With Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole hitting Australian screens this week, it seems a fitting time for a retrospective on director Zack Snyder.
The former television commercial director made his feature film debut in 2004 with his remake of the classic zombie flick Dawn of the Dead.
Not only becoming one of a handful in the zombie sub-genre to cross the 100 million mark worldwide, even more impressively it became one of the rare few to earn critical praise. While some argued that it lacked the social commentary of George A. Romero’s original, others believed this lean and gruesome version was so much fun it more than made up for any lack of depth.
Revisit some of the gory but also hilarious moments from Dawn of the Dead:
Many critics were less impressed with his next film 300. However, it was the film that announced the arrival of Zack Snyder the auteur.
A fictionalised retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and based on the violent graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300’s mainly computer generated back drop served up a truly unique movie going experience.
While stuffy critics needlessly complained about poor characterisation and shallow dialogue, audiences the world over lapped up the visually arresting buffet on hand and turned “This is Sparta” into the most quotable movie line this side of “Show Me The Money”.
The film ultimately grossed just over 450 million at the worldwide box office making it one of the biggest hits of 2007.
Unlike other directors who make use of the slow motion shot (yes you Michael Bay!), Snyder actually manages to add dramatic effect to action sequences when employing this often over used technique.
Check out the now legendary slow-mo fight scene from 300:
For his next project Snyder took on his biggest challenge yet with Watchmen, an adaptation of Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed graphic novel about a group of retired superheroes uncovering a conspiracy of epic proportions.
In development hell since the mid 80’s and long considered unfilmable by many in the industry, Watchmen had bounced around a number of different studios and directors before landing with Warner Brothers and Snyder.
Critics were split, with some believing the film suffocated on its loyalty to the revered source material, while others felt it was a bold undertaking due to its R-rating, lack of star power and the director’s uncompromising vision for creating the definitive Watchmen movie.
While not exactly a bust at the box office, outside of the graphic novel’s in-built fanbase most movie goers seemed disinterested or perhaps too confused to buy a ticket.
Watch the incredible opening scene from Watchmen:
Opening this week in Australia is Snyder’s most unconventional film yet, the animated family fantasy Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
A seemingly odd choice for the director but Legend of the Guardians may possibly be the most visually ambitious of his projects to date.
Loosely based on the first three books in Kathryn Lasky’s Owls of Ga’Hoole series, this dark 3D fantasy was filmed in Australia with digital effects by Animal Logic the company behind the smash hit Happy Feet. Most likely too dark for many of its intended young audience and with Warner Brothers struggling to market the film successfully, Owls may just become Snyder’s first box office flop. With only 16 million in box office receipts on opening weekend, there seems little hope for the film to recover it’s budget which is reported to be between 80 – 100 million.
Never the less, Legend of The Guardiansis one of the most breath taking animations to ever hit the screen and is probably the first film since Avatar to genuinely make good on its 3D promise.
For his next outing, Snyder will finally direct an original work, this time penned by himself and Steve Shibuya. Sucker Punch follows a young girl in the 1950s as she tries to escape an asylum with her friends to avoid being lobotomized. Written over a 5 year period and originally intended to be filmed before Watchmen the film boasts an all female lead cast including Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone and Australia’s own Abbie Cornish.
Snyder has described Sucker Punch as “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns” and also indicates that music will play a big role in the film in a similar way that it did in Moulin Rouge.
Sucker Punch won’t be released till March 2011 but in the meantime you can enjoy the insanely over the top trailer right here:
Rumour also has it that Snyder is one of a handful of directors being considered by Warner Brothers and producer Chris Nolan for the 2012 Superman Reboot. Just the thought of these two visionaries joining forces to reinvent one of cinema’s most iconic heroes is enough to make fanboy hearts everywhere skip a beat.
That wraps up our career rewind on Zack Snyder, so if your a fan of the man’s unique style we highly recommend that you don’t dismiss Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole as just another kids fantasy film and if at all possible go see it in Imax to get the full effect of the amazing 3D animation.