Zachary Edward "Zack" Snyder (born 1 March 1966) is an American director, producer and screenwriter. He is well known for his stylized action movies with damn gorgeous cinematography, slow motion sequences and dark and gloomy color filters, and for creating almost shot-for-shot adaptations of comic books.
His biggest directorial challenge to date undoubtedly was to kick-start the Warner Bros./DC Comics shared movie universe commonly referred to as DC Extended Universe, starting with Man of Steel in 2013 then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. He then exited Justice League in the middle of the post-production work in May 2017 after the death of his daughter Autumn in March of that year.
His involvement in directing future DC Films projects remains uncertain, although he and his wife Deborah are still co-producing films in that setting via their company, The Stone Quarry (formerly Cruel and Unusual Films, renamed in 2019).
His next film is titled Army of the Dead, to be produced by and released on Netflix. Projects Snyder has confirmed to be working on include a film adaptation of the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead and an adaptation of the Indian mythology epic Mahabharata.
Works directed by Zack Snyder include:
- Dawn of the Dead (2004)
- 300 (2007)
- Watchmen (2009)
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
- Sucker Punch (2011)
- DC Extended Universe:
- Superman 75th Anniversary (animated short, 2013) note
- Snow Steam Iron (short film, 2017)
- Army of the Dead (Netflix film, TBA)
Tropes common in Zack Snyder's films:
- 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.
- 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.
- Author Appeal:
- His take on Superman shows him trying to save his adopted mother. Given that Zack 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Creator Breakdown: After his daughter tragically committed suicide during post production of Justice League, he decided to step away from the project before reshoots stemming from Executive Meddling were scheduled in UK, wanting to spend more time with his family.
- Creator Cameo: He appears as a soldier/mercenary protecting the evacuation of the Capitol in the opening of Dawn of the Dead, as a soldier in Vietnam in Watchmen, as the voice of Truck in the Bad Future scene of Batman v Superman and 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.
- 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 meddling he had to put up with when making Justice League.
- Creator Thumbprint:
- Aside from the pretty imagery, slow motion shows up a lot in his films, especially faces being punched, firearms shooting and ammunition cartridge cases falling and bouncing on the ground.
- Visual references to Excalibur as well as visual references to Renaissance and classical art (especially works of art that were based on The Bible).
- Executive Meddling:
- The length of a number of his films has been shortened due to studio demands for their theatrical releases. Most infamously, it happened to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A move that, according to many critics, disrupted its narrative flow.
- 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 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 principle photography were either shortened, deleted, altered (with ADR and a brighter color grading especially) or reshot to insert Whedon's dialogues, and the film was heavily re-edited.
- Fan Nickname: His fans sometimes refer to him and his work collectively as the Zack Attack, especially in regards to his ability to drop a picture/teaser/trailer and make the fandom freak out.
- 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.
- Heroic Build: From the Spartans to Dr. Manhattan, Superman, Batman and Aquaman, expect plenty of beefcake, and shots highlighting it in all its glory.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Self-sacrifice to protect/save others is a pretty recurrent trope in his filmography.
- 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 and Nite Owl, even though they have a really hard time coping with their world.
- Overcrank: A prominent user of slow-motion.
- Parental Issues: A Creator Thumbprint of his, where almost every film he's done has something to do with parents.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004) 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, 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. Lex Luthor is also rather cross about his father's mistreatment of him.
- Re-Cut: A number of Snyder's movies had their theatrical cuts shortened, for various and mostly unexplained reasons.
- Rewatch Bonus: A few of his films, most notably Sucker Punch and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have elements 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Varies depending on the project.
- Star-Making Role: He had success with Dawn of the Dead, but 300 was the film that made him a big name.
- 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 characters' actions, blocking, or cinematography (why did the light bulb get destroyed when Baby Doll's sister is the one who got shot?). But it rears right back to people praising those same issues for being remarkable, beautiful as well as effectively emotional.
- 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.
- 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.