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Zack Snyder Says He Saved WATCHMEN From The Terry Gilliams of the World

Where there are films based on books and comics, there are arguments about who could have told the on-screen interpretation better. It’s inevitable. When it comes to Watchmen, Joel Silver has some thoughts about how his and Terry Gilliam’s version would have trumped Zack Snyder’s take on Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Snyder, of course, disagrees.

Silver recently spoke with ComingSoon, and among other topics, he discussed Watchmen . Silver and Gilliam were working on the project with 20th Century Fox, but it never came to be. Silver says Gilliam’s concept “was a MUCH much better movie” than Snyder’s 2009 film. Silver went on to say Snyder was too much of a slave to the material; Gilliam, he said, told the story in the graphic novel but with a different perspective.

Silver explained, “What he did was he told the story as-is, but instead of the whole notion of the intergalactic thing which was too hard and too silly, what he did was he maintained that the existence of Doctor Manhattan had changed the whole balance of the world economy, the world political structure. He felt that THAT character really altered the way reality had been. He had the Ozymandias character convince, essentially, the Doctor Manhattan character to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. He was the only character with real supernatural powers, he went back and prevented himself from being turned into Doctor Manhattan, and in the vortex that was created after that occurred these characters from Watchmen only became characters in a comic book.”

dr manhattan

It sounds fascinating. Though Snyder’s film was visually engaging, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gilliam’s spin on the material. Snyder isn’t a fan, though. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he and his wife, Deborah Snyder, replied to Silver’s comments. He claimed the ending Gilliam had planned was “completely insane.”

Actually, he took it a little further: “Yeah, the fans would have stormed the castle on that one. So, honestly, I made Watchmen for myself. It’s probably my favorite movie that I’ve made. And I love the graphic novel and I really love everything about the movie. I love the style. I just love the movie and it was a labor of love. And I made it because I knew that the studio would have made the movie anyway and they would have made it crazy. So, finally I made it to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world.”

That’s a strong statement, and ultimately, like Deborah Snyder says, you can’t win. You’ll have fans that agree with Gilliam’s take, and others who prefer Snyder’s thoughts. It’s the nature of retelling stories that have been beloved for years. Zack Snyder feels like audiences might receive Watchmen differently now: “And I believe that we’ve evolved — I believe that the audiences have evolved. I feel like Watchmen came out at sort of the height of the snarky Internet fanboy — like, when he had his biggest strength. And I think if that movie came out now — and this is just my opinion — because now that we’ve had “Avengers” and comic book culture is well established, I think people would realize that the movie is a satire. You know, the whole movie is a satire. It’s a genre-busting movie. The graphic novel was written to analyze the graphic novel — and comic books and the Cold War and politics and the place that comic books play in the mythology of pop culture. I guess that’s what I’m getting at with the end of Watchmen — in the end, the most important thing with the end was that it tells the story of the graphic novel. The morality tale of the graphic novel is still told exactly as it was told in the graphic novel — I used slightly different devices. The Gilliam version, if you look at it, it has nothing to do with the idea that is the end of the graphic novel. And that’s the thing that I would go, ‘Well, then don’t do it.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”

Thus ends the great Watchmen movie debate of 2014. We hope. How do you feel about Snyder’s reply to Joel Silver? Let us know in the comments.

HT: Indiewire

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11 comments

  • An interesting story which completely validates Zack Snyder. Okay, purists would have liked to see a movie exactly like the graphic novel – with the overlaps that Alan Moore is so fond of doing. What the fans would not EVER want to see is the story being reduced to a fictional account. In many senses, it would have been as bad, if not worse, as finding Bobby Ewing in your shower.

    No, Snyder’s version was nearly perfect. The only three improvements I’d have made would have been the following:

    – Getting the Comedian’s story with the kidnapped artists into the movie. This was probably edited out for time reasons and to be more consistent with the Doctor Manhattan “balance of power” premise.

    – Including the parallel of “The Black Raider” into the story. Once again, time was a constraint.

    – The squid alien. The premise of having that is to get the world to unite against a common enemy. In this case, an extraterrestrial force. While the path taken in the movie is good enough, the original created by Moore was just better.

    Leave Gilliam with his Ministry of Silly Walks, Brazil, Time Bandits, Holy Grail, and Fisher King. When it comes to serious graphic novel work, unless you’re going to take a bizarre route, Gilliam is not your man.

  • Snyder’s “adaptation” was a slap in the face. I don’t know what the reasoning behind his “creative changes” were, but it did nothing to add to the experience that is Watchmen. Alan Moore was right in saying his works could not be adapted into film. And yes, that’s most works of literature, but Snyder didn’t even bother staying loyal to the source material. He’s bitching about the changes made in Gilliam’s run because it’s a better approach than his (as far as creative tweaks go). The stench of hypocrisy coming off Snyder makes it difficult to acknowledge him as a “filmmaker” let alone critic. And mind you, this isn’t even coming from a fanboy; I read Watchmen a few months before the movie. I watched the movie when it was released on video. It just irks me to hear Snyder criticize someone who did the same thing he did, but better. “I made Watchmen for myself” is something a douchebag would say. How can he speak for the fans when the fans despise his own take on the Watchmen universe?

  • Blah, I’m not interested in this being a feud. Zack Snyder is good at every part of filmmaking except the parts which require having a creative thought, and Terry Gilliam is notoriously only good at those parts. If I have to pick between watching Brazil and a Romero remake with all the political commentary vacuumed out, I think I’ll just turn off the TV.

  • From a visually, Zack Snyder’s was almost perfect. The Soundtrack to it was amazing, it is hard to imagine on what can be improved besides including what would be cut for time reasons. This film was very true to the graphic novel compared to some other film adaptations of other books, comics, or graphic novels. Just look at Wanted, or V for Vendetta, those were completely altered, and not for better.

  • When Zac produces anything 1/10 as good as Time Bandits or 12 Monkey’s I may start giving a fuck about his opinion.

    I don’t anticipate that will ever happen.

  • Snyder’s Watchmen was about as close to perfect an adaptation as you could get. Sure, as some commenters before me are venting, the irritable purists didn’t like Snyder’s “changes” but the only really significant change he made (having Dr Manhattan become the threat the world rallies against, rather than the genetic squid monster) is not only far more concise, makes more sense, is in keeping with the source material and Dr Manhattan’s own story but it’s, dare I say it, *whisper* maybe even better than Moore’s version.

    It makes more sense any road.

    Anyway, before I get raked over the coals for saying that, I do think Snyder’s comments are a bit dickish. That being said, as much as I love Terry Gilliam and as much as I would be intrigued to have seen his take on Watchmen, it would have been batshit crazy and probably not in a good way.

  • I’m a huge fan of the comic and the film. I have the original theatrical cut, as well as the animated version of the black freighter comic and the director’s cut which includes the Bernie subplot, the Black Freighter story intercut into it, plus a number of deleted scenes from the theatrical. It’s pretty long, about 3.5 hours, but it’s well worth the watch. It’s one of my favourite movies and Patrick Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley both give amazing performances.