HBO's series order of Watchmen has renewed discussion about just how adaptable the seminal comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons really is. Of course, the same debate swirled around Zack Snyder's polarizing 2009 film. Now a video has resurfaced from 2009 in which the director seemed to support the contention that television isn't nearly a big enough stage for a Watchmen adaptation.
"This is a question that's been brought up a lot, like, oh, this should be an HBO miniseries or whatever, and I think that's cool," Snyder says in the video. "But there's no version of this miniseries where you have a version of Manhattan like [the film adaptation]. Each shot of him would be your budget for the episode of the show."
Snyder's film was released nine years ago under less-than-ideal circumstances. The adaptation had spent decades in development hell, with directors ranging from Tim Burton to Paul Greengrass to Terry Gilliam attached at one point or another. Rewrites starting in the mid-1980s stretched on for several years before the material was widely considered unfilmable. The film had also been preemptively disowned by Moore, who turned down offers to write the script himself, and he was quoted as saying, "Do we really need another shitty movie in the world?" Snyder had hoped that the "worst-case scenario" would be Moore would eventually see the movie and think, "it doesn't suck too bad." Moore responded by saying his opinion was moot as he would never watch the film.
The 2009 film was a commercial success, enjoying the widest opening at the time for an R-rated film. Its opening weekend was the biggest of the year to that point, reaching $55.7 million.
Snyder kept as close to the source material as possible, basing many of his storyboards on panels lifted directly from the pages of the comic. He stated that, in order to be true to the book, he wanted to use the original art wherever possible, and he enlisted Gibbons to work on poster and promotional art.
Although HBO's series is set in the world of Watchmen, Lindelof has made clear that, unlike Snyder's film, it isn't a direct adaptation of the comic, which he has described as "sacred." “Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted,” he wrote. “They will, however, be remixed.”
Of course, there are also likely to be a vast budgetary divide between Lindelof's Watchmen and Snyder's, which boasted more than 1,100 visual effects shots. But HBO has broken new ground since Snyder's interview on the subject, with effects-heavy shows like Game of Thrones.