Defending Zack Snyder, Sort Of

Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Man of Steel, also helmed the film adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen. What's "important" for purposes of this little spiel is Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) also attempted to make Watchmen, twice, but eventually gave up, deeming the comic "unfilmable."

Here's what you need to know about Watchmen: it takes place in an alternate reality where we won Vietnam -- thanks to the godlike Dr. Manhattan -- and Nixon is still President (in the 1980s), yet tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Until, that is, the brilliant Ozymandias devises a diabolical hoax to convince the superpowers to work together for peace. The ending of Moore's story finds the heroes (well, most of them) agreeing to further the deception for the better of mankind.

Enter producer Joel Silver, who gave an interview to ComingSoon.net in which he describes what might have been, had Gilliam gotten the green light (hint: this is what Snyder takes issue with).

Quoth Silver:

[Terry] had the Ozymandias character convince, essentially, the Doctor Manhattan character to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. He was the only character with real supernatural powers, he went back and prevented himself from being turned into Doctor Manhattan, and in the vortex that was created after that occurred these characters from "Watchmen" only became characters in a comic book.
So the three characters, I think it was Rorschach and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, they're all of the sudden in Times Square and there's a kid reading a comic book. They become like the people in Times Square dressing up like characters as opposed to really BEING those characters. There's a kid reading the comic book and he's like, "Hey, you're just like in my comic book." It was very smart, it was very articulate, and it really gave a very satisfying resolution to the story, but it just didn't happen.

Silver also goes on in that same interview to say how much he loves Non-Stop, so proceed accordingly.

Snyder, of course, had to retort:

Yeah, the fans would have stormed the castle on that one. So, honestly, I made "Watchmen" for myself. It's probably my favorite movie that I've made. And 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 labor 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.

How very noble.

I don't really want to get in the middle here. I have a great deal of respect for Gilliam, but that ending sounds like something from the gag reel of 12 Monkeys. Snyder also conveniently glosses over the fact he changed the original ending as well, and because of that the world will never know the joys of seeing a giant, telepathic squid exploding over Times Square.

But there's been a lot of shade thrown Snyder's way because of this (like here and here). Generally, these pieces harp on Snyder's slavish devotion to the original (something we've already discounted) and point out Snyder's filmography suffers greatly in comparison to Gilliam's.

Hard to argue with that, even Gilliam's worst (The Brothers Grimm, Tideland) are National Film Registry contenders next to Sucker Punch.

But in spite of all that, I can't totally hate Snyder. For the following reasons:

Dawn of the Dead Was Pretty Damn Good Heresy! I was on the hater train as much as anyone when this was announced, adding my voice to the chorus bemoaning the sorry, derivative state of the film industry. But the fact of the matter is, until that inexplicably terrible post-credits sequence, this was a better George A. Romero movie than Romero himself has made in 25 years.

Man of Steel Was ... Not Terrible I realize not many people enjoyed Snyder's Superman flick as much as I did, but weird Jesus-y references and letting your dad get killed by a tornado aside, everybody's complaints seemed to boil down to how many innocent Metropolis-ites were killed in the final battle with General Zod. And while they do have a point:

Have you guys seen The Avengers? You telling me all those buildings were cleared out before the Hulk rode the Chitauri Leviathan through them? I guess if your beloved Joss Whedon destroys a city, it must be because he's trying to make a grand statement about gender bias, or something..

He Wasn't Wrong, Exactly Like it or not, slavishly catering to the source material was what you did in 2009. That's not the case any longer, thankfully, but adhering to Alan Moore's resolution of the story was more or less expected. Of greater concern is the lifeless direction and the fact Snyder couldn't figure out a way to introduce the other aspects of the story (Tales of the Black Freighter, Under the Hood) that made the graphic novel so outstanding.

And for those thinking Moore cares, he doesn't. He's essentially washed his hands of any comic property he doesn't own outright.

Then Again, Sucker Punch Was Not Good Lord no, Not at all.

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