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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Zack Snyder discusses Watchmen

By Todd Gilchrist, IGN
October 2,2008

Wednesday, October 1, Zack Snyder screened footage from his forthcoming adaptation of Watchmen and addressed questions about the future of the film. In addition to showing more than 25 minutes of unfinished scenes, he revealed the current running time of the film and announced that he would not participate in any sequels.

Snyder, whose previous film was an adaptation of Frank Miller's 300, told journalists that while the running time is not final the film runs in excess of two hours. "The runtime right now is right around two hours and 43 minutes in its current form," Snyder said. "It could get shorter – I don't know." When asked whether his actors have sequel clauses in their contracts, Snyder replied, "I don't know that to be honest. That would be interesting, but there can't be a sequel.

"There can't be a prequel, not with me involved. They might be able to find somebody to do it, but it wouldn't be me. That's crazy talk."

Some of the footage screened featured music by Philip Glass, although 300 composer Tyler Bates was hired to create the film's score. Snyder admitted that Glass' music was effective in these rough sequences, but he is not yet sure if it will appear in the final cut. "That's a good question. We're working on taking it out, but it works pretty good."

Watchmen is based upon the popular and critically acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Snyder said that he took as many visual and especially musical cues from the source material, but he elected to stay as true as possible to the story's original mid-1980s setting. "One of my first conversations about the score was there was always songs referenced in the graphic novel," Snyder said. "'All Along the Watchtower', 'Unforgettable' just to name a couple. So we ended up having three Dylan songs in the movie, which I think is the vibe of the movie in a lot of ways.

"Tyler Bates, who's doing the music, he and I talked a lot about songs. There's this sort of '85 aesthetic to some of the music that I think is really cool; it's like jazzy, there's a lot of synthesizers and saxophones. It's very Blade Runner-y, but it's cool."

Watchmen first went into development more than a decade ago, and attracted numerous high-profile writers and directors to adapt it, including Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass. Snyder indicated that he has participated in every part of the development process for this version of the film, including the upcoming spinoff videogame. While he admits that he was initially unhappy with the game, he said that he is confident that the game developers came up with an idea that suits the complexity and intelligence of the source material.

"We have a game now that I think is awesome," Snyder said. "But I think it was about those first fits and starts where you're just talking about making a Watchmen game and how that was going to be. For me, it became about embracing the concept and I guess the work was to create a subversive concept that equals the movie, or the graphic novel."

Snyder confessed that working on the film has demanded much of his time, but he has tried to be as involved as possible during the design and completion of the game. "I've been involved as much as I can be," he said. "We certainly looked at everything and said, 'Yeah, this can be better', or whatever. But again, it's not like completely mine, I wouldn't say. But certainly we've had a lot of contact with them and gave them a lot of notes and stuff."

Snyder offered his thoughts about Fox's impending lawsuit. "We're just working on the movie and I'm not a lawyer, so it's hard for me to comment on that. And I probably shouldn't, I guess. But we've just been fortunate. If they wanted to come and stop us, I guess they would, but they haven't yet so it's fun."

Watchmen was published in 1986 and takes place in an alternate 1980s America where superheroes have long been a real part of the country's cultural landscape. As written by Alan Moore, the books offered an unprecedented commentary on comic book mythology and pop culture at the same time, and have since been imitated by countless other comics and movies. When asked how relevant his adaptation of Watchmen will be in an era where pop culture regularly cannibalizes itself and comments upon its own form, Snyder said, "that is the fun of it. Because what I said when we were [first] talking about it was I would rather set the movie in '85 and have to draw parallels to their own time than me commenting directly on their culture. Because who gives a f*ck what I have to say?"

"If you go, 'wow, that reminds me of the war on terror', or 'Nixon has too much power – maybe the president has too much power', or there's a million of them in the movie, to me that kind of gets around the super post-modern 'this means this'!"

Snyder explained that he hopes the film will succeed because it acknowledges its form but also believes in it. "The movie's incredibly self-aware, you can probably tell – but on the other hand, we take it completely seriously. These are their stories. She needs to get from here to there. They need to beat those guys up. But that's not to say that we don't go what does it mean, what does that mean?" Snyder also compared his approach to those of other recent comic book adaptations that attempt to be irreverent and self-aware but also acquiesce to the formulas of the genre

"I also think that… Watchmen has balls in the sense that [in comparison], Iron Man and Fantastic Four, though they are in their own way self aware, they drink their own Kool-Aid, and the movie is a movie. It still has a beginning, middle and an end, and makes you care about this guy or that guy. Watchmen is like this nonlinear, all-over-the-place on the edge of being an art movie.

"Not to be mean or try and make it more than it is," he continued. "To me it says 'how far can you go with this'? and in some ways it's less like 'hey, mass culture, we know what we're doing'! In some ways, this is all we are – all we are is self-aware."

In spite of the enormous expectations fans of Watchmen will have for the film, Snyder said that his personal style can't help but be married to even the most iconic images he recreates.

"It's funny because I feel likeit becomes clear when you see this third movie that there's a certain thing that's inescapable for me," he said. "It's unconscious, this tone that is so self-aware but still takes the thing seriously. And from a visual standpoint, I don't compromise my own aesthetic. I still feel like, even with 300, I mate with the thing completely. So by the time I actually get to filming it and now seeing it on the screen, I feel like it's gone all of the way through me like a prism or a blender and become its own thing."

Snyder also observed the irony that with so many collaborators on board helping him adapt artist Dave Gibbons' images for the screen, he finds that he actually has to try in order to make the scenes and shots look like they did in Watchmen. "Anytime you take something and I have all of these department heads and set builders and costume designers and actors, it's a miracle that it looks anything like the frame actually more than it is," he said. "I actually do more work to keep it like the frame than I do to like say, oh there's my stamp on it."

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