Click to viewLast night, it was finally New York's turn to see the 25 minutes of Watchmen and get a chance to hear from director Zack Snyder and Watchmen's artist, Dave Gibbons, about the heavy undertaking that is bringing the classic graphic novel to life on the big screen. But more importantly, Snyder shared with us a bombshell - Hollywood wanted to change the graphic novel's alternate 1985 to the George W. Bush era, and turn Watchmen into a movie about the War on Terror. After a quick viewing of a few clips Snyder shared even more "almost" moments where the studio wanted to meddle, easter eggs and what he couldn't live without. Details (and spoilers) ahead.Snyder said he had a meeting with the studio early on, where they shared their early "Hollywood" vision for the Watchmen movie. It would have been an updated George Bush-era film, where the Minutemen team had been hunting down terrorists. But Snyder's love for Nixon's Watchmen involvement brought him back to the table, asking Warner Brothers to trust him that 1985 is the right way to start the movie, and "maybe we should just leave it the way it is." But before we got to hear more about the studio's attempted revamps, we saw some footage from the movie:
While it's hard to judge an unfinished movie from just a few minutes, the main things I was stuck with upon leaving were the colors and the look to each character. Even when covered in blood (or someone's innards) the characters sets and scenes were all still striking and iconic-looking. The movie starts with a McLaughlin Group-type talk show on TV. There is a discussion about whether or not Dr. Manhattan's presence is escalating the strain on foreign policy. The Comedian (old and warn) switches the television to a show where "Unforgettable" begins to play. Just as he's about to relax the door is thrown open and The Comedian is in his deadly fight with the "bad guy." The fight scenes are just as painstakingly crafted as the sets in Watchmen. With each blow (all to the tune of "Unforgettable"), you greeted to a slow-mo pan out shot that honestly makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. Yet if this continues to happen throughout the entirety of the film I can see it getting tedious. The fight continues, and you all know how it ends - bloody. Zack's Watchmen is blooooody, but wonderfully so. With each drop of red this movie is setting itself apart from the one-liner superhero movies of yesterday and reminding us that these heroes can and will die. Even bits from the trailer of exploding soldiers in the Vietnam war that appeared to be shiny bursts (above) were replaced with dark blood from Dr. Manhattan's victims. The same goes for the fight scene in the prison which we touched on earlier. Cut to the opening credits playing the way too obvious and too long "The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Bob Dylan. But besides the extra-long song the viewer is treated to a montage pictures and video showing the creation of the Minutemen superhero team. If you need a historical point of reference, Watchmen's opening credits has 1,000 of them. Ranging from Silhouette replacing the sailor in the infamous nurse-kissing V-Day black and white still, to Ozymandias standing outside of Studio 54. Finally we got to see the creation of Dr. Manhattan and listen to the inner monologue of the "god" himself. Watching him turn from Dr. Jonathan Osterman to blue beast was amazing. The detail that they went into ripping out each little organ was shocking. The appearing-reappearing floating circulatory system that floats about days later is forever burned in my eyes. I really see why this character is Snyder's favorite. Overall there was a lot of stuff that was a little "I get it - the Watchmen are a part of history". But besides that and a few scoring changes it was gorgeous, the characters were so lovely that even their teeth were sparkling in the Snyder film. Dr. Manhattan's back story alone (just the simple day-to-day life of a 1950s) man was strikingly detail oriented. So I'm excited to see what Snyder is going to do with the real meat of the movie. Which he addresses in the Q&A with reporters: Q: Can you assure us that the ending won't puss out? ZS: The ending does not puss out. I will assure you of that. In that meeting, in that same war on terror meeting. There was a different ending.The moral checkmate that is the end of the movie, to me that's the movie. That's the point of the graphic novel. I'm not going to spoil it, but the "bad guy" who's not really the bad guy but lets call him the bad guy because it's easier to say it that way. The bad guy has an evil plan and you might call it that, he does something really horrific. But at the end, the question of whether or not this was the right thing to do and the way all of the characters have to react to that is really sort of beautifully constructed so that the question that it poses is really the crux of the movie. I can assure you that in that first movie, that was not the why of the movie. The why was to run around and fight in rubber suits and beat the shit out of each other, which has also got merit, I will not say it doesn't but that's not why I make a movie. Q: Where does Watchmen fit in the comic book movies with Iron Man etc.? ZS: I think that question is related to the graphic novel. It's where the graphic novel lives in the graphic book world. Its place, in my opinion anyway, in the comic book world... Here's the thing also: Iron Man, Batman, those two movies in particular, they're not based on graphic novels per say. Those characters get to go on adventures based on a director or a writer coming up with one for them to go on. And there are political and or creative reasons why they did something that are completely valid and awesome, but they don't serve any piece of literature like Watchmen does. I have an obligation to that material and I think that material, the last thing it wants to do is send its characters out on an adventure in the classic Hollywood sense. It's completely deconstructed in what we've been trained to think a superhero is. DG: I think another example as to why this is being made now is it kind of stands in relation to the other superhero movies that the comic book did to the superhero comics at the time. In other words the average movie-goer understands superheroes. They know about secret identities and alcaves and nuclear powered heroes. They come in and see it and immediately know what it's about. And just like I like to think that the readers of comics in the 1980s were, they will be finding questions being asked that they weren't thinking of before. Like basically if there was a Dr. Manhattan what would the world be like? If there really were superheroes, what would they be like? ZS: It's come full circle. My mother knows the origins stories to superheroes she has no business knowing. She's just been to the movies a lot. The average movie goer has the back story.
Q: Some people have been nervous that the movie would be simply panel by panel but I see now that may not be the case? ZS: The book has a luxurious pace that is awesome. But I knew that I had to get some information out at the beginning of the movie. There were things that I had to do that were different. So there are going to be differences in the basic structuring. But there are things that I like, that I wanted to keep. Like in the title sequence I remember reading about Dollar Bill getting his cape stuck in a revolving door, and thinking, "gosh I want to see that." The Incredibles made a whole movie out of it and I thought it was worth a shot, you know. Those were the things that I was inspired by that were in the supplemental material that maybe there wasn't a frame for and I wanted to try and work it in. Just like Wally Weaver plays a couple different parts, he takes a lot of the weight of the scientific community. But that line he takes Milton Glass' part as well. He says "I never said that Superman was real and he's American, I said God was real and he's American," I always thought that was a really cool line. I wanted that to be on the poster, but they weren't into that by the way [Laughs]. DG: Stragely enough if they had stuck to everything I drew I would be very disappointed because I think it's important that it stands as a good movie. And a good movie isn't just a literal translation of every single comic book panel. I really loved the things like with Wally Weaver where things have been amalgamated that had been made much better for the film.
Q: What was the hardest stuff to get into the movie? ZS: The hardest stuff to get into the movie was the stuff I liked the best. I remembered when we started talking about the movie and if you're familiar with the book, the Comedian's funeral and Manhattan on Mars, and some of the Rorschach flashbacks - those three are the corner stones of the beginning, middle and end of the movie... But those three sequences and the Comedian's funeral in particular were difficult. Everyone is internalizing, it's raining and they're thinking about how the Comedian affected their lives and they're flashing to that moment. It's very particular, although those are kind of the whys as to why I did this movie. Whenever I was debating on doing this movie I would think about the Comedian's funeral, on Mars and Rorschach and I gotta do it. Those things for me is as cool as it gets. As far as things I couldn't get in, the whole detective story - those two detectives that are trying to figuring out why these people are killing each other - those are the things we had to leave out. Although you do see them in the movie, just not their whole story. Q: What's the status on the Black Freighter? ZS: In Watchmen there is a parallel pirate story that kind of parallels the Watchmen story. We are creating it as an animated film and it is our hope that on the DVD that we can put those sequences into the DVD so they are woven right into the the actual story line of the movie, in the theatrical release that won't be the case. But we're going to release a DVD at the time of the theatrical release there is going to be a DVD that has a mock documentary on it called "Under The Hood" that is a TV show from '85 where this guy looks back to '72 (I believe) which is the year that [superhero autobiography] Under the Hood was published, and that reporter had done a news story about the publishing of the book and is now doing a retrospective on what had happened to all the characters. So it includes a lot of stuff form the body of the book. It will also include the animated short on it. The one movie will be the Ultimate Black Freighter Watchmen movie which will be 3 hours and something, 25 minutes. Who can say? Q: Zack you've done Frank Miller and Alan Moore - is there a Neil Gaiman movie in your future? ZS: It's pretty funny. I didn't mean it I really didn't. It's a coincidence, but he's good.
(I couldn't find that still, but this interior of The Comedian's home has pin-up of Sally Jupiter on the wall) Q: What did you put in this movie for the fans? ZS: You know it's more an Easter Eggy thing than it is a filming technique that if you play the movie backwards [you see something.] "I'm good, but I'm not that good." But there's tons of that stuff. Even in the shot where the Comedian punches his hand through the wall. If you look at that shot on his bedside table, even though it's only a second long, there is a picture of Laurie torn out of a magazine where Manhattan is torn out of it, and it's put into a frame. And if you know the story that makes sense. It's literally like 12 frames long. There's a lot of that. Q: What was the budget of the film? ZS: I can't say the number because there's lots of laws apparently. But I will say, there wasn't anything that we wanted to film that we didn't shoot. Q: Speaking of Easter Eggs was that a 3001 on the Comedian's door [from the footage]? ZS: Yeah, there are subtler ones than that [Laughs]. There is a rabid and vocal fan base for the graphic novel that support the graphic novel and may be against the motion picture or the changes you'd make to support the motion picture. And I always say look, No Country For Old Men I guarantee you is changed twice as much or three times as much as we changed Watchmen. But there is no vocal group of anti No Country For Old Men purists. That are going to kill the Coens. Although Cormac McCarthy is awesome, so there's grounds. That's a difficult thing I just treat it like a great book that you're making into a movie. Q: Dave do you think some day you could convince Alan [Moore] to watch it? And in your heart of hearts what do you think he would think? DG: I don't think it's my job to convince Alan to do anything. I wouldn't even go there. I'd rather not be drawn into hypothetical speculation about Alan's thought process.