How Zack Snyder made the Watchmen comic work in film

Show it to the fans first...

Going into this year’s Comic-Con, everybody was convinced Watchmen was going to be The Big Thing. After all, director Zack Snyder has a track record of wowing the crowd, with the 300 sizzlereel leading to demands for several repeat showings back in 2006.

...and make sure it pisses on the competition

And while his new project ended up sharing the spotlight with a couple of other biggies – Terminator: Salvation got a massive response, as did compu-sequel Tr2n – the Alan Moore adaptation had the audience raising the roof as Snyder debuted a superb selection of snippets all set to a haunting choral theme.

Show the first 25 minutes to a bunch of tastemaker online journos...

Last week, Zack Snyder showed 25 minutes of completed Watchmen footage to a crowd of online journalists. It was a success, with every single geek stumbling out of the screening mumbling words like ‘transcendent.’

Before the screening, you couldn’t go on the internet without bumping into a Watchmen court case story. Now you can’t browse without absorbing a rave about the intro sequence, or the bit where Dr Manhattan first goes to Mars, or how the flick’s a Dark Knight beater. Good work, Snyder.

Get the original artist onboard

Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel is not exactly what you’d call cinema-friendly, with its sprawling, multilayered, character-stuffed plot, backed by heavy, thoughtful themes that hardly scream out for a Happy Meal tie-in.

Filmmakers such as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass have all tried and failed to get Watchmen made and Moore – tired of simply mediocre or, much worse, awful adaptations of his work – has long since removed his name from it.

“Alan got to the point where he thought, ‘I don’t want to play with Hollywood anymore,’”smiles Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. “And Alan being Alan, he didn’t do what you or I do, just not get involved and not answer calls.

"He said, ‘I don’t want my name on them. I don’t want any income from them.’ And that’s what he’s done. I admire him for the strengths of his views.”

Fortunately for Snyder, he has Gibbons’ full support and handily won over most doubters at the Con.

Stick to the source material

“My way of thinking about it is you’ve got to be true to the graphic novel," Snyder tells us.

"The hardcore fans are worth 20 normal people, with the amount they talk online. If you can’t service that, you have no movie. If they end up saying, ‘That movie sucks!’ then the people who don’t know what it is will be, like, ‘I guess no one’s talking about it so it’s screwed.’”

By using the novel as a near Bible-like guide, Snyder seems confident that his take can confront Watchmen’s cinematic issues.

“300 is about the pictures. Watchmen is about the ideas. We’ve really tried to stay with those ideas even more, because they’re bigger than the pictures,” he admits.

“It’s about policing the world and America’s role in world politics and in the end Watchmen’s huge social and moral point is about when is it OK to kill? Is one life worth more than another?”


Total Film


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