Watchmen ended it’s theatrical run today (May 28th, 2009) five long years ago; we look back at how it changed the superhero genre forever and put Zack Snyder on the map.
It was this week 5 long years ago (May 28, 2009) that Zack Snyder’s vision of perfection, WATCHMEN, ended it’s theatrical run in North America, amassing $107 million in it’s 12 week run. It later would go on to gross $77 million overseas adding to $185 million off it’s $130 million budget, WATCHMEN still stands as the pinnacle of it’s genre, and a glimpse at how high Zack’s artistic craft can be to heaven itself.
Released March 6, 2009, WATCHMEN already had earned considerable good-will from the huge impact of it’s debut trailer infront of DC’s The Dark Knight the year before. With the insane production values and astute attention to detail, fans were excited to see Snyder’s uncompromising vision of Alan Moore’s graphic-novel come to life (without the stupid Squid that nerds raged about).
Approached by Warner Brothers in 2005 after impressing them with his work on yet-to-be released epic 300, Snyder was teamed with screen-writer Alex Tse, working off of both his own ideas and the ideas and themes present in David Hayter’s (X2: X-men United, Metal Gear Solid) script, Zack got to work, choosing to honor the material as he did with Frank Millers’ by using the comic panels themselves as story-boards. This effectively started the process of making the first and only true “comic book adaption”, which shines even more by viewing Snyder’s “Ultimate Cut” on Blu-ray.
“Watchmen” is just so rich. The challenge with “Watchmen” is making sure that the ideas that were in the book got into the movie. That was my biggest stretch. I wanted people to watch the movie and get it. It’s one of those things where over time, it has happened more. People always come up to me now and say, “’Watchmen’ is the best superhero movie ever made. I’m always say “That’s super cool. That’s nice of you to say.” But it happens now, more and more and more than it did when it first came out. I think the studio thought it was a superhero movie. They thought it was this franchise-able superhero movie that was going to be sequel-able, like “Iron Man” or something. And I’m like, guys, this is something entirely different. I can’t even begin to describe how wrong that is. It’s a hard-R, deconstruction of the superhero genre, and that’s the fun of it. The fun is not, “Wow, we’re bad-ass. We’re these superheroes and we’re going to go kick the aliens’ ass or whatever enemy presents itself.” That’s not the fun of the movie. The fun of the movie is that these superheroes rape each other and they have super-destructive relationships and they don’t know how to cope with society or themselves. They have a lot of issues. That’s the fun: to see superheroes in that context. I think that was the thing the studio was like, “Wow.” When a general audience goes to the movie, like when my parents go to the movie, thinking, “Oh, my son made a cool superhero movie.” And they were like, “What is this?” There’s that part of it. I think we’ve set up this concept of what a superhero movie is and in a weird way, that mythology has been respected by filmmakers across the board. Then for a movie like “Watchmen” to come along. It’s period. The way it’s sewn into history. The way it uses the collective psychology of world politics to shape the superheroes. That stuff is like, “Whoa.” Some people feel there’s no need for that. That becomes a little exhausting for some people, but for me that’s the best part of it.
Dave Gibbons, the artist of Alan Moore’s original, praised Snyder and his crew for the film’s unparalleled attention to detail on set, such has actual full newspaper clippings, memorabilia, the color palette, and pure world that was put onto film. This is something immediately noticeable upon watching the film on Blu-ray, as it was meant to be.
Zack might be adapting the novel frame-for-frame; but his style and the style of the film – stated by Snyder’s wife as “stylized realism” – cements WATCHMEN as one of the most visually engrossing and dense films released in mainstream history. In his camera work, Snyder is one of the few working directors that breaks from the often booed “shaky cam”, making every scene seem like something out of a still-life portrait. Visually, WATCHMEN is the ultimate comic-book movie, because it is a comic book movie.
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