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The movie follows the comic as faithfully as a two and a half-hour film can.
With one notable exception…
If you want the ending of the film spoiled, then read on!
That giant monster squid we mentioned for the comic’s ending? That actually didn’t make it into the movie. A few months ago, Warner Brothers had a couple test screenings for Watchmen and everyone who had read the comic gave unanimous praise. This is when the story was leaked about the lack of a giant squid in the movie.
According to director Zach Snyder, “The squid was not in the movie when I got the script, the squid was never in any draft that I saw. My point is only that there was this elegant solution to the squid problem that I kind of embraced. I’m a fan of the thing as much as anyone, I was saying what are we going to do about this before I even read the script.” Without skimming too many spoiler-filled reviews of the film before its release (hey, we’re interested too), we’ve found that Dr. Manhattan is chiefly behind a series of atomic explosions that essentially fill the same result as the giant squid. Yes, the relationship between Ozymandias and Manhattan has changed, but the dramatic impetus for why remains the same.
Writer David Hayter - voice of Solid Snake and the sole person writing multiple drafts of the Watchmen script for years - said in an interview on io9, “I changed it. The ending of the book shows just piles of corpses…To do that in a comic book, and release it in 1985, is different from doing it real life, in a movie, and seeing all of those people brutally massacred in the middle of Times Square post 2001. That’s a legitimate concern, and one that I shared.” Seemingly, the terrible events of 9/11 lead to Hayter’s insistence on changing the script.
But before we move on to where the Watchmen film stands in film history, let’s specify one more reason why the change occurred. In another interview with Snyder, he flatly explained that spending time on the creation of the squid detracted from the character development and events of the rest of the story. Before you jump all over him for that, let’s discuss…
The making of
Before you get up in arms over the making of the Watchmen movie, you need to know that 20th Century Fox obtained the film rights in 1986 (23 years ago for the temporally challenged), which is not new at all in the publishing world. At first, Alan Moore was excited about the adaptation (at this point he wasn’t disenfranchised with Hollywood yet). Writer Sam Hamm - writer of the 1989 Batman film - found that adapting the incredibly dense comic difficult and his changes were decidedly less than faithful. Apparently, Hamm’s ending killed off Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan and included assassinations with a hint of time travel. Weird.
The next twenty years were a never ending revolving door of writers and directors. Terry Gilliam was attached to direct at one point, but left due to funding problems and concluded that the project was unfilmable. In 2001, David Hayter was signed to write and direct for Universal Studios, but left after creative differences. However, Hayter wrote many accurate-as-possible adaptations of the novel between that time and the final release. In 2004, Darren Aronofsky - director of The Wrestler - was attached to direct at Paramount Pictures, but that fell through. Then Paul Greengrass - director of The Bourne Ultimatum - signed on. Budget concerns ultimately led to his departure.
Finally, with the movie version of Frank Miller’s 300 getting the best test screening scores in Warner Bros history, executives approached 300 director Zack Snyder. Of course, movie execs had their thoughts on how to change a morally ambiguous epic comic story. The PG-13 rating, a proposed two-hour running time and an ending with the bad guys getting killed off were what Warners had in mind. But after 300 grossed $450 million worldwide, Warners was ready for a leap of faith.
What’s important to keep in mind is that even though Watchmen is recognized as the Citizen Kane of comics, it was always in development as a film. The rights were sold almost immediately because Alan Moore wrote the comic for DC. It wasn’t like Moore wrote the comic completely independent of any large studio. True, if he had wanted his epic to get published, he’d have to play ball with a giant company. Remember, Moore was at first completely excited about the film adaptation.
Watchmen’s development process is no different than the adaptations of popular novels like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series or even JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. What Watchmen has in common with those works mentioned is that the talent, pedigree, buzz and budget behind the film are top notch. For all of the behind-the-scenes information coming from the movie, Snyder’s version sounds like this is the best a Watchmen movie could possibly hope to be.
If the scope, tone and feel remain largely intact and the movie paves the way for audiences to become interested in the original source material, then who exactly is being hurt? We’ll find out if the movie scores with fans and critics this Friday.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh is a downloadable, episodic arcade game starring Nite Owl and Rorschach in a straightforward beat-em-up. The game depicts the two Watchmen trying to take down the Underboss, a character only loosely mentioned in the comic. Nigh renders a weather-worn, grimy city really well as you run through the areas beating the crap out of similar looking thugs. Not only does the game look nice, but the animated cutscenes are handled with class, resembling the comic.
Even with standard light/heavy combos and the always-included rage meter, End is Nigh mimics the feeling and tone of the original graphic novel. The six chapters should take you only a few hours to complete and ties into the comic fairly well.
If you want to hear two entirely differing opinions on the game, read yesterday’s debate between GR staffer Shane Patterson and Senior Editor at the Official Xbox Magazine Dan Amrich. Hint: Shane’s opinion is correct.
Part 1 is available on XBLA for 1600 points and PSN for $19.99.
Watchmen hits theaters 03-06-09, this Friday… Wanna go?
We’re giving away 10 free ticket vouchers to see Watchmen in theaters, and that’s just the Grand Prize.
We’ve also got 10 copies of both Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic (out NOW on DVD and Blu-ray) and Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter (out 03-24-09 on DVD and Blu-ray) to hand out as well! Find out how on this week’s episode of TalkRadar, GamesRadar’s filthy, stupid podcast.
WATCHMEN and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © DC Comics. Smiley Logo: TM The Smiley Company
© 2009 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Mar 4, 2009
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