One thing to measure a film by is the effect it has one the audience’s emotions. Luckily for those who are well versed in Zack Snyder’s flawless filmography, emotion is one of the key factors his films are never lacking in. From the defeat of Leonidas in the reign of arrows from Xerxe’s forces in 300 to the gut-wrenching moments in Man of Steel when Clark asks Jonathan if he can “keep pretending he’s [his] son”, we break down the most heart-breaking and emotional moments from Snyder’s filmography.
“Focus on my voice, pretend it’s an island…”
From Man of Steel comes one of the film’s most distinct moments of pure emotion and understanding- a moment so heavy to watch it felt more like it belonged in an Oscar winning drama and not a film about Superman. It was obvious from the trailers alone that the film would be a much more mature film than it’s 1970 predecessor.
The scene above takes place when Clark is in elementary school and begins to experience his powers coming at him (X-ray vision and his hearing), when he storms out of the class-room unable to handle the swell of noise and the sighs of literally seeing through people. Clark causes an uproar when he locks himself in the janitorial closet and the whole school is attempting to tall him out while the students call Clark a freak. Martha Kent, played by an intense and motherly Diane Lane, shows up to coax Clark out.
Martha Kent: Sweetie. How can I help you if you won’t let me in?
Clark Kent : The world’s too big, Mom.
Martha Kent: Then make it small. Just, um, focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?
Clark Kent : I see it.
Martha Kent: Then swim towards it, honey.
Clark Kent : What’s wrong with me, Mom?
For a film released near Father’s Day, Man of Steel played the mother-card almost as well and close to the heart as Clark and Jonathan Kent’s interactions. An interesting part about the scene is that Martha Kent’s dialogue is almost lifted from Smallville which Snyder has cited several times as being a big fan of.
“It’s an honor to die at your side.”
“It’s an honor to have lived at yours.”
One could chalk the entire last 30 minutes of Snyder’s 300 up to being one of the most well done emotional crescendos in any film ever made- and that would be an accurate judgement.
Fighting a losing war against the greater Persian Empire lead by the God-King Xerxes, King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans had fought a long and viscous battle to protect their country against the mystical foreign forces. Finally, as his wife convinces the council to send more Spartans to her husband’s cause- Leonidas realizes what he must do to stop the war at all costs. Taking Xerxes up on his offer of surrender, Leonidas and the remnants of his 300 show up as Xerxes and millions of archers await Leonidas to lay down his arms. Through the film we see the carnage of war through Snyder’s lens as well as a truly stunning balance of the personal impacts of war on Queen Gorgo as she remains in Sparta,and even the un-intentional psychologically abused Ephialtes succumbing to a life of debauchery in a contrast of the Spartans lifestyles and motivations to Xerxe’s.
It’s been more than thirty years since the wolf and the winter cold. And now, as then, it is not fear that grips him, only restlessness. A heightened sense of things. The seaborn breeze, coolly, kissing the sweat at his chest and neck. Gulls cawing, complaining, even as they feast on the thousands of floating dead. The steady breathing of the 300 at his back, ready to die for him without a moment’s pause. Everyone of them ready, to die.
His helmet was stifling, it narrowed his vision. And he must see far. His shield was heavy. It threw him off balance. And his target is far away.
The scene ends with a tear-jerking shot of Leonidas and the Spartans being beat down and beating down the overwhelming Persians when Leonidas opens his arms to embrace his defeat, knowing that he was but a part of a greater war for freedom.
When a film as emotionally complex and in-depth on such a personal level like WATCHMEN is referenced, it’s hard to think of any other scene except for Billy Crudup’s (shockingly Oscar-less) Mars reflection as Jon Osterman/ Dr. Manhattan.
Set to the stirring and truly awe-inspiring “Pruit Igoe and Prophecies” by The Philip Glass Ensemble, Dr. Manhattan guides the audience through his entire life, from arriving at the test-site to becoming the God he is today and to he and Sally Jupiter’s first encounter.
The scene, told through monologues and flashbacks, lets us see what the blue man used to be in an important moment for the audience and the character, as it is initially hard to relate to a cold and distant glowing blue Adonis in the film’s first half- which allows us to empathize with not only Sally; but with why Dr. Manhattan would act like he has. A touching reflection of Manhattan’s attention to detail in every facet of his life taps into a very personal spot all people have, and that’s the cold reflection of the past leading to a calculating indifference in the present that most would say “distant” but really reflects to “too close”. It’s a testament to Snyder’s direction and care as well as Crudup’s performance that the most foreign character becomes the closest to the audience.
…while I am standing still. I prefer the stillness here. I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
Dawn of the Dead, Snyder’s first foray into mainstream success, is arguably his darkest. There is no overwhelming message of inspiration or success despite grim odds, there are no emotionally satisfying or redeeming moments- there is no joy in this film on an over-arching level. The only joy Snyder gave us (despite some gorgeous tracking shots, excellent lighting, and heavy gore) was the fact the zombies didn’t eat the dog. This is what makes Michael and Ana’s relationship so crucial- it is the only thing “happy” through the whole film, and even then it ends bitterly- albeit heavy in the “feels” department.
Upon arriving at the docks after an ill-fated but somewhat successful break from the shopping mall, the survivors are ready to sail off into the rising sun when Michael stays behind, revealing he was bitten. It’s only a matter of time till he turns, despite Ana’s emotional plea for him to come with them in hopes that they find a cure.
Yeah. I think I’ll just stay here awhile. Enjoy the sunrise.
As the running dead pour onto the dock, Michael watches Ana and the crew sail away, and slowly lifts his pistol up to his chin as the “dawn of the dead” swell around him.
Sucker Punch was a tough one to place. So many moments in the film directly tug at the heart; but above them all stands the Future-City Train scene (Sweet Pea stealing the knife). In one that is often hailed as the film’s greatest scene, The girls fight through a subway train full of cyborgs as they race to disarm a WMD from detonating in a futuristic city. Through the fight, the girls attempt to steal a knife crucial to their escape from the pig-like cook- and it all seems to be going well.
Set and bumping to “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the bomb is seemingly disarmed (the cook subdued and the knife almost removed by Sweet Pea) until one of the robots leaps up and re-arms it (the radio in the real world short circuits when a wire is exposed to water), which causes Sweet Pea to be attacked by the rabid cook- until Rocket stops the knife with her own body.
In the fantasy, Rocket ejects Sweet Pea to safety and stays behind on the death-train. This scene reinforces the message of sisterhood and guardians- the sister Sweet Pea “saves” through her fantasy of Baby Doll in Snyder’s multi-layered and rich visual-opera. Shortly after, the girls are busted in the dressing room and Amber and Blondie are fatally shot by Mr. Blue, who then attempts to rape Baby Doll before being stabbed to death by her.
For Zack Snyder’s Legend Of The Guardians being a children’s movie, it sure it dark with emotional character moments. However, the purest one that stands out to me is the death of Soren’s brother, Kludd. In this scene, Soren was trying to save Kludd from the brainwashing “The Pure Ones” had done to him, but instead Kludd still wanted to fight. Eventually, the emotional rollercoaster took a turn for the worst when Kludd was about to fall off the tree in the pyre below. For a moment, Kludd returned to normal and begged his brother to lift him to safety. Soren believed that the original Kludd was still in there somewhere, and agreed to save his life, thinking he could salvage him. However, as soon as Kludd thought he would be helped, he tried to attack Soren and kill him in return. Unfortunately, the tree branch broke and Kludd descended into the fiery pits below, symbolizing that his evil actions have reserved him a spot in hell.
Did you have a moment that wasn’t mentioned?
Do you think the wrong moments were chosen?
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