.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • He left Universal for Warner Bros. for this reason after Dawn of the Dead.
    • He still hasn't released a Director's Cut of Sucker Punch and has hinted several times that the extended version isn't yet close to his full vision of it. The film's theatrical version was shortened out of studio demands (and that pattern would repeat down the line).
    • Averted with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Snyder was virtually free of studio interference in the making of those, save for having to reduce the length of the latter for the theatrical release.
    • Unlike his previous DC films, Snyder was under the scrutiny of some studio executives (a "vocal minority" according to him) when making Justice League following the negative critical reception to Batman v Superman, having to compromise with executive demands (which, among other things, caused him to scrap the film's original script as well as his intended Superman arc of five films in the DCEU and the Giger-like Steppenwolf design he originally wanted to use), and he eventually left in the middle of the film's post-production to spend more time with his family following his daughter's suicide. Joss Whedon took over and proceeded with reshoots, and the film ended up significantly reshaped as the studio wanted. A great number of scenes that Snyder shot during principal photography were either shortened, deleted, altered (with ADR and a brighter color grading especially) or reshot to insert Whedon's dialogues, the film was heavily re-edited and Junkie XL (a frequent collaborator of Snyder) was replaced by Danny Elfman for the soundtrack. Eventually, a Director's Cut of the film devoid of the Whedon additions was scheduled for release on HBO Max in 2021, with all the scrapped Snyder footage and missing characters and the Junkie XL soundtrack, plus additional scenes by Snyder and the original design for Steppenwolf.
  • Fanservice:
    • He's quite fond of drawing attention to his actors' impressive physiques, especially the men.
    • Then you have the Stocking Filler outfits of the lead actresses in Sucker Punch.
  • He Also Did:
    • One of the first prominent works that he directed was a promotional docufiction about Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan's Playground, with some fictional sections following a young aspiring basketball player whose inspiration in life is Jordan.
    • He filmed the Hanukkah music video of Ezra Miller and Dan Fogler.
  • Heroic Build: From the Spartans to Dr. Manhattan, Superman, Batman and Aquaman, expect plenty of beefcake, and shots highlighting it in all its glory in his films. It's all due to Snyder being a fan of Frank Frazetta's use of the trope and Bodybuilding in The '80s, and he works out to keep himself in pretty good shape too.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Self-sacrifice to protect/save others is a pretty recurrent trope in his filmography.
  • Hit Stop: His films frequently have at least one face being punched in slow motion and getting appropriately deformed by the impact, or similar effects with shockwaves.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: A common theme in Snyder's films is that the antagonists will try to strip away free will. This ranges from zombie outbreaks, enslavement through establishment, "moonblinking" and the Anti-Life Equation.
  • Mythology Gag: His DC Extended Universe movies are packed with visual and narrative references to multiple DC Comics one-shots and runs, and other adaptations of these. A list can be found here.
  • Nice Guy: Despite the cynical and dark worlds he depicts, some of Snyder's movie characters still remain nice guys at the core, such as Superman, the Flash and Nite Owl, even though they have a really hard time coping with their world. Batman even Took a Level in Kindness by the time of his version of Justice League. Soren and Ludwig Dieter count as well.
    • Snyder himself also counts as people who work with him say he is very friendly and professional. Despite his passion for making movies, he is also a loving family man. He backed out of his involvement on Justice League (his biggest passion project) to be there for his family after a great tragedy.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Another reason for his dark and gloomy color palettes outside of his Author Appeal is the fact that said palettes render the special effects much better. Case in point, the attempts to "brighten" Justice League after his departure resulted in loads of invokedSpecial Effect Failure, especially with the bright red sky in the climax.
  • Overcrank: Perhaps the filmmaker who's the most associated with slow-motion. His (four-hours long) version of Justice League alone has twenty-four minutes worth of slow-motion. Hilariously enough, Zack has claimed to not actually like slow-motion all that much and believes that only a total of "one percent" of his collective filmography uses it, though he also conceded that someone doing analysis could probably claim it's actually "fifty percent".
  • Parental Issues: A Creator Thumbprint of his, where almost every film he's done has something to do with parents.
    • Dawn of the Dead has a survivor who is about to be a father. His devotion to his family drives him insane as he's faced with his wife and his child's zombification. There's also another survivor whose daughter was a victim of the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • 300 is about an entire society where the relationship between child and parent is complicated due to Sparta's goal of having a highly militaristic culture that is the most badass in all the world. At least three characters are shown to be "Well Done Son!" Guys who wish to impress their fathers or father figures.
    • Sucker Punch: Baby Doll is a recently orphaned teenager who is adopted by an abusive and power-hungry uncle.
    • DC Extended Universe: Superman had a complicatedly strained relationship with his adoptive father Jonathan Kent, Batman's parents were shot dead (duh), Wonder Woman feels restricted by her mother Hippolyta and grew unaware that her father is actually Zeus (king of the Gods of Olympus), Aquaman feels abandoned by his mother Atlanna, the Flash's father is in jail and discouraging his obsession with his mother's mysterious death, and Cyborg lost his mother and blames his father for his current condition (and ends up losing him too). Lex Luthor is also rather cross about his father's mistreatment of him.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sexual predators in his films are invariably portrayed as loathsome and pathetic creeps who always get a swift and brutal comeuppance. Examples include pedophile Gerald Grice (who gets a meat cleaver bashed in his head by Rorschach), the abuser of Las Vegas zombie outbreak refugees Burt Cummings (who gets sacrificed by Lily "The Coyote" to the zombie horde and gets turned into one of them), a sex pest and a human trafficker (Superman wrecks the former's truck and Batman roughs up the latter before he's ultimately lynched in prison), and the Imperium soldiers (a normally pacifistic Jimmy shoots their leader).
  • invokedReal Song Theme Tune: He seems to love this (outside of his DCEU films).
  • Re-Cut: A number of Snyder's movies had their theatrical cuts shortened, for various reasons.
    • Happened to Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, Sucker Punch and Batman v. Superman. Sucker Punch has yet to have a "Director's Cut".
    • Justice League got chopped up to pieces during the infamous Troubled Production that followed his departure from the filming. A lot of footage was clearly missing amidst the Joss Whedon additions. Eventually, a fully Snyder Director's Cut of the film was released in 2021 on HBO Max.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A number of his films, most notably Sucker Punch and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have elements and hidden messages that only become apparent on a second or third viewing. Or more.
  • Rule of Symbolism: He simply cannot make a movie without some sort of symbolism, one way or another. The parallels to Jesus in his representation of Superman are textbook examples. Less obvious references for the non-initiated include the Mahabharata, of which he's a fan.
  • Scenery Porn: Shown most prominent in 300, Legend of the Guardians, Sucker Punch, and his DC Extended Universe films.
  • Shout-Out: John Boorman's Excalibur, with its striking dreamlike and painterly visuals, was one of the movies which inspired him to become a filmmaker. Thus, homages to King Arthur and Mordred's Mutual Kill have shown up in 300 and Batman v Superman. There's also the excerpts from Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung in Army of the Dead, which were also used in Excalibur.
  • Show, Don't Tell: A firm believer in this. His films have a huge emphasis on visual storytelling and crucial plot points, backstory and character motivations are often conveyed without dialogue. The opening credits sequence of Watchmen is especially praised for getting across decades of information in just a few minutes.
  • Signature Style: Lots of slow motion, dark/gloomy color filters, visual references to works of art, focus on parenting and the positive and negative effects parents can have on children well into adulthood, heavy use of non-visual storytelling with crucial story elements often being conveyed without any dialogue, likable lead characters, extensive use of narration, wide shots and comparatively long takes in action sequences, use of religious symbolism, unconventional casting choices and use of lesser known actors in major roles and lots of shots of actors' impressive physiques.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Varies depending on the project.
  • Slow-Motion Drop: One of the undisputed kings of this trope, especially with ammunition cartridge cases or artillery shells flying, falling and bouncing on the ground.
  • Special Guest: He appeared in the 365th episode of Teen Titans Go!, voicing a cartoon version of himself.
  • Teasing Creator: He is a prominent user of the social media Vero, and he has shared numerous screenshots and behind-the-scenes photos of his version of Justice League on it for fans during the two years and a half prior to the announcement of its eventual release on HBO Max. That teasing was aimed at helping the campaign to get the film released, and needless to say, it succeeded.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Snyder is a Performer through and through. A lot of criticism gear towards his work is often the lack of logic in some characters' actions, blocking, or cinematography (why did the light bulb get destroyed when Baby Doll's sister is the one who got shot? The extended cut answers this as she fires two shots, one of which hits the stepfather in the arm and ricochets off the pipe and the other hits the bulb). But it rears right back to people praising those same issues for being unique, remarkable, beautiful as well as effectively emotional.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: The trope gets deconstructed or even outright averted in some of his works. Most famously, Superman and Batman are put in situations where they can't save innocents unless they kill a villain. Jimmy from Rebel Moon also took a vow of pacifism, which he was forced to break in order to protect his two friends from a barbaric general. Snyder has gone on record stating that to him it feels like these heroes are being handled with kid gloves if you don't put them in scenarios where they have to choose between their convictions and the greater good.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • 300: This movie based on the Real Life Battle of Thermopylae is rife with fantastical elements like giant wolves, goat men, and God-Kings. So naturally, the entire film is actually a story being told by a Spartan to pump up an army that is about to face off against a massive Persian enemy.
    • Sucker Punch: Three levels of reality being juggled by a traumatized girl as she is admitted to an asylum. Despite her status as the protagonist, the girl is not the narrator, who is actually a separate character that also may or may not be an actual real person.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: An In-Universe version where a testifying witness of Superman's supposed heat-vision-fueled rampage turns out to have been lying the whole time. It soon spreads a nasty spiral of distrust around Superman, with devastating results.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: While often done is a stylized way, his films generally don't hold back on showing the graphic effects of violence, be it physical harm to the body or general destruction.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: If the heroes of Snyder's films have Heroic Builds, their shirt's gotta come off at least once. Unless they're Spartans, which means they're shirtless all the time.
  • What Could Have Been: