By Bob Clark
Over the past several years, Zack Snyder has revealed himself to be one of the most crassy commercial, and yet highly unpretentious and self-revelatory filmmakers of the modern era. Every one of the five films he’s made so far are utterly superficial pieces of entertainment, the likes of which would make a puddle seem at least as deep as the shallow end of one of the Great Lakes, but at the same time they’re all driven by some intensely personal drive on his part. Yes, you can look at fluff like his Dawn of the Dead remake or his shot-for-panel adaptations of Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and write them off as mere fanboy self-indulgent cinema, the type that’s more masturbatory to a whole new generation of American otaku than a whole Chan-board’s worth of hardcore hentai, and to a very large extent you’d be right to do so. But still, there are so many things that Snyder has continually gotten right in his fever-pitch recreations of all the most popular tropes in horror, fantasy and superhero filmmaking of the past ten years that it would be irresponsible to ignore him entirely. Even if you want to disrespect the director for his dedicated, geeky enthusiasm for each project and call him out creating a series of what might be called happy accidents while concentrating on only the polished surface-level of all his action-packed, CGI soaked spectacles, you’d risk alienating yourself from one of the more educational experiences of modern blockbuster cinema. Take Dawn of the Dead, a direct remake of perhaps the most beloved of George Romero’s zombie horrorshows that lifted its premise of survivors taking refuge in a crass contemporary shopping mall while at the same time ditching so much of the deadpan humor that made the original a classic satire of modern consumerism– sure, it’s nowhere near as polished or even as scary as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, but in its own way it may be the smarter movie, and perhaps even stronger than Romero’s version was itself. It helped rescue the zombie-genre from years of complacency set in by the overly dogmatic recycling of its own tentpole rules, while at the same time wisely jettisoning the gallows-humor reflex that had deflated all the conspiratorial tension that flavored the original Night of the Living Dead.