It’s about time for another Watchmen update! Speaking of time, Zack and Deborah Snyder told SCI FI Wire that the film’s final length is getting shorter.

Though WB has not approved the new length, producer Deborah Snyder said “we’re getting really close” during a telephone interview. “We’re at two hours and 35 minutes.” Zack added “The movie’s pretty long… compared to ‘300,’ which was an hour and 58 minutes. The director’s cut [of Watchmen] is about three hours and 10 minutes long. It has even more than the theatrical version, as far as the detail that gets even closer to the graphic novel.

2 hours and 35 minutes! That’s it?

If Zack is trying to be faithful to the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon graphic novel, as a movie this complex story would be around 3.5 hours long, if not four.

Watchmen is a graphic novel that uses a comic within a comic, as well as various excerpts, to tell its narrative. Zack is trying desperately to include those details to fully flesh-out all of these characters, but realistically we may have to do without some of the pieces.

Tales of the Black Freighter, which Zack has shot as an animated version, is envisioned as a separate DVD release–coinciding with Watchmen‘s theatrical debut. I’m led to believe we won’t be seeing much of the Black Freighter in the theatrical release with this piece of news. That, and the following quote from Zack:

The ‘Black Freighter’ version of the movie that we’re working on–which has the ins and outs of the ‘Black Freighter’ comic book woven through it, with an animated version of the ‘Black Freighter’–will be about three hours and 40 minutes… So there’s a huge epic version of ‘Watchmen,’ which will probably come out after the movie’s theatrical release, for hardcore [fans].

3 hours and 40 minutes!… That’s more like it.

Fans of the graphic novel know that throughout the course of the story, a minor character is seen reading ‘Marooned.’ The is a comic book within the comic book about a stranded seaman and his desperate attempt to reach his home ahead of the Black Freighter pirates who wrecked his ship; Moore, in his genius, uses the story to foreshadow the events of the overall story arc. So how much are we losing?

A panel from “Tales of the Black Freighter”

Although I haven’t seen the movie yet (something Warner Bros. can fix immediately, *hint hint*), I am in favor of cuts so long as the Black Freighter isn’t entirely removed and as long as the characters remain intact. So many panels and text have been devoted to Tales of the Black Freighter, it would be a shame if audiences weren’t encouraged to go deeper into the story. Nudging viewers to go so far as to pick up the actual graphic novel is not a high-brow request.

I’m not, however, in favor of cutting the autobiography Under the Hood or case files for Rorschach, etc; I believe a longer running time is preferred, so long as more story is being told.

The Dark Knight clocked in at 2 hours and 32 minutes, and I ended up wanting more. I think Nolan would’ve done an even better job if he didn’t shave some of the beats and dialogue, properly closing some of the scenes and extending the action would have been beneficial as well. Having read the full script, like any good film student, what we lost wasn’t anything groundbreaking but it further shaped the character’s ideas and point of view. This, in turn, layered the story and fleshed out the entire cast. Though the characters remain intact, their juxtaposition with one another is downplayed to some lesser degree. Arguably, those added details could have improved the story.

So what’s on the Watchmen‘s cutting room floor? I don’t know, but I hope it’s not a part of the story I loved reading.

What do you think? Should a theatrical release choose running time over substance?

Watchmen is (still) scheduled to open on March 6, 2009.