Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Zack Snyder

QuickView: 300 (2016)

“Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!”

King Leonidas

Fittingly nominated for QuickView #300, Zack Snyder’s sophmore feature marked the first of many comicbook-inspired movies and remains arguably his best. 300 is less a film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel than a translation — Snyder would develop a range of visual techniques to emulate the source material, including its dichromatic palette of red and gold, shot almost entirely on digital backlot with only two practical sets. Even Snyder’s trademark overuse of slow-motion seems fitting here, where he is literally recreating panels of Miller’s art. Although based on the Battle of Thermopylae, this is overtly fantasy rather than history, narrated by a Spartan soldier with the purpose of mythologising events. This explains the one-sided perspective that garnered criticism for painting the Persians as barbaric mystics (often monstrously disfigured) whilst the Greeks are styled as the discliplined defenders of rationality and freedom (conveniently ignoring that Sparta was built upon a slave class that is never shown). The cast is filled with character actors able to bring stage skills to empty digital backlot sets; though many are now household names, most were not at the time immediately recognisable faces. 300‘s focus is not the reality of war but a pulse-pounding hypermasculine depiction of battle, cartoonish crimson sprays barely slowing its improbably muscular heroes, who are clad in little more than loincloths, capes, and more underlying homoeroticism than a Top Gun volleyball game. Like much of Zack Snyder’s work, 300 is undeniably style over substance but that is less of an issue here, where the source material was likewise unburdened by depth. When there is this much style, deployed creatively in ways we had never seen before, that can be satisfying in itself.

8/10

QuickView: Army of the Dead (2021)

“You all keep talking about the city like it’s their prison. It’s not. It’s their kingdom.”

Lilly (The Coyote)

In the saturated zombie genre, the proposition of a heist movie set in an infested Las Vegas sounds like a refreshingly fun time. Unfortunately Army of the Dead‘s neon-filled advertising is misleading; the set-up is enjoyable but by the time the crew is ready to enter the city, the atmosphere has already turned dour, heist elements swiftly falling by the wayside amidst familiar zombie action. Whilst it often feels derivative, the film owes more to Aliens than to other zombie films. I routinely forget that Zack Snyder’s debut feature (and one of his best) was the strong 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Zombies as a representation of mindless consumerism has been a genre staple for 40 years, and scaling up from a shopping mall to the Las Vegas Strip is a logical conclusion. This being a Snyder flick, the allegory is either very on the nose (money raining down during a casino firefight) or rather confused (it is the humans who are motivated predominantly by greed, whilst the “intelligent” zombies have other motivations). It all makes for a competent action film with plenty of gore and a few shocks, but there is little that we haven’t seen done better before.

6/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2022 Priyan Meewella

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