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Gilliam’s Watchmen Gripes

A recent interview with Monty Python alum turned film director Terry Gilliam was eventually going to segue into the recent Watchmen movie.

The avant garde director whose film credits include The Fisher King and Brazil was once in line to make a Watchmen movie in decades past, but the project never got off the ground.

But the filmmaker did see the theatrical cut of the movie and stated that he felt Zack Snyder's film was just “too reverential” to the source material.

And you look at it and he’s tried really… so much is stunning. It got trashed, but there are great sequences in there, but the overall effect is kind of turgid in a certain way. I started putting it down to… you know, in the comic book, or graphic novel… They’re still comic books to me (laughs)… It’s like the Comedian’s coffin is going into the grave with the stars and stripes on top of it and reading it in the comic book it’s three panels, boom, boom and boom. On film “hhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmm…”

The pace is wrong. I was glad our version didn’t get done, the one that Charles McKeown and I had wrote, because we had reduced it down to about two hours and five minutes I think and we lost so much. Comedian was cut down to next to nothing. So (Zack Snyder) did a good job, but it just felt… I also thought THE INCREDIBLES had kind of fucked it for him.

Gilliam may want to pick up the graphic novel again because the funeral with all of it's flashbacks is covered in an entire issue of the 12 part series and as far as individual panels go, the actual funeral occupies over 30 of them. In fact, during one part of the interview he refers to Silk Spectre II as, “whatever her name is.” Christ.

Terry Gilliam trying to get his hands on Watchmen

Now since Gilliam saw the theatrical cut, who knows if the pacing issues that bugged him would have been cleared up for him in the director's cut. Either way, this Knight who used to say “Nee” feels that if he had been given the opportunity that Snyder had to make the film, he would have done better. Why?

…because I think I’m more anarchic than Zack. To me it’s “Okay, what’s the essence to this thing? How do we boil it down?” The bits in the book with the big jellyfish thing, the giant squid at the very end… Losing the pirate story, fine. You get that out of there, but I never felt the characters, because to me it was a character piece is what it was about…

Maybe it's just me, but, no Black Freighter, no squid… so what would we fans get with Gilliam's Watchmen that we didn't get with Snyder's? Less slo-mo? Probably. Less ultra-violence? Perhaps. You see, what frightens me most is what Gilliam would have brought to the narrative that Snyder never would have.

I've seen many of Gilliam's films and what they all have in common is the fact that their plots are disjointed and abstract almost to a fault — with plotlines crisscrossing between what an audience thinks is reality and an internal world existing solely inside a character's imagination. Yes, Watchmen's plot is disjointed and riddled with flashbacks, but where I feel Synder controlled the narrative with his more commercial directorial style I think Gilliam would have dove off the deep end and only would have added to the confusion.

As I stated earlier, Gilliam had been connected to a Watchmen film in the past. In fact he tried to make the film twice — in 1989 and 1996 — but both times never got out of the starting gate. My guess is that a Gilliam directed Watchmen movie scared the hell out of the Hollywood suits who were being asked to foot the bill for such a risky cinematic combination.

I guess I just find it funny that a director who had the project in his hands not once, but twice, and couldn't even get the film into pre-production would criticize the one director that actually got the job done. Snyder not only had the courage to actually attempt a Watchmen film, but also managed to convince the studio to make a version that was faithful to Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' original book.

I'm not saying Snyder's film was perfect and that another director couldn't have done as good or even a better job, but I'm sure as hell glad that Gilliam's version was kept off the screen.

8.24.09 Source: AICN

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