One could argue that Zack Snyder’s high-intensity, mythical approach to storytelling is simply a genre choice. It’s a grimdark, Greco-Roman style with sword-and-sorcery sensibilities. And that’s true, to an extent. But even a genre built on drama needs room to breathe, or the big moments start to falter. You need a foundation on which to deliver your payoffs. Remember that scene in “Man of Steel” where Superman gets beer dumped on him and then impales the guy’s truck with a telephone pole? It’s a moment that screams, “Look how dark this guy can get!” But if a barfight is treated with that much severity, there’s little room for the movie to grow once Zod (Michael Shannon) appears.
To be clear, this problem doesn’t ruin all of Snyder’s movies. Like any director, he has better and worse ones. Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl II in “Watchmen” is a great example of a character who exists outside the pervasive Snyder melodrama. He doesn’t see himself as a Greek hero, but rather as a regular guy trying desperately to do the right thing. He provides the contrast necessary for Rorschach to go full grimdark. And despite what the comic’s fans may say, the movie succeeds because of that.
Snyder has also made a couple of films that explore less self-serious material, like the wild world of “Sucker Punch” or the family-friendly “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” and yet the allure of melodrama still pulls him in from time to time. Even the trailers for “Rebel Moon” show a huge cast of characters all scowling from the very beginning. And when half of your movie moves in slow motion, it just becomes a slow-moving movie.