Saturday, September 11, 2010

Unwatched

You may recall that I admired Zack Synder's film adaptation of Watchmen quite a bit when it first came out.  Having recently watched the director's upgraded "Ultimate Cut" of the film, I stand by that initial impression, though clearly the movie ended up having neither the artistic nor commercial reach that both he and the studio no doubt hoped for.  Of course, before Snyder actually got his take to theaters, Watchmen endured a twenty-plus year slow walk through development hell that saw everyone from Terry Gilliam to Darren Aronofosky take a whack at the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons graphic novel with all coming thiiiis close until budgetary and/or creative issues put the whole thing into turnaround.

Of these, the version that came perhaps the closest to actually getting made was at Paramount in '06 under Bourne director Paul Greengrass.  Unlike the Snyder model, which was slavishly devoted to replicating its printed progenitor (to either its benefit or detriment, depending on your view of the final product), Greengrass envisioned a Watchmen that preserved the comic's thematic underpinnings while updating the setting from the Reagan '80s to a post-9/11 world.  As this interview with production designer Dominic Watkins shows, had Greengrass' version actually gotten made, it would have been vastly different from the one that made it to theaters last year.

With the director planning to employ his trademark shaky-cam, faux-doco style to ground the story's more fanciful elements, Watkins goes on to claim that this Watchmen would have anticipated the "comic book real" style that Chris Nolan later perfected between his two Gotham City sojourns.  Would a Paul Greengrass Watchmen have been any better (or more successful) than Zack Snyder's, or is this one film that was always destined to be a cult item at best?  Unfortunately, the world will never know, but these images of Watkins' proposed designs certainly provide us with a fascinating window into what we might have watched.

1 comment:

Omar Ansari said...

Overall, I enjoyed Watchmen. However, I think it would have had more to say if set in a post 9/11 world. I mean, how many peole under 30 really know (really FEEL)what the Reagan era was like...?