Who watches the Watchmen?
Well, if early indications are correct, just about everyone will be, starting this Friday when the long awaited film is released. Based on the ground breaking graphic novel created by comic book legend Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, director Zack Snyder (“300”) has finally brought the beloved comic to the big screen.
Once widely believed to be un-filmable, the movie that has taken more than twenty-years to be made is about to be released, and comic book fans couldn’t be more excited. As those familiar with the graphic novel know, the story is set in an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist, Richard Nixon is still president, and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are at an all-time high. The vigilante Rorschach is investigating the murder of former hero, the Comedian, and uncovers a plot to discredit and murder various heroes. However while investigating, Rorschach discovers a far wider-ranging conspiracy involving his colleagues’ past, which could completely change the course of history.
With less than a week until the release of the film, CBR News sat down with co-creator Dave Gibbons and director Zack Snyder at last weekends WonderCon in San Francisco to talk about the widely anticipated film, what to expect from the Director’s Cut and Gibbon’s reaction to all the buzz.
CBR News: To begin with, Zack the Directors Cut of the film will be released in theatres in July, is that right?
Zack Snyder: That’s the hope anyway.
Where will it be released?
Snyder: They’re saying right now New York and LA, but I don’t know. I have no idea. They mentioned it as a thing, so I said, that’s cool. That would be great.
It seems that the Director’s Cut will be a long film. Will it play with an intermission?
Snyder: An intermission? It’s only three hours.
Dave Gibbons: Train your bladder. You know, that’s the thing.
Snyder: It’s basically like “Titanic.” “Titanic” is about as long as this.
Gibbons: Well it was strange. Zack showed me a rough cut of the film last August. I spoke to Zack in the men’s room before the movie and then we finished up in the men’s room immediately after the movie. So obviously it’s synchronized. I’m wise to it now. Don’t drink a pint of coffee before you go see “Watchmen.”
Zack, in addition to cutting Hollis Mason’s death scene from the film, what else did you have to cut from the theatrical version?
Snyder: Hollis’ (death scene) was ten minutes that we cut. There was also a sequence on Mars between Laurie and Manhattan. You know, the whole thing about, “You’re sleeping with him?” That whole part about, “I’m a puppet and I can see the strings,” that whole thing.
Were you able to keep a lot of the nudity in the film?
Snyder: Well, that shot when they’re walking up the stairs, coming to the top of the glass palace, it’s pretty intense. (Dr. Manhattan) has quite a belt whacker.
Was there a lot of violence that you had to cut out for the theatrical version?
Snyder: There’s a little more Rorschach (in the Director’s Cut), a couple more hacks into the head of the child killer. Actually, a piece comes off, and it was pretty hardcore. And then, you know, because Dan sees that Hollis is dead on the TV and he beats up that guy in the bar.
Gibbons: Incredible scene.
Snyder: He knocks his teeth out and he really beats the crap out of him in a horrible way.
Gibbons: And the thing I really like about the scene is the way Rorschach taps him on the shoulder and says, “Dan come on, not in front of the civilians.”
Snyder: It’s a great line. It’s awesome because the implication that we’ve always talked about is that some people think he means, don’t be violent. It’s not don’t be violent in front of the civilians, it’s don’t be emotional in front of the civilians.
Gibbons: Don’t loose your temper.
Dave, what did you think about Rorschach hacking of the child molester’s head, because that’s not what happens in the graphic novel?
Gibbons: It made me wince. I think that was about as violent as it gets, and interestingly enough, it kind of fits with the symmetry thing. You know, chopping somebody down the middle of the head, I can see it had a resonance like that. And I think it had to be something that had a real kick to it, because it is what turns Kovacs into Rorschach. So it’s got to have a huge charge, and it has.
Dave, what was your biggest “wow” moment watching the movie where you couldn’t believe they were able to film it so faithfully?
DG: My biggest ‘wow” moment started at the beginning of the movie and went till the end of the movie. No, I was just blown away. But it’s really funny, the first time I watched it, because I’m obviously so close to it, I watched it in a kind of technical way. But the second time I watched it, I just went anonymously to a press screening and I was taken away. I had really bad jetlag and I thought, “I’m going to fall asleep. That would be terrible. Please don’t take a picture of that.” But I woke up when the film started and I was completely carried away with it. I have to say that the opening montage, I think is just genius. It’s genius. There’s so much in there, and it so much sets the tone. It involves the audience completely. I think that was my real “wow” moment.
Snyder: Someone asked me, and I think they were trying to dork me out, “So you didn’t go for the snow globe?” I was like, “The snow globe’s on top of the TV, and we had it custom made, that’s how freaking hardcore this is; I shook it up right before we shot it.”
Dave, in anticipation of the release, it seems that “Watchmen Fever” is really hitting the mainstream and resonating with a large audience. As the co-creator of the graphic novel, how does it make you feel to see your work so widely accepted?
Gibbons: Well, it’s weird for me, you know. I live in this sleepy little village in England, and I kind of abstractly know that all of this is happening because I speak to the guys and see it on the Internet. But when I went to New York a couple of weeks ago, I was in the car coming from the airport and the driver was talking to me, asking me what I do. I said, “Well, we’re publicizing this movie, I’m a comic book artist, I’m going to do some signatures, panel questions and I’m going to do some drawings.” He said, “Oh will you do me a drawing?” So I drew like this quick little crappy Rorschach that I do and I handed it back to him and we stopped at an intersection. I think maybe he was expecting Superman or Batman, and it’s this guy in a hat with like a block for a face, and he said, “Oh, right.” I said, “When you see the movie you’ll get it.” He put the clipboard down on the seat and we both looked up at once as a New York bus went by with a “Watchmen” ad and a picture of Rorschach on the side. The driver turned to me and said, “I get it.” And to be in the states with huge billboards everywhere and it’s the same in London. I have friends sending me photographs of people reading “Watchmen” on the underground railway in London. So it’s real, it’s everywhere.
Zack, that’s got to be gratifying for you to see people excited about the movie and turn to the book, with sales of the book having gone through the roof since the release of the trailer last summer?
Snyder: You know, I’ve said if I’ve made a two-hour ad for the book, then I’ve done my job. I think that there was no way I was going to make a movie that replaced the book. First of all there’s no way to do that. Secondly, I don’t want to do that. If the experience can be supplemental to the reading of the graphic novel, then that’s the best thing I can hope for. I feel like it is. I feel like, if in the end you’re still going, “Oh I wonder what … jeez I got to find out about that.” It’s all there. By the way, we all know what the graphic novel is like; you can pore over it for quite a while to find all the answers you need to find.
Gibbons: I think people come out of the movie talking about the movie, that’s what I’ve seen. They can turn to the reference book if they really want to dig deeply into it. I feel that the graphic novel is valid and complete in it’s own right, and I think the movie is valid and complete. It’s not that one is an evolution of the other. It’s two separate things, two different ways of telling the same story.
Snyder: It’s funny, because Lloyd (Levin, “Watchmen’s” Producer) and I were just talking about how I think the real thing that’s cool about the movie is that, in a way, it has no business being like that. R-rated, two and half hours long, Dr. Manhattan, love scene in the Owl Ship, like, all the way, you know. Those were all things that, when I was purposing them, I was expecting them to say “No.” It’s just weird, because we got to do a lot of what I wanted.
Gibbons: If I could just go back to this point, when we did the original graphic novel, Alan (Moore) and John (Higgins) and I were just left alone to do it, and we kind of did it. And it’s great that Zack has found himself in the position where he’s been able to make his movie largely with out a lot of editorial micro-management. I think that is to the great benefit of the movie.
“Watchmen” hits theaters this Friday, March 6th.