When Hollywood tapped wunderkind director Zack Snyder to guide their big-budget FX-heavy epics Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 300 (2006) through to fruition, they pulled him straight from the pinnacle of the advertising world. Snyder already had a veritable plethora of Clios under his belt, thanks to his fluidly filmed, ingenious spots for Corona beer, Nokia cell phones, and other products. He typically held double-duty on the ads as both director and cinematographer, and culled a healthy amount of Tinseltown recognition as a result. Dawn of the Dead represented Snyder's debut. An effects-heavy remake of George A. Romero's 1979 sequel -- about hordes of flesh-hungry zombies storming a shopping mall -- the picture starred Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley. The independent production banners Strike and New Amsterdam co-produced the splatter movie; Universal released it. Unsurprisingly, the film grossed a whopping amount at the box office, enabling Snyder and his wife to run their own shingle, Cruel and Unusual Films; the movie also earned a number of favorable critical reviews.
For his follow-up effort, Snyder beseeched Warners to greenlight a mega-budget adaptation of Frank Miller's best-selling graphic novel 300, about the siege at the Battle of Thermopylae. The studio hesitated, given the lumbering weight of their projects Alexander and Troy, but eventually conceded to Snyder's request. Shot mostly indoors, against a blue screen in a Montreal production facility, the film did healthy business comparable to that of its predecessor, and also drew enthusiastic notices from the likes of Entertainment Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Daily News.
For Snyder's next cinematic venture, he decided to take the reins of a project long (long) in development: the dystopian, effects-laden fantasy actioner Watchmen (2008). Set in an "alternate" version of 1985 and adapted from the comic books by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the movie concerns a number of superheroes, including Ozymandias, Silk Spectre, and Dr. Manhattan, who join forces following the enigmatic death of one of their own.