Zack Snyder made Watchmen "to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world"

News Simon Brew 4 Mar 2014 - 07:05
The Watchmen are coming...

Director Zack Snyder defends his Watchmen movie, and criticises the ending that Joel Silver and Terry Gilliam were favouring...

Last week, producer Joel Silver - on the promotional trail for new Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop - had a few words to say about the version of Watchmen that he was working on. Silver had hired Terry Gilliam to direct the film, and he told Coming Soon that his take "was a much, much better movie", accusing eventual Watchmen director Zack Snyder of being "too much of a slave to the material".

Furthermore, Silver outlined how he and Terry Gilliam were planning to end the movie. The exact quote? "Instead of the whole notion of the intergalactic thing, which was too hard and too silly, what he did was maintain that the existence of Doctor Manhattan had changed the whole balance of the world economy, the world political structure ... he had the Ozymandias character convince Doctor Manhattan to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. And in the vortex that was created after that occurred, these characters from Watchmen only became characters in a comic book".

The description of this ending did not go down particularly well amongst fans of Watchmen we should note, with the phrase "dodged a bullet" amongst those used.

Now, Zack Snyder has had his say on this too. "It you read the Gilliam ending, it's completely insane", he told The Huffington Post. "The fans would have stormed the castle on that one".

Snyder said that "honestly, I made Watchmen for myself", adding that it's his favourite of all his films that he's made. "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 labour 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".

It might be us, but he was winning the argument until that final sentence. The idea of Zack Snyder saving us from Terry Gilliam seems a little off-kilter. We still like Snyder's Watchmen movie, though.

The full Huffington Post piece is here.

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I unabashedly love Watchmen. I love the comic and the movie and each in their own ways. Could Watchmen have been better? Yes. And an editor could still improve what Snyder shot. But the script, the direction and the cut we got made me very happy. I consider the box set one of my most valued possessions.

And now I can't stop imagining how would "The watchmen" look if made by Terry Gilliam... Awesome, crazy, colorful and dark at the same time. And Rorschach, oh the possibilities! I am not saying that Zack Snyder's version wasn't good, it was frame to frame remake of the comics series, but Terry Gilliam, man, that would be epic!

I don't want to imagine a world where we have to be "saved from the Terry Gilliams of this world". Oh wait, I don't have to, we have Brazil for that.

Maybe Snyder was right about Gilliam's ideas for Watchmen and we can discuss the merits of copy/pasting rather than just adapting a story till the cows come home, but I'd take Gilliam's imagination over Snyder's cynical, pandering, macho BS any day.

Snyder's output

a pretty shoddy remake of Dawn Of The Dead
the stupidly homo-erotic 300
Watchmen, which is pretty good yet shows no creativity whatsoever
the dire, horribly misogyny of Sucker Punch
the desecration of Superman with the amoral, ultraviolent, wanton destruction of Man of Steel

Gilliam puts more intelligent ideas into the opening title sequences of his movies. Yes they may be haphazardly constructed but hell I know whose films will last longer in the memory and they ain't Mr Snyder's

I love Snyder, so I'm gonna leap to his defence here: I think when he says "the Terry Gilliams of this world", he means those leaning more towards often-obscure artsiness, changing things just for change's sake than with the audience in mind. I'm sure he respects Gilliam as a filmmaker, but in this respect, he's just highlighting how Gilliam's odd plans would have enraged fans and been a complete mistake.

Besides, with The Zero Theorem coming out, a bit of extra publicity won't hurt Gilliam, right? (that film looks awesome, hope it lives up to the premise).

Ironic really, seeing as the one thing Snyder *did" change was the ending... (Which was an improvement on the nonsense from the book.)

Still, lets look at the two director's back catalogues... Oh, it really isn't Gilliam the world needs saving from is it.

Hey! The Dawn of the Dead remake is pretty good!

Yep, had the same as you guys. Fine, rational argument, but the "saving us from the Terry Gilliams" just rubs me the completely wrong way. Snyder probably didn't mean any disrespect to Gilliam, but still, pretty poor choice of words there.

In defence of Snyder - when it comes to man of steel what's impressive is how Nolan side steps all the blame for the version of superman that ended up on the screen. While highly successful the dark knight trilogy is from an adaptation stand point barely batman. Body armoured gadget ninja man that is the worlds worst detective does not a batman make (seriously every deduction he ever makes is wrong apart from the one bullet thing he CSI'd in TDK). Snyder as a director worked meticulously to try to replicate page to screen for both 300 and watchmen and showed a great respect for source material. Which one if those two sounds more likely responsible for a superman that barely resembles superman? I can't excuse sucker punch it's terrible but after watchmen, 300 and dawn if the dead he wanted a shot at doing his own thing after adapting other peoples, I can respect that.

Snyder may not be a creative visionary but he is a die hard fan of pretty much all things geeky. Is he saying that he is a better director than Gilliam? No, he us saying he was probably the better choice for watchmen. I was at the watchmen comic com panel and he spoke about seeing the other potential scripts and thinking that he knew that he would try and represent the source material for what it was and not try and rewrite it and remove massive amounts (I think Gillian's or one of the passes had removed Nixon and the doomsday clock), but if he passed and someone else made it and did that he would feel responsible for not taking his chance to do it right.

When he says save it from the Gilliams I don't think he is saying he disrespects Terry's work but that he wanted to prevent it from falling I to the hands of directors who cared more about reworking it for their vision and thirst ideas rather than trying to do the best by all the great ideas in the book.

I'm a Gilliam fan but also a watchman fan so....

Snyder is right in what he said. The whole 'it was always just a dream' thing would have caused a riot.

Gilliam may be a genius, but Snyder made the perfect Watchmen for the screen considering how unfilmable it was. (And could Gilliam have made a better intro?)

I don't think Watchmen made by Terry Gilliam would have worked. If the proposed ending is an example of where they were going then I think Zack Snyder was the better man for the job. Slating Snyder for being true to the source material of one of the best loved comics of all time is insane, nobody is saying that about 12 years a slave? As much as I love Terry Gilliam his films have a surreal feel to them that is completely at odds with the comic.
And whilst I'm throwing my hat in the ring I also prefer the comic ending and can't see why that couldn't have worked on film.

Oh, you do all realise it HAS been about 16 years since Gilliam made a good movie right?
(hides for backlash, but its true, live in the now people)

Why is Sucker Punch misogynistic?

Snyder needs to stick to cinematography. His directing is crap and his opinions are offensive.

(And did he seriously bring his wife along to the interview? Who needs "yes-men" when YOU BRING YOUR WIFE TO YOUR MEETINGS! - Not intending a sexist slant on this, it wouldnt be appropriate for my wife to bring me to her meetings to defend her either!)

So not the Batman we deserve...but maybe?

I actually love Sucker Punch, but agree with your thoughts on Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy - Nolan's said on several occasions how Bond was a big influence on Batman's relationship to gadgets. Batman was actually seen out in the field doing detective work in Begins, and a little bit in TDK, but Alfred seemed to do most of the heavy lifting in Rises! He was a bit too much like a merc than a walking, talking instrument of justice.

I can't wait to see Snyder's take on Batman - I expect it to be much more faithful to the comics; if Kevin Smith's rave reviews of the costume are anything to go by, Affleck will be the most visually interesting live-action version to date.

I like Gillaim's ending better. It's original, visually pleasing and a great comment about the shallowness of the superhero genre.

I love memento, inception and enjoyed the prestige but after realising very early on that man of steel was not the superman for me it was hearing that Nolan was no longer involved that had me more interested in the sequel.

I enjoy the dark knight but if you read a single issue of batman before watching any of the dark knight trilogy than that's one more than Nolan read

If I want to watch a batman movie I will watch iron man 3.

Brazil was brilliant. I imagine it has little appeal for people who like films based on comic books, though.

I'd guess this is the wrong site to say that, I'm sure many DOG readers love both films based on comic books and the works of Terry Gilliam. Myself included.

Well I do enjoy a good ding dong. I like many of Gilliams films but he was quite outspoken about Watchmen. I actually adore the film and it made me rush out and buy the novel but Snyder was a bit snide in his comments.

Zack Snyder was damned if he did and damned if he didn't on this one. He made the best film he could in studio system, in fact it was amazingly faithful to the original text. The movie was a decade or so too late, that was my only problem with it.

Not sure why the producer of the film he was promoting shouldn't be allowed to the "meeting".... she produced watchmen too, so quite well placed in the matter imo

GIve me a Terry Gilliam film over a Zach Snyder film, anyday !

This is why I like Snyder so much. He is a fan boy at heart and he makes the movies 'he' wants to see, and what he thinks fans will want. I reckon, in other hands, Man of Steel would just have been another Superman sequel with someone trying to imitate Christopher Reeves and Lex Luthor trying to acquire yet more land.

This is why I have faith in the Man of Steel sequel despite all these odd casting choices!

I am sure he has a plan.

In Snyder We Trust...

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus?

Personally I thought it was pretty poor. In fact I preferred Sucker Punch to it!

Aside from the Monty Pythons and 12 Monkeys, I don't really think much of his other films.

It's all subjective though! You like his work, and that's great. I'm not having a go :-)

in 300s defence (deathly boring though I find it) it's almost exactly the same as the comic. Also, Spartans. no matter how homoerotic you make it, it will still be less so than actual *history*.

And I liked his Dawn of the Dead.

I think the world has room for both creative minds. Just as I can't imagine a world devoid of 300 & Watchmen; or the quarkiness of 12 Monkeys, Brazil, or Baron Munschausen. Both are equally good.

And you complain about offensive opinions! I believe his wife is also his producing partner (I know, amazing, isn't it!?!) so maybe there was some justification in bringing the 'little woman' along. Gets her out of the house I suppose.

I'm a huge fan of Gilliam's since Monty Python days (I even saw Tideland at the cinema!), but I've got to say that Watchmen ending idea was pants. The version in Snyder's film works much better (also don't think 'the squid' would have worked on film)

Every time I see Snyder's name attached to anything I get depressed, he hasn't made a good film yet. The idea that he has the gall to slate Terry Gilliam shows you what an arrogant and totally out of touch film maker he is.

There's a great interview online with Quentin Tarantino in which he talks about how he asked advice from Terry Gilliam about how to get his ideas on screen (this was before making Reservoir Dogs). So while Snyder is trying to 'save us' from Gilliam's vision, Tarantino is trying to emulate it. I know whose films I prefer.

From reading a lot of comments on here it seems that people seem to be mistaking faithfulness to the source material as a mark of quality. It isn't.

"he hasn't made a good film yet."

Other than the World's Cheesiest Sex Scene, I really enjoyed Watchmen. I thought it was pretty much as faithful as an adaptation really could be, and the scrapping of the squid was a good move. The cast were good - our vigilante pal especially - and the general vibe and tone of the movie was excellent. The intro sequence alone could be one of the best music videos ever made if they decided to release it on its own.

If the exact same film had someone like Del Toro's name attached, people would have been falling over themselves to proclaim its brilliance, imo.

I'm the same. I found Brazil to be pretty dull, to be honest. Almost like Hunter S Thompson does Hudsucker Proxy in places.

I loved 12 Monkeys, and the Pythons as you say, but I honestly feel there's as much 'style over substance' in Gilliam's work as there is in other directors who are derided for the same sort of "style first" approach.

I think the real reason the comic ending wouldn't have worked was the amount of exposition that would have been needed for it.

In the comic, the ongoing mystery about the missing creatives is a key element in understanding exactly where the giant squid came from. If they'd added that aspect to the film, it could have dragged it down in terms of pacing.

I actually think Person of Interest is a better on-screen Batman than any of the Batman films or TV shows (other than the fantastic TAS, of course).

And how many years since Snyder made a good movie? ;p

I love the Watchman movie. I thought it was spot on. Gilliams great too but he has some serious flaws. He's the only director I know who can get hundreds of extras on a huge set and make it look like Michael Bentines potty time in a sandpit.

What everyone is missing is the fact that Gilliam's version wasn't intended for the big screen. If I remember correctly, it was meant to be a 12 part television series, which is quite possibly why it was never made. As good as Gilliam is, he'd have never been able to keep within the strict deadlines of making a TV show. His genius needs the flexibility to reshoot relatively unimportant scenes over and over again if even the smallest, most random detail is wrong ( in his opinion ). I'm not talking about continuity issues or things like that either. One scene from 12 Monkeys that would have taken up less than 10 seconds of screen time took an entire day to film because he didn't like the way that a hamster was running around it's wheel in the background of the shot. And you're all also forgetting that Gilliam is a writer/director rather than a pure bred director. If he wants to do this, that or the other with one of his movies, he can because, for the most part, they're his stories to begin with ( which is yet another reason why a Gilliam version wouldn't have either worked or been made. He would have tweaked the story so much that it's inevitable that halfway through shooting they would have had to take 3/4 weeks hiatus whilst they rewrote the script to sort out all of the dialogue/story/continuity screw ups that would have been made ).

And anyway! If Snyder decided to stick to the source material, why does that mean he's not a good or creative director? A director's job should be to translate a story on a written page into a visual medium and to elicit the best performances from the actors involved. It's not down to them to add bits and pieces to a story as and when they see fit. They should act like a conductor of an orchestra, and not make believe that they're the composer themselves. Don't get me wrong. There are a number of directors with the genius to be able to tweak a story itself and improve upon the original but they are few and far between. Don't get me wrong, Gilliam is a great director, but when he's directing material that he's written himself. If he'd have been allowed to get his hands on Watchmen, the end result would have been totally unrecognisable from the original, would have been tens of millions of dollars over budget and would have over run the shooting schedule by at least six months. When I go and watch a movie of something as iconic as Watchmen, I want it to be faithful to the source material, not plough off into different directions on the whim of a director who ( quite wrongly most of the time ) believes that he's the new Kubrick or Hitchcock. Anything else WOULDN'T have been a Watchmen movie! I for one have seen too many screwed up adaptations of Alan Moore stories. From Hell was just a poor mans remake ( sans Sherlock ) of the superb Murder By Decree, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen bore so little resemblance to the graphic novel it could have been made with different characters in some other time period and no one would have noticed the difference.

No, indeed. I for one think that Snyder did a brilliant job on Watchmen, and I thank all of the movie making gods that Gilliam didn't get his hands on the film. It would have been a train wreck from start to finish and would have ended up with an unfinished, over budget mess that would never have been released and would have put the kybosh on anyone else being able to make a version.

wow, you jumped straight on the sexism angle. Did you read the article? There was no reason at all to have the producer there and she even answered questions about criticism of him.. It'd be like me taking my mum to an interview (and allowing her to defend me).. It's not about "the little woman". Don'e make the mistake i made and type something which makes you seem annoying when you probably aren't.

Yes, my "crap director" comment was probably excessive. I don't really rate his direction (which is a fairer way to say it), though i DO rate his cinematography.. the opening to Watchmen is one of the greatest scenes commited to celluloid.

I still think i director should be able to defend himself without a producer or a family member taking the question.

Hope that's cleared up the wonderful accusation you levelled at me.

See response above. Producers should certainly be promoting.. though i don't recall another interview where a director would allow a producer to answer criticism levelled directly at him. It seemed odd.. I wouldn't have my brother / sister / mother / wife / husband / colleague / boss / subordinate answer that question..

I worded it badly, and have both toned down the "crap director" commend and reworded the "bring a family member" comment.

I didnt know she produced watchmen too, her taking the criticism personally and respondind first-hand certainly makes more sense!

Hadn't realised that and i accept that makes her input more sensible.. rather than answering on behalf of the director she is just taking the criticism personally and answering fairly.

My comments weren't well worded and a little too racy, so i've toned them down a bit (and replaced "wife" with "family member" to avoid the lazy people presuming it's gender related).

Maybe that should be a den of geek article 9 years since Batman Begins and 9 films and tv shows that out batman the dark knight trilogy. They can have iron man 3, sky fall, taken, Sherlock, arrow and the Lego movie, add three more and you are in the butter zone. Give me an afternoon of from my kids and I will even write it for them :)

Would of included POI but haven't watched it

Actually, the Spartans did veer to the homosexual side of things - they were encouraged from an early age to ... er, 'enjoy' the male body. I assume this was to strengthen their bond and make them an even stronger unit. So the film being homoerotic is probably pretty accurate.

Besides, so what if it is homoerotic?

Watchmen sucked!

That wasn't the point I was getting at, the Best moments in Snyders watchmen were the attention to detail, the credit sequence is a great example, yes the film is not perfect and has flaws but at the end of the day it was always going to be the second best version info the watchmen story, Snyder just made a closer second than I think Gilliam would of.

Respecting the source material doesn't assure quality but at the end if the day I am glad that the person who made watchmen wanted to make a watchmen film and didn't want to make their own movie dressed in watchmen clothing.

Thanks for your Watchmen Zack, it's perfect.

Considering I generally love Terry Gilliam, and am not the world's biggest Zack Snyder fan, my first reaction is 'bahahaha Snyder save us from Gillam? Next Michael Bay will save me from Scorsese' but Watchmen is actually very good for the most part, and I do not think Gilliam was suited to it. So I agree that it was kind of saved, it's just too bad no one saved Superman from Snyder...
That being said, I'm not crazy about Snyder's end anyway so... I agree that he made an overall better movie than Gilliam would have, but it looks like the end was always doomed to suck dick.

For me he had a credible argument (not winning it) up until the point the only thing he could pick out from the film he loves is, "the style". When that's the first thing that comes to mind, you've not got your priorities straight.

Sir, you have won the internets for today purely on being able to reference Michael Bentine!

I really didn't like Man of Steel but Watchmen is one of my favourite comic book movies. I think he did great at adapting it to the screen and I don't understand peoples problem with it. Gillian's ending on the other hand sounds horrible!

I'm glad he took the chance to make it himself. I read the graphic novel a couple years before the movie released and I love how faithful an adaptation it is. I have the ultimate cut, but at close to 4 hours long I've unfortunately been putting off re-watching it for years. I love 300 too. I don't know what to think of Sucker Punch though, I haven't watched it since the cinema, I need to see it again.

Agree almost whole heartedly with this post, except that I didn't want to watch the Watchmen comic I had already read, I wanted someone to either leave it alone or do something new with the material/characters. 300 was rubbish in comparison to the comic. MoS was the worse than Superman IV, and apart from the opening 10 minutes, Dawn of the Dead was poor.

Watchmen is proof that slavish faithfulness to source material is a very good thing. Shame no lesson was learned.

IMHO: Snyder's Watchmen, although good (and I did enjoy it), already strayed from the plot of the graphic novel by removing the kidnapping of creatives to design an Alien race to fake an invasion of Earth with and replacing it with a bigger conspiracy against the Doc (the conspiracy about cancer and the fact it forced this progression of the Doc's self-critical look back at his whole life whilst on Mars and watching a picture of himself fall being incredibly well worked with visually effective sequences). So his defense that he kept too close to the novel is just slightly wrong. I don't think he kept close enough to the graphic novel (and the change for me has not sat as comfortably with me as I felt it should have... if it had been pulled off correctly that is). I know some will say that you can never have a 100% copy/paste from a book/comic/graphic novel to the screen, and that may be true, but then I also feel that you should never then defend yourself by saying that you kept too closely to the book/comic/graphic novel.

I agree Gilliam's take would probably have taken us further away from the Watchmen that I prefer (that's the Graphic Novel version if you haven't guessed) but for me that would have been perfectly justifiable if it had been pulled off, and I think Gilliam would have been able to. He is, after all, behind some of my favorite big and little screen works.

So basically, although Snyder did stray only a little, for me in terms of plot and character development it was enough to slightly blemish the experience, and if you are going to stray in the first place, would it not be better to carve out a new path (plot)? Anyone's thoughts? I can think of some examples where the straying and carving have not worked, and cases where they have, and cases also where religiously attempting to copy and paste have hurt the final project as-well, but there are success stories of all types, non?

Great movie and very underrated, blows Avengers out of the water

IMnHO, Zack Snyder made as good a movie as could be made from Watchmen, a comic book that was designed to nothing but a comic book. Alan Moore still thinks it's unfilmable. But the movie looked good, it was fun as hell and a lot of the heavier stuff from the comic book was well transferred to the film medium.
300 looked great, although the padding of the story kind of defeated the purpose of Miller's stripped down original story of extreme heroics.
Which is why Superman was such a let-down.
Terry Gilliam, however, have made turkey after turkey over more than a decade.
So I don't mind Zack Snyder saving us from another one, which this sounds like it could have been.

Terry Gilliam may not be everybody's cup of tea, but he has more original ideas than most filmmakers today. Zack Snyder, whose recent, terrible Man of Steel, was devoid of any original ideas, should cut out the snide comments and show more respect.

In my opinion I believe Watchmen was a good film because of the Graphic Novel, I read the book first which meant so much more of the film made sense and also I was able to pick up on little cool things that linked back to the book. I felt it was a film representation of the book which was awesome because the book had a specific style which I believe was carried well into the film. It would be cool to see a new movie of Watchmen because there is so much you can do with it because it's a very active story but changing the ending? Seriously?

"Slave to the material"...what nonsense. They complain when it's the same, they complain when it differs.

Have to disagree on almost all counts. Other than 12 Monkeys I struggle to think of another non-Python Gilliam film that I'd want to rewatch.

Snyder is unfit to even utter Gilliam's name.

I liked Watchmen and although Gilliam is a far better director than Snyder ever will be, he would have been totally wrong for Watchmen and I'm glad it was Snyder who made it.

wow genuinely did not expect so many comments, or indeed vehement disagreements. I guess my major problem with Snyder is that he seems to be able to suck the subtext out of the material he is adapting. While it seems as though I go against the grain here on the Dawn of the Dead remake which I thought lost all the social commentary so prevalent in Romero's films I will accept the arguments for Watchmen and 300 being faithful adaptations of the source material, although they were to me very pretty empty shells with none of the subtleties that made the comics such a joy. Likewise with Man of Steel, young Kal El and Zod are two incredibly complex characters reduced to biological Transformers bringing about wanton destruction. As a visual film maker he is a true visionary but I don't want to go to the cinema for visuals alone...that's what art galleries are for.

although it unfortunately passed the Bechdel Test I found that rather than actual characters the female members of the cast were used as scantily clad plot devices. Would Snyder have considered making this film if studios required him to cast males in those parts, I think not!

The only thing I'd point out is that LXG was actually made concurrently with the comics - so they didn't actually have anything other than Moore's general ideas to create a script from. In other words, the started adapting the comic before the comic even existed...

meh, I didn't really by the Manhattan ending. as if RUSSIA AND US COMBINED could 'take on' Dr.Manhattan.

Totally agree.

For shame.

If I'm honest, I don't think Gilliam would have made a good Watchmen. Just like I don't think Darren Aronofsky could have made a good Wolverine. Just like I didn't think Snyder could make a good Superman movie. (Hell, I was right about that last one)

I love Gilliam and Aronofsky a lot more than I do Snyder, but he has his place in film, and 300 and Watchmen are strong films, to his credit. That said? He could never, ever save any film from being made by Terry Gilliam or any other Terry Gilliams of this world. The amount of artistic integrity between the two is staggering and Gilliam is clearly the better film maker. I think everything else Snyder says is fine, but I do take issue with that one line. It also smacks of a world where Snyder thinks his is the only Watchmen film that can ever or will ever exist. And he currently lives in a world where he is part of the machine that is carving out a third Batman iteration in 25 years.

I really don't get all the hate for Snyder, if he hadn't stayed close to the source material the backlash would have been immense! DOTD was pretty good, 300 did exactly what it said on the tin and looked beautiful and Suckerpunch was an amusing escape (no more). On a side note, I have always hated Superman as I think he is quite possibly the most boring superhero ever created, Snyder got me interested and excited for the sequel *prays its good and not a monumental cock-up*

youre an idiot

That's your own opinion, so that's fair enough. But don't all characters end up being just plot devices, regardless of philosophical arguments to the contrary?

a Watchmen without Gilliams. There had to be sacrifices.

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