Zack Synder is undoubtedly one of the most divisive directors in Hollywood. For every movie he releases, there is a huge camp of people who absolutely hate it and a huge camp who absolutely love it. While there are a few movies of his where people are firmly in the ‘meh’ camp, it’s much more common that people can’t agree if he released a masterpiece or an overindulgent slow-mo fest. One thing is for certain though, he does have a certain unmistakable style to his movies. While I’m usually in the ‘meh’ camp for his films personally, there are some that I actually like and would consider the best Zack Synder movie.
For me, it comes down to three different choices — his Dawn of The Dead remake, 300, and Watchmen. I really can’t pick any of his mainstream superhero efforts as the best Zack Synder movie. While Man of Steel wasn’t bad and is probably the closest thing I’ll get to a good live-action Dragonball Z fight, it just doesn’t feel hopeful like a Superman movie should. And we can just skip talking about any Synder DC entries after that (yes, fine the Synder Cut is better). So that leaves me with my three options. The Dawn of the Dead remake was stylish and fun but didn’t have the brilliant social commentary of the Romero original. So, nix it. I can’t pick 300 with a straight face, even though its hyper-masculinity and ridiculousness is peak Synder stylistically, so nix it.
So, the best Zack Synder movie is Watchmen. Credit where credit is due, Zack Synder did something that a lot of people thought couldn’t be done. He took the beloved Alan Moore graphic novel and adapted it to the screen. Synder’s visual flair just so happened to be the perfect element to bring the dark universe of Watchmen to life. When it comes to faithful adaptations, it’s hard to be much more faithful than this. Many moments and visuals from the graphic novel were adapted 1:1 to fit the screen. If you love the source material, at the very least you can see some of your favorite panels in motion. That said, some of Synder’s less desirable tendencies did show up here as well, namely the “Hallelujah” scene. Let’s just say that Shrek used the Leonard Cohen classic better and leave it at that. And strangely, as faithful as Synder was to the material, it’s a little bewildering that he completely changed elements of the ending. I guess he thought theater audiences just weren’t ready for a giant mutated squid.
The Alan Moore source material is a genius piece of media, so the fact that Synder came close to appeasing general audiences and fans of the novel alike makes this a pretty impressive endeavor. The cast also helps to elevate this to the best Zack Synder movie. All of the characters were perfectly cast. You have Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II, Billy Crudup as Doctor Manhattan, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, Patrick Wilson as Night Owl II, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. All of them were pitch-perfect in their roles and really brought the characters to life.
Even Rotten Tomatoes ratings agree that this is one of the better Zack Snyder movies. If you look at the ten movies in his filmography, only half of them are fresh and Watchmen is one of them. It’s also the fourth-highest rated overall critic-wise with a 65%. The audience score is even higher with a 71%. At the box office, it didn’t do too shabby either. It had a strong domestic opening, bringing in around $55.2 million and it ended its domestic run with $107.5 million overall. The worldwide gross ended up being around $185.3 million. It had a pretty high budget of $130 million to make back, but it definitely netted the studios a profit. When you factor in the nearly 3-hour runtime and the R rating, this is a pretty good haul.
If you don’t think Watchmen is the best Zack Synder movie, you might be able to at least admit that the opening montage is one of the best things Synder has done period. If you haven’t seen the movie or if it’s been a while, check out the Bob Dylan-scored alternate version of our history influenced by the Watchmen. Even Synder’s biggest detractors have to admit it’s a masterpiece.