Movie/TV Reviews

Final Review – Zack Snyder’s Comic Book Films

With the recent critical failure of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I thought it would be nice to analyze the famed director’s movies to see what he’s good at and what he’s not.  The movies I’m going to be analyzing are 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, and BvS.  Though Snyder has made more movies, these four are his only comic book ones.  Without further ado, let’s get to 300.

300: Score: 6.5/10 –

I actually really like Zack Snyder.  I think he’s inventive in terms of his filmmaking and that can be clearly proven in his Spartan epic, 300.  300 takes place in 480 B.C. and tells the tale of King Leonidas of Sparta and his fight against the Persians.  Along for the ride are 300 of Spartan men who are essentially riding to their doom.  They know that the Persian army is too strong, but they still fight all the way to the end.  It’s a classic tale of going against an large empire with a small force and I really like that aspect.

The action is incredible when it comes to 300.  The backdrop filled with flying arrows and bloody spears makes the landscape feel grand and epic in scope.  Snyder did something really cool in this movie when it came to action.  He would slow things down to show the setup of the fight in glorious visuals and then speed up the action to increase the films brutality.  This effect also has a negative effect, however, because it overly exemplifies the “manliness” of the Spartans (the video below shows what I mean).

I just think Mr. Snack Cider went way too far with moments in the action and that somewhat took the movie out of realism.  Though the movie doesn’t focus on realism, I’m still not that drawn into the film’s lore.  Films can be drowned in fantasy and still have that sense of realism that draws viewers.  However, 300 doesn’t try to make the viewers believe in the world that the movie exists in.  Instead, it does the opposite by creating characters that clearly didn’t exist during this time.  For a movie that somewhat presents itself as a depiction of something that actually happened (the 300 spartans who challenged Xerxes I in Thermopylae), it doesn’t do a good job in reminding us that this was an event that existed in our world.

Despite its lack of realism, the movie benefits from ready-made one liners that exist in almost every scene of the film.  This movie has become on of the more quotable films in recent memory.  Lines such as “THIS IS SPARTA” and “TONIGHT, WE DINE IN HELL” are just super quotable.  Though they are cheesy, who cares?

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The acting also blends very well with 300’s world.  Since the movie is super manly, Gerard Butler was a perfect choice for Leonidas.  He’s fantastic in every scene that he’s in and he really shows us why Leonidas I is the legend that he is today.  Though his acting is over-the-top, the movie itself is over-the-top so it doesn’t feel out of line at all.  The inclusion of Michael Fassbender is also interesting.  Fassbender doesn’t usually play crazy people in movies and I just thought it was fun to see Fassbender playing a blood-crazed, young Spartan warrior.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

While 300 boasts terrific action and awesome protagonists, it lacks a decent antagonist.  Xerxes just comes off as weird and creepy.  There isn’t any depth at all added to the character – he’s just evil ruler #300 (see what I did there…) and he isn’t great.  His grandeur is only seen through his clothing and lines given by other characters.  He himself doesn’t appear terrifying when he should be.

Sack of Snyder (pretzels) is good when it comes to visuals, but he just doesn’t do that well when it comes to actually telling a story.  This was a major problem in Batman v Superman (the review for that will be up when I’m done with some more Tic-Tac Spider reviews).

Overall, 300 is good if not just okay.  It benefits from wonderful action, awesome one-liners, and fairly good acting.  It also features director Zack Snyder’s ability to portray epic scope and grand visuals.  However, it fails to present a coherent plot and values visuals over storytelling.

 

Watchmen: Score: 6/10 –

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Watchmen shows its audience what Zack Snyder could do with the superhero industry. Though the film was neither financially nor critically successful, I think Watchmen is ambitious and bold in terms of its stylistic choices. However, the film is almost too audacious and falls flat.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe in which costumed crime fighters have existed in our world since WWI. The film takes place in the 1980s when extreme US and Russian tensions still are at an all time high, which prompts many to believe that the world might end soon. The film follows (mostly) retired superheroes (who used to be a team called The Watchmen) as they try to solve the mystery behind the murder of one of their own hero teammates. Most of these heroes hung up their costumes a long time ago and the only super powered one works with the government, but one hero is still active. There’s Nite Owl, a Batman-esque hero, Rorshach, the only active hero, Silk Spectre, a Black Widow type character, Dr. Manhattan, an all-powerful superhero who has the power to manipulate matter, and the Comedian, the dead hero who the other members of the Watchmen are trying to find out about.

Let me get this out of the way first: Watchmen is a phenomenal graphic novel. It is not only the first graphic novel I ever read, but also the best graphic novel I ever had the pleasure of picking up. The dark storyline and gritty dialogue coalesce to form one awesome elongated comic book. The graphic novel was one of the first in the genre to actually be taken seriously. Up until then, comic books were considered campy, but Watchmen was one of the first graphic novels that appealed to an older demographic. The book is widely regarded today as one of the most influential graphic novels of all time and ranks among some of my favorite comic book storylines.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie, however, isn’t that great. It definitely succeeds in bringing the comic panels to the big screen. The costumes look as though they were torn straight from author Alan Moore’s pages and the dialogue nearly matches that of the book. However, it fails to actually present a coherent movie that resonates with people who haven’t read the book. For the people who have read the book, the movie’s awesome, but I’m a firm believer that a movie should stand on its own. Often times I hear that I have to read the book to watch the movie, but I believe that film adaptations of books should not make their viewers have to read the book before watching the movie.

Let’s talk about the positives first. The film’s visuals are fantastic. Zack Snyder knows how to make a film look sexy like no other director and this film is a testament to his ability. From the visuals alone, it’s pretty easy for one to figure out how much of a comic book fan Snyder is. He knows the genre very well and he himself has repeatedly said in interviews that he loved comic books throughout his life. The fact that he was able to visually transform the comic panels in the Watchmen book to frames in movies is just awesome. Rorschach’s mask animation is also super cool.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The action is also pretty neat in that it utilizes the same fighting style that Snyder (pretzels) successfully pulled off with 300 (the kind that slows down and speeds back up).  The choreography is definitely staged, but it’s still brutal and unrelenting (see the video below).  Back then, comic book movies that were Rated R did not do too well at the box office due to box office takeover of PG-3 superhero movies such as the Dark Knight and Iron Man.  This movie could have been sugarcoated and made to be PG-13 if most of the blood was removed, but Snyder’s decision to keep the movie Rated R to stick 100% to the style of the graphic novel is bold.

A main problem this movie had is that it isn’t very well acted.  Maybe this is due to the absolutely bonkers storyline and crazy characters, but the acting wasn’t that great.  Rorschach sounded like a discount Christian Bale as Batman and Silk Spectre’s line delivery didn’t feel natural.  Dr. Manhattan sounded monotonous, but that might actually have to do with the fact that Manhattan is supposed to be disconnected from humanity (that’s what happens when you suddenly become a god among men).  Ozymandias speaks all of his lines in this really slow, obviously evil voice and it kind of gets on my nerves because he stretches the film’s length way past where it should be (the movie could honestly chop off a good 20 minutes and that would make the film 2 hrs and 22 minutes as opposed to 2 hrs and 42 minutes).  I agree that the movie should be length, but it shouldn’t be that lengthy.

The biggest positive I can give for Watchmen is its opening credits scene (see below):

Those six minutes tell a completely satisfying story that could honestly be a separate movie.  This scene shows that Zack Snyder knows how to make visual poetry in a grand fashion.  The opening is artistic and is a great way of introducing the alternate reality that the movie takes place in.  Also, the inclusion of Bob Dylan only elevates this scene even more!

Overall, Watchmen is okay.  Its dark, gritty, and merciless tone makes a stylistic film that is a nice nod to the fantastic graphic novel of the same name.  However, it falls flat when it comes to acting and some scenes seem unnecessary or too long.  Watchmen will please fans of the book, but will probably confuse general audiences.  However, general audiences will marvel at the action and effects and are pulled off very well by Zack Snyder.

Man of Steel: Score 6/10. –

Man of Steel presents an interesting, but bleak take on Superman.  In this film, Snyder shows his range by taking Superman in unexplored territory.

Once again, the visuals are phenomenal.  The visuals are shown in a way that makes me really care about Superman and what he has to go through (the soundtrack does this as well).  Also, the CGI isn’t distracting since it blends really well into the film.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The story is pretty much a dark reboot – Kal El gets sent on a ship from Krypton to Earth, crashes in Kansas, gets adopted, becomes Clark Kent, learns about his powers, learns about his planet and real parents, becomes Superman, and fights a bad guy from Krypton (General Zod).  Snyder tells the story half the time from the viewpoint of Clark, and the other half from that of Lois Lane, which I find very interesting.  It’s easy to draw comparisons between Man of Steel and Superman (1978), but this Superman is more grounded in reality and more torn apart by facing the reality that the world needs to believe in hope.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I will say that the acting is very well done.  This movie features A-list actors doing a pretty nice job.  Henry Cavill plays an awesome Superman who is capable of showing multiple facial features.  Though he’s British, he pulls off a really good American accent.  I just think he isn’t as great as Christopher Reeve, but maybe that’s because Christopher Reeve’s Superman was more lighthearted and I just like that – this movie wasn’t made to be as lighthearted as Superman (1978).  Amy Adams plays a curious Lois Lane, who lives to tell the perfect newspaper story.  Lawrence Fishburne is a great Perry White, who actually talks like a real Editor-in-Chief.  Kevin Costner and Diane Lane wonderfully play the Kent parents.  Russell Crowe did what he had to do to play Jor El (just like how Marlon Brando had to play a floating head).  Finally, Michael Shannon is a pretty scary General Zod.  Maybe Michael Shannon as an actor just scares me, but Shannon plays a solid enough villain.  I don’t get his plan, but I liked his crazy line delivery.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The main problem a ton of people have with this movie is that it was too dark for a Superman film.  Though it’s dark, it isn’t depressing.  Because of Hans Zimmer’s beautiful soundtrack, half the movie gets a sense of hope (the movie itself, however, isn’t very hopeful) and I find it really annoying that people nitpick the end of Man of Steel just to hop on the hate train with.  Yes, a ton of people died in Man of Steel.  However, what would happen if two gods battled it out in one city?  A ton of people would die.  That’s why I don’t actually believe that Man of Steel is a terrible movie.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The main problem I have with the movie is the potential that it had to really start up this DC Extended Universe.  Instead of giving hope to all, Superman just puts on the costume and goes after General Zod.  The darkness of this movie resonates with The Dark Knight Trilogy, but that’s not what Superman is all about!  While the fight scenes are fun to watch, the other scenes are filled with metric tons of sadness.

Another problem is that some of the scenes feel too forced.  For example, Jonathan Kent’s death scene is just really forced and it could have been easily prevented.  I guess he didn’t want everyone seeing Clark Kent save him from a tornado by moving really fast, but I still think the scene feels natural.  However, the scene is elevated by Hans Zimmer’s score, which highlights the battle going inside Clark as he watches his non-biological father die.  If you take away the score (just mute the volume because there isn’t much dialogue – there is a voiceover), the scene just feels really awkward.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Another scene that feels forced is the whole Kal El meets his real father thing.  If I was an alien and my dead alien dad just appeared right before me, I would freak out.  I would also question how he speaks English.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Overall, Man of Steel has nice concepts, but it just doesn’t feel right since Superman isn’t supposed to be that dark of a character.  However, for what the movie was trying to achieve, it did a pretty nice job.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Score: 6.5/10 –

Now I know you’re listening.  Why would I give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that high of a rating out of all of Snyder’s movies?  I’m going to ask you a similar question: Why is the Rotten Tomatoes score at a 29% rotten score?  Most of the critics are complaining that the movie is too dark, long, and confusing.  While I’m not saying that I loved Batman v Superman, I am saying that it was a solid entry in the realm of all DC movies (not just the DCEU).

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Like Watchmen, Batman v Superman had a fantastic opening credits scene that just blew me away.  It was the Wayne death scene that we see in all the other Batman movies, but this one was just better than the rest.  Though I don’t think any other scene in the movie is as emotionally powerful as that one, every scene actually served a purpose.  I will concede that the movie’s editing is bad and that some of transitions are terrible, but at least every scene served a purpose.  Some of the scenes were used to increase the tensions between Batman and Superman and others were used to set up the DC Cinematic Universe.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The plot of the movie is pretty complex.  People don’t like Henry Cavill’s Superman after what happened in Man of Steel.  Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is one of those people.  After two years, another event happens in which Superman is accused of destroying a building in Africa.  Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor convinces the government to give him kryptonite, the body of General Zod, and the Zod’s crashed spaceship.  Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch puts Superman in court so that he could answer for his crimes.  Luthor blows up everyone in the court and everyone else believes that Superman did it.  Bruce Wayne decides to take him down by stealing kryptonite from Luthor.  Though Jeremy Irons’ Alfred doesn’t like it, Batman makes an armored suit and fights Superman after some dream sequences happen.  The two then team up to destroy Doomsday, a recreated General Zod.  Oh yeah, Wonder Woman shows up.

It’s a pleasure to see Batman and Superman fight on the big screen.  In addition, Wonder Woman’s seven minutes of screen time was at least well utilized.  Lois Lane actually did a ton of important work and played an integral part in the film.  Finally, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman just blew the other versions out of the water.   He’s phenomenal in this film and part of that has to do with the way Zack Snyder told him to do certain things.  The audience feels both sympathy and concern for this guy – he’s haunted by the past (his parents’ death and the destruction of Wayne Tower, which killed many of his co-workers) and by the future (his fear of the godlike Superman doing whatever he wants).  Hans Zimmer’s score adds some tonal range to the film – it appears dark, but Zimmer’s score makes it grand and epic.  Also, at least BvS actually had memorable moments – Man of Steel didn’t really have that.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Critics are complaining that BvS is too dark and that it’s drained of lightheartedness and hope.  However, this ISN’T MARVEL!!!  DC = Different Company.  This universe was supposed to be dark from the start (we saw that in Man of Steel and The Dark Knight trilogy, which influenced the DCEU).  While I agree to an extent that BvS lacked hope (Hans Zimmer’s score added some hope in there), I think that people should accept the DCEU for what it is – a universe filled with the most iconic heroes in a world that needs to be saved.  This movie does a pretty good job by showing that the world needs to be saved.

My two biggest problems in this movie consisted of the editing and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  I’m not saying that Eisenberg did a bad job (his take was… unique) with his crazy lines.  I just didn’t get his plan.  That might have to do with the editing of this movie because I heard that Snyder took out a few scenes with Eisenberg, but his plan didn’t make sense.  How did he know when, where, and how everything in the movie was happening?  This problem hurt the story’s cohesiveness, but who cares?  Batman and Superman fight on the big screen and it’s awesome!

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Also, the dream sequences are just really confusing.  Though the Knightmare Batman dream sequence looks awesome, it has a bunch of Darkseid references that general audiences wouldn’t understand.  Just because it contains a reference to a popular comic book character doesn’t mean it makes sense.  Batman literally kills a dozen people and a ton of Parademons fly in the sky (Parademons are the minions of Darkseid, the main enemy of the upcoming Justice League movie).  I like the aspect of Superman taking off Batman’s mask and then proceeding to kill Bruce because that furthers the animosity of Batman towards Superman.  However, the other stuff is just confusing.  When a friend of mine asked me what this all meant, I said that the scene was supposed to symbolize Batman’s fear of Superman and that the flying things in the background were aliens just like Superman.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Also, when Batman wakes up, why was the Flash there?  What was the purpose of that Flashpoint Paradox (when the Flash goes back in time to change a possible future)?  I know it’s to set up the future Justice League movie, but I’m sure that Snyder knew that this scene was obviously unnecessary.

One more important flaw – I was promised a full on war and I didn’t really get one on that lasted very long.  When the two heroes brawled on the big screen, I was floored with the way Snyder shot the scenes.  Every surrounding is utilized and the action is very intense.  However, it only lasts for what seems to be ten minutes.  If the movie is called Batman v Superman, I want to see first and foremost Batman versus Superman.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Now for a positive: The acting is great overall.  Like I said before, Affleck’s portrayal of Batman was the highlight of this film.  Henry Cavill is fine as Superman in this movie.  He definitely personifies a god-like being on Earth and he really feels pain whenever people call him a terrible person because he wants to save people.  Gal Gadot was great during her few minutes as Wonder Woman.  I can’t really say if she was good as Diana Prince because there isn’t much screen time of her for that.  Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane – she’s once again the person who’s trying to find the perfect conspiracy story.

Overall, the film is okay, if not great (it’s definitely better than Man of Steel).  It has nice action and it isn’t boring.  However, it’s really dark – a ton of people die.  The awesome and memorable moments in the movie make up for the boring stuff and the visuals are phenomenal.

All in all, Zack Snyder is really good at showing fantastic visuals.  All of these four comic book adaptations are stylish, but they all lack the great stories that they should have.  So what do you think about Zack Snyder’s films?  Feel free to let us know!

Twitter: @MohitPuvvala

NOTE: I don’t own any of the pictures or videos.  If you have an issue with the usage of the media, feel free to let us know.  Thanks!

 

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Categories: Movie/TV Reviews

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