Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliam’s ‘Watchmen’ Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

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Zack Snyder Watchmen Ending Terry Gilliam Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliams Watchmen Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

In a weird turn of events, Watchmen is once again grabbing headlines. About a week ago (from writing this) Hollywood super-producer Joel Silver (The Matrix) was out to once again take jabs at the 2009 Watchmen film adaptation by Batman vs. Superman director Zack Snyder. Silver once had his own version of a Watchmen movie in the works with eccentric director Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and their ending to Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel was indeed VERY different from both the original “giant squid” ending of Moore’s comic and the “giant bomb” ending of Snyder’s film. 

Silver’s boasts about he and Gilliam’s version of Watchmen has understandably prompted a response from Snyder and his wife/producing partner, Deborah, while they were out promoting the new film 300: Rise of an Empire, which they are producing. In short, the Snyders say that Terry Gilliam’s Watchmen ending was pretty much what you’d expect from Terry Gilliam – far out and weird/borderline crazy. Beyond that, they talk about the current state of the superhero movie genre, and just how much power (or not) those often overzealous fans have.

Watchmen Dr Manhattan Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliams Watchmen Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

Speaking with HuffPo, The Snyders had the following to say in response to Joel Silver’s boast about Gilliam’s ending to the Watchmen movie: 

ZS: It’s funny, because the biggest knock against the movie is that we finally changed the ending, right?… and if you read the Gilliam ending, it’s completely insane… It would be like if you were doing “Romeo and Juliet” and instead of them waking up in the grave area, they would have time-traveled back in time and none of it would have happened.

DS: The fans would have been thinking that they were smoking crack.

ZS: 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 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… I would not have grabbed something from out of the air and said, “Oh, here’s a cool ending” just because it’s cool.


MORE: Gilliam’s Time-travel Watchmen Ending


The next portion of the interview enters into waters we recently swam into with our “Truth About Superhero Movie Casting” op-ed: namely, the question of whether fidelity to the source material or making an accessible blockbuster movie experience holds greater importance in the superhero movie-making process. According to the Snyders, there is simply no real way to win at this, no matter how close or far you are from the source material:

DS: But it’s interesting because, you’re right, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You have people who are mad that the ending was changed and you have other people saying, “Oh, it was a slave to the graphic novel.” You can’t please everybody.

ZS: And that’s the problem with genre. That’s the problem with comic book movies and genre. And I believe that we’ve evolved — I believe that the audiences have evolved. I feel like “Watchmen” came out at sort of the height of the snarky Internet fanboy — like, when he had his biggest strength. And I think if that movie came out now — and this is just my opinion — because now that we’ve had “Avengers” and comic book culture is well established, I think people would realize that the movie is a satire. You know, the whole movie is a satire. It’s a genre-busting movie. The graphic novel was written to analyze the graphic novel — and comic books and the Cold War and politics and the place that comic books play in the mythology of pop culture. I guess that’s what I’m getting at with the end of “Watchmen” — in the end, the most important thing with the end was that it tells the story of the graphic novel. The morality tale of the graphic novel is still told exactly as it was told in the graphic novel — I used slightly different devices. The Gilliam version, if you look at it, it has nothing to do with the idea that is the end of the graphic novel. And that’s the thing that I would go, “Well, then don’t do it.” It doesn’t make any sense.

 Batman vs. Superman Promor Artwork 3 1024x680 Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliams Watchmen Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

Finally, The Snyders elaborate on what it’s like making a monumental superhero movie like Batman vs. Superman under the constraints of fan scrutiny and opinion:

DS: Things get leaked so often these days, it’s a shame because even casing announcements, or whatever, you’re in the middle of a process and sometimes they’re so off base — and then it gets picked up by multiple places and it’s all over the place… It’s kind of a shame that you can’t go through the process in a pure way and then be able to announce it in a way that’s exciting. With the [Batman vs. Superman] announcement, there was rumblings and we were like, “Aw.” Because we wanted to bring it to the fans. We wanted to bring them something special. We went to Comic-Con for “Watchmen” and we were bringing the cast to announce it and it got leaked a couple of days before. We wanted to give that to them and we got cheated out of it.

ZS: I think it does another thing. The leak becomes the audience involvement. They are now part of it, the process. Do you know what I mean? And you have to take that as the world we live in, as opposed to “Oh, that’s too bad.”… That’s fun for us when we’re able to announce Jesse Eisenberg to the audience.

DS: Everyone was like, “What?! Ah!”

ZS: Yeah, that’s fun.

Zack and Deborah Snyder talk much more about everything from their stylistic approach to making Man of Steel, to why Zack Snyder’s work seems to suffer harsher criticism than most. For all of that (and more), head over to HuffPo.

Zack Snyder on the Watchmen Set Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliams Watchmen Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

Zack Snyder on the Watchmen Set

Snyder has certainly carried a lot fanboy negativity on his back – but not without reason. The groundbreaking adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 comic book thrust him into the comic book movie limelight at a crucial time (2006), and he followed that initial momentum by tackling Watchmen, the mountain of comic book adaptations. When Watchmen‘s comic book fidelity left many questioning the movie’s quality, Snyder’s rep was (somewhat unfairly) tarnished; Sucker Punch lived up to its title by delivering both a critical and commercial blow to the filmmaker; and Man of Steel is so divisive that it sits alongside politics and religion in the category of things you do not bring up in casual conversation. And now he’s just taking on quite possibly the biggest superhero movie of all time with Batman vs. Superman.

In other words: A lot of this pressure has been self-applied.

Superman Batman Cavill Affleck Fan Art Zack Snyder Criticizes Gilliams Watchmen Ending, Questions Fanboy Influence

In my own opinion, though – Snyder is right. Watchmen came out at a time when studios were utterly convinced that fidelity to fanboys was the only viable way of doing business. Now that time has passed. Movies like Iron Man 3, Fantastic Four and Batman vs. Superman are taking bigger and bolder risks with their visions of these worlds – independent of what the source material has done. While it remains to seen in a lot of cases if this transition is a good or bad thing, it could very well prove true that a solid cinematic vision for a superhero movie – whether familiar or new – could end up being a box office success if executed correctly.

…As for Watchmen? It’s done, and Snyder’s ending still makes about as much sense as any ending to that story that anyone came up with – including Alan Moore himself. The giant squid was never exactly universally accepted as a masterful stroke of brilliance (it’s pretty weird, really) and Joel Silver’s “would a, could a” talk doesn’t really matter; it’s Snyder who got the film in the can, and until that inevitable reboot or prequel trilogy comes along, Snyder’s is the version we have.


300: Rise of an Empire will be in theaters on March 7, 2014.

Batman vs. Superman will be in theaters on May 6, 2016.

Source: HuffPo

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  1. Seeing as how Snyder is a comic book fan himself, I find it easy to understand his frustration with news being leaked ahead of the announcement. Not being able to be the first to announce something huge in the superhero genre and something he worked on probably gets annoying after a while. At least he had fun announcing left field casting news like Affleck, Gadot and Eisenberg.

    • Yeah, I kind of felt sorry for him there and also in the moviemaking process going into the MOS sequel, what with the most ridiculous complaints and comments from people who seem to lack any kind of common sense or capability of producing original thoughts and ideas.

      Do something fun that works on screen and hints at the source material but is different enough to allow comic book fans and newcomers to enjoy it and you get critical comments from those who have the loudest voices but unfortunately, not the brain matter to go with it.

      Stick too closely to things and they still find a fault with the movie anyway, even if it’s something minor or unimportant, like an actor’s height (honestly, whenever someone complains that Hugh Jackman is “too tall” to play Wolverine, that’s the point where I stop taking that person seriously and treat them as a joke gimmick that posts ridiculous comments for the hell of it and not to add any serious discussion to the matter).

      • I always just look at what Ben Affleck said before. “Whatever people say before the movie comes out is just noise. It’s what people say after the movie comes out that matters.” Not much is known about the movie, so I think people are just filling in the giant gaps of information they don’t have on the movie to have a ‘clear’ image of what the movie is. When really, we won’t have a clear image of what the movie is until we actually see it.

        • And they will say, oh god that was made for kids.

      • It must be the same people who defend that Dredd reboot where the lead actor has to wear that silly helmet through the entire movie. Who cares if it completely covers the actor’s face and prevents him from delivering a performance, it’s ok ’cause “Dredd never takes his helmet off in the comics!”

        • Not the best example you could have picked; that’s like saying anyone playing Batman would do better without the cowl. Karl Urban kept the helmet on and delivered a pitch-perfect performance. Stallone took the helmet off and delivered Stallone.

  2. I’m sorry, but this is absolutely the wrong guy to be doing a movie as big as & as eagerly anticipated as Superman vs. Batman is. I gave him the benefit of the doubt at first, but his comments here clearly indicate that he has his own agenda & no clue on what needs to be done to make this movie one that fans will enjoy & want more of. This movie will indeed be bad & put the entire DCCU in jeopardy and that makes me sad & mad. This movie is far too important to be trusted to a guy like this.

    • Well, at least you’re finally good for something. Thanks for proving Zack Snyder right.

      Feels weird saying that, I don’t even like the guy but yeah, you’re the exact kind of person Zack was talking about.

    • Movie… Far too Important?

      A movie?

    • Comments like this make me wonder if people even read the full articles. Zack Snyder has stuck closest to source material of any comic book movie director in both look, attitude, and theme. When it comes to track record, he can’t really be criticized for not being a fan.

      He literally said he was making Watchmen for himself (a fan) so that the studio wouldn’t make a jacked up version.

    • You just proved the article fanboy!

    • +1000

    • the Lucas syndrome. I think Snyder has a better finger on the pulse of comincs, but the fact that he’s hating on the fans and a fellow filmmaker doesn’t sit well

  3. “Man of Steel is so divisive that it sits alongside politics and religion in the category of things you do not bring up in casual conversation”

    Haha! That’s great and so true. :D

    • +1
      Haha I don’t talk about Man of Steel with one of my friend because he absolutely hates it while I really like it.

  4. IMO, “Watchmen” is my favorite comic book movie, but arguing over which version is better isn’t going to change the fact the film was a flop.

    • Domestic: $107,509,799 58.0%
      + Foreign: $77,749,184 42.0%
      = Worldwide: $185,258,983

      Yup it sure was a flop!! I personally did not like it but according to those figures the movie made a HUGE profit, so if that is what a flop is I want a piece of that action !!

      • Them numbers aren’t that big for a blockbuster, sadly! It’s budget was around $130 million and that’s without the marketing and so forth. So, in the end it didn’t make much if any at all!

        I do wish it would have made more. Because it’s a ballsy graphic novel and film, and in my opinion fantastic!

        • It wasn’t a huge smash hit by means but it certainly wasn’t a flop either.

      • @ That guy

        $185 million looks great on paper, but when the movie cost $130 million to make and you gotta pay for advertising and distribution that $55 million margin shrinks smaller and smaller.

        • DVD sales topped $60 million. Plus merchandise. So it made a profit. But for an R rated blockbuster that is decent scratch.

          Still my 2nd favorite comic book movie and maybe top ten all time… Dark Knight no. 1, of course.

    • Let’s face it, the general audience had never heard of Watchmen before, many probably still haven’t heard of it. They didn’t do the greatest job marketing the movie, and most weren’t expecting what they got. Most peoples’ jaws probably hit the floor the first time they saw Dr. Manhattan’s blue dong dangling on screen, and just couldn’t wrap their heads around what they were watching. Reactions like that affect the bottom line, which is why box office isn’t a good indicator of quality.

  5. Haters gonna hate. BvsS will be EPIC.

    • guessers gonna guess.

  6. Just don’t change the fundamentals of character and I’m fine. I’m a fanboy, hardcore comic fan, whatever you wanna call it, but I want original stories. I just want those stories to be about the characters I know, not a different character entirely who just uses the same name.

    • Yes! Yes! Yes! Where are the original stories!?!?! Why stick to source material at all? Who wants to see a story they already know? Use the characters everyone loves, and put them in NEW stories!!!

  7. My respect for Zack Snyder seemed to have just increased from reading this. And then I read this part of the original interview and am no longer sure: “…I always feel like — and I always believe the movies I’ve made are smarter than the way they are perceived by sort of mass culture and by the critics…”

    Again, he is either a genius visionary director or Hollywood’s biggest dimwit. Way to make critics hate you even more, Zack.

    • +1
      Completely agree.

    • Great comment

    • We may be the minority, but damn if it isnt fun being the ones that people come running to when they have questions about the story lines or “ok so what is captain america’s shield made out of?” or “so how can the iron man franchise continue on with tony not having the arc reactor in his chest?”
      Those are the sweet moments when I say it might not have been the real mandarin but it will cause people to ask me what the difference is and I get to explain that.

      We the minority(nerds/geeks) need to soak this up while we can. We were picked on for so long in the 80′s and 90′s for enjoying these movies and now we are the ones who people call on for information about something that is cool. Im lovin it.

    • Iron Man 3 was always going to make money mate. It was the first Marvel movie after Avengers.

      And most people know who Superman and Batman are. You’d be hard pressed to find moviegoers who don’t.

  8. Hes no push over, You go Zack!

    • no push over. Is this considered being pushed? wow. how light weight.

  9. I loved Watchmen, it was so dark.

  10. Zack Snyder has not made a bad movie yet! I look forward to his vision for every movie he makes, his style is one- of-a-kind. Producer Joel Silver has made FLOPS, really how bad was the last two Matrix films? Does he really want to complain when those movies made NO sense at all, so I’m grateful Gilliam never touched a ‘cult classic’ like ‘Watchmen’ is. We all dodged the bullet on that one!

    • Zack has not made a bad movie yet??? hmmm

      • I believe in zack and i havent seem him make a s***** film. Just Saying. ..

    • The two Matrix sequels were not flops. In fact Reloaded was a huge hit and to this day holds the title of second top-grossing R rated film of all time, making it MORE financially successful than any Snyder movie excluding his Superman reboot. To answer your question the two Matrix sequels were so “bad” that they’re both superior to any film Snyder has directed in his career.

      • Sorry, but Joel Silver is a producer, and has produced some pretty awful movies. Much worse than anything Snyder has ever directed. Hell, the Wachowski Siblings have directed worse than Sucker Punch (which is Snyder’s worst movie), as has Terry Gilliam. So I don’t think anyone has a leg to stand on in this argument. Every director/producer/writer will have some “crap” on their resume, it’s inevitable.

        • Sucker Punch wasn’t Snyder’s worst movie. That honor goes to Man of Steel, and I don’t think the Wachowskis or Gilliam have ever directed anything as bad as that turd. I’m sure Joel Silver has produced his share of bad movies but as a producer he really very limited creative control of a lot of projects.

      • Arguing which one’s better, Snyder or the the Wachowski’s, is like arguing over the best Ed Wood flick. Even at their best, they’re pretty awful.

        • I actually think Snyder is a good director in his own right and I loved his Watchmen film. Trying to drag the Matrix trilogy into this as examples of Joel Silver’s “flops” is ludicrous though considering that Watchmen made less money than any of the 3 Matrix films.

  11. Though I do think Zack Snyder is completely overrated even though I did like Watchmen, 300, and Dawn of the Dead as simple pleasure, I agree with him in this interview, and this is coming from a Terry Gilliam fanboy. Terry Gilliam’s ending was ridiculous and wasn’t clever at all, and to be honest Snyder’s Watchmen had an ending that tied everything closer together than even that of the graphic novel. But the graphic novel is far and away superior to his film as Snyder’s film only covered everything above Alan Moore’s surface, while forgetting mostly everything below it’s surface also.

    • overrated….. have you ever heard of james cameron

      • I do believe Titanic and Avatar are overrated, but I actually really liked Aliens, Termintor 1 & 2, The Abyss, and True Lies.

        • I find TDK trilogy & MOS overrated aswell.

  12. I’m not normally one to support people who attack their critics but in this case I kind of have to side with Snyder. Out of every director working today I feel like Snyder has been the most unfairly marginalized. He’s not perfect by any means (heck, I love Sucker Punch and even I know it’s pretty flawed) but he’s doing interesting things with movies that most other directors aren’t.

    Also, Gilliam is awesome but his Watchmen adaption sounds like it would have been atrocious. I’ll take The Man Who Killed Don Quixote over The Man Who Killed Manhattan any day.

  13. If Zack Snyder even dreams of being better than Terry Gilliam, he’d better wake up and apologize.

    • its not Gilliam who made the comments. It was Silver.

      • “So, finally I made [Watchmen] to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world.” Yeah, Snyder is full of himself. This proves how pretentious he is, no matter what people think of the movie. Terry Gilliam isn’t always great, but he sure as hell made a dozen better movies than him.

        • Not that I know exactly what Snyder was thinking but I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t throwing Gilliam under the bus. Based off his other comments I think he meant keeping Watchmen away from people who would change it in ways to make it more “digestible.”

  14. I don’t know about anybody else but I was extremely happy with the way Zack Snyders Watchmen came out. It was real clever, smart, had its humor and great action sequences. It was done right and I for one really love the film. A little less blue dong would have also been cool with me……..

  15. Riiight lol Dr. Manhattans omnipotent except when it comes to finding pants

    • You can’t tell me that if you were an all-powerful blue demigod you wouldn’t prance around commando style too. If anyone calls you out on it you just ZAP THEM WITH YOUR GOD FINGER.

  16. Zack’s version of Watchman is excellent. I love Gilliam, mainly for Baron Munchausen and 12 Monkeys, but his Watchmen ending would’ve undermined the whole point of the story and the characters. I aslo feel like Watchmen has been the only superhero movie to properly approach and really nail superhero costumes. The colours and designs were fantastic but never seemed ridiculous or out of place, unlike say, Captain America in Avengers, who just kinda looked silly ( but then it is a pretty lame costume comparatively ). I’d love to see a Wolverine movie by Snyder, he wouldn’t shy away from the classic yellow outfit and mask, or the aggresive violence.

  17. I am SO DOWN for a hardcore Wolverine film by Snyder!

    • Oh yeah for sure, and I bet he would cast someone like Michael Cera (no offense dude but you should never be in a Wolverine movie) in the lead. Hmmmm, maybe you were being sarcastic. Hard to tell on the internet unless you make it blatantly obvious.

  18. He should just move on. Why sink down to that level. Snyder made the movie Silver did not. Its sour grapes.

    Snyders movie did suck. Silvers would have also.

    • Well, Mike…You’re HALF right. Silver’s version would, indeed, have been terrible. Fortunately, we got the excellent Snyder version.

  19. Znyders Watchman was great and everything I wanted it to be after treasuring the comic book.

    I hate it when time travel is used to explain everything… lazy writing. I would have stormed the castle if that was the ending.

    Don’t know why this has come up now, but it’s made me want to watch the original again.

  20. Well said Snyder!

    Gilliam’s ending would have been awful, I think the movie turned out perfectly fine.

    • Zack Snyder managed to properly adapt the surface of Watchmen, the scenes, dialogue, visuals, and production design were constructed well for the most part. But he managed to ignore a lot of the undertones that held Alan Moore’s weight of characterization. For example, The Tale of the Black Freighter, which Snyder did direct pointlessly as a stand alone film, was left out, and the reason why that was important was that it paralleled Ozymandias’ action towards the end. His actions were intentionally sudden and his readers were left in the dark about his motivation, until realizing everything the protagonist went through in the Black Freighter mirrored Ozy’s suppressed emotions.

      • Tales of the Black Freighter

      • Tale of the Black Freighter was added to the Ultimate Cut interspersed with the main narrative. Time constraints made it impractical to include it in the theatrical cut.

  21. me2@paul

  22. Zack Snyder is beginning to be like Michael Bay. Watchmen ( wouldn’t matter which ending they used) & Sucker punch both sucked.

    • You know Michael Bay and Zack Snyder were classmates. Kind of explains everything, doesn’t it?

    • Yeah, attempting to adapt an ambitious sociopolitical satire to film is a classic Bay foible…

      • You’re right. Sucker Punch and 300 are far more complex than anything Michael Bay’s ever done. ::rolls eyes::

  23. When was this fabled time of studios catering to fan boys? I know.. rose colored glasses and all, but do you guys see in to alternate pasts or something? I’m surprised we’ve survived the history you guys slid in from.

  24. I hope he really does get to make the Yoda Seven Samurai movie…

  25. It seems that if you have an opinion that goes against the ‘creative geniuses’ behind these types of movies then you’re immediately labelled as a “…snarky Internet fanboy”. Is it wrong to follow source material and not change it so drastically (cough cough FF4) that it no longer resembles said material? Perhaps. Is it wrong for the people who actually read said material to voice their opinion, especially when they fork out the excessive amount of dosh they ask for movie tickets, dvds and blu-rays? No, definitely not!! Don’t let these people make you think otherwise.

  26. We should be sending thank-you emails to Zack Snyder for changing the Watchmen ending.
    The article is correct. If Gilliam had been allowed to make his “time traveling ending”, the Internet would have xploded in 2009 from all the fanboy/fangirl reactions.
    We dodged a bullet back then.

  27. Zack Snyder is an artist.

    He loves his medium and he has excelled at shipping.

    Like all artists, you’ll either love them or hate them.

    Not everything an artist does is a masterpiece.

    But he is absolutely, 100% right. He must do it for himself, because that is the only way his product will remain honest.

    That’s it. You can’t ask for anything more. The same rules apply to every other artist out there. Musician, Painter, Poet, Writer… Director Zack Snyder.