Zombies, Spartans, And Owls: The Strange Journey Of Zack Snyder
Strong Female Characters
While the most memorable characters from Sndyer’s movies may be Leonidas, The Comedian, and Ving Rhames, each movie has a formidable female character who helps the audience connect through the sea of violence and macho, and serves as the soul of the film. The protagonist of Dawn of the Dead, Ana (Played by Sarah Polley) is a perfect example. The audience sees the story through her eyes, and feels what she feels. In 300 and Watchmen, women get in on the ass-kicking. Lena Headey as the Queen of Sparta and Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre hold their own as far as the violence is concerned, but they also serve as the emotional counterpart to their emotionless better halves, thus allowing the larger than life characters of Leonidas and Dr. Manhattan to seem more human. Snyder’s ultimate homage to female empowerment is obviously Sucker Punch. The cast of feisty and beautiful women battle their way through multiple violent fantasies as they try to shed the chains that imprison them. While this film was not the most critically acclaimed, the strength of characters in it is undeniable, and that strength is one of the hallmarks of Zack Snyder’s work.
Cast of Unknowns
Each of the four live-action films Snyder has directed had casts of relative unknowns. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like Ty Burrell, Gerard Butler, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Carla Gugino hadn’t been in movies before. They had. But their roles in Snyder’s films undoubtedly propelled them to bigger and better things. Especially in the case of Gerard Butler who before 300 was best known as the third male lead in Reign of Fire.
This is the true trademark of Snyder’s work. The protagonist who sacrifices his life for the benefit of others. Michael from Dawn of the Dead, played by Jake Weber, forgoes his burgeoning love for Ana in the interest of allowing her to live the zombie-free life on a boat. Leonidas, famously refuses to retreat in the face of certain death, so can he rip out some of Xerxes bizarre face jewelry with a sweet spear throw. Rorschach forces Dr. Manhattan to end his life. The case can be made his motives were selfish, but his death allowed the world to ostensibly live in peace, so it qualifies. Baby Doll, allows the ridiculously handsome Jon Hamm to lobotomize her, allowing her friend to escape to freedom. Even Soren the owl, chooses to remain a slave instead of joining the evil over class. In the end, it is these characters’ selflessness that endears them to us. That connection allows these films to truly hit home and resonate with all of us. Amidst the violence, the blood, and the breasts, these movies which could so easily be salutes to action and machismo, instead have real soul and depth. This is what makes Zack Snyder unique among our current class of burgeoning Directors and binds his diverse filmography together.
So why do we care? Because we’re trusting him with Superman! The Superman story has been difficult to execute, even in the accomplished and capable hand of Brian Singer. But I, for one, think Snyder is going to knock it out of the park. If we look at the themes discussed above, and imagine them as part of a Superman story, I think we get a great movie. We’ve already got a relatively unknown actor playing Superman. Add to that a strong Lois Lane, a role right in the wheelhouse of Amy Adams, a bunch of well executed violence, and a self sacrificing superhero, and you’ve got a slam dunk. Too bad we’ll have to wait til 2013 to find out. If his first five pictures are any indication, Man of Steel will be well worth the wait.