Home Entertainment Zack Snyder hits back at WATCHMEN criticism; says Terry Gilliam's version was "completely insane"

Zack Snyder hits back at WATCHMEN criticism; says Terry Gilliam's version was "completely insane"

4 min read

And Watchmengate (I’m totally copyrighting that) continues! Last week we heard producer Joel Silver talk about and describe in detail director Terry Gilliam’s failed adaptation of Watchmen, Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed graphic novel, and how it would have been completely different and “a MUCH much better movie” than the version director Zack Snyder eventually brought to the screen.

In news that should shock nobody, Snyder disagrees with this assessment, and he’s not afraid to say why.

Zack Snyder

Speaking to Huffington Post with wife and producing partner Deborah Snyder, the Man of Steel director didn’t beat around the bush when explaining why Gilliam’s version, which saw Ozymandias convincing Doc Manhattan to travel back in time and prevent his own creation, would not have worked.

“If you read the Gilliam ending, it’s completely insane.”

Mrs Snyder added to that, saying that “the fans would have been thinking that they were smoking crack.” Snyder (that’s Zack) went on to explain that not only is Watchmen his favourite of his movies, but that he specifically made the movie to “save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world”.

“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 love the graphic novel and I really love everything about the movie. I love the style. I just love the movie and it was a labor of love. 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.”

Snyder’s Watchmen has become a bit of a cult hit with fans, even though it was kind of a box office bust upon release, making just $185 million off a $130 budget. Snyder attributes this failure more to the chorus of never happy fanboys that ruled the internet back then, as Deborah explains:

“…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.


Zack explained further that things may have been very different if the movie was released today. And by different, he’s not talking about Gilliam’s version.

“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.”

“If you love the graphic novel, there’s just no way [fans would have been happy with that version]. 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.”

As somebody who loves the graphic novel and has reread his copy dog-eared, I really appreciaed what Snyder did with the ending. Moore’s original giant space squid ending is very much a comic booky style plot device, and would probably not have worked that well on film. What Snyder did was indeed to keep that essence true, but just using a story telling device that’s a bit more palatable for most cinemagoers. And while I don’t think that Giilam’s version is”completely insane”, I do agree with Snyder that his version is truer to Moore’s vision.

Which version do you prefer, or are you just like Alan Moore and outright hate every single adaptation of his work?

Last Updated: March 4, 2014


  1. Snyder’s Watchmen is one of my all time favourite movies. I am a huge fan of the graphic novel, and when I watched the movie, it felt like the most true adaption of any book or graphic novel I had ever watched. Snyder nailed Watchmen, and I still believe Alan Moore would like Snyder’s version if he would just watch the damn thing. I’m so glad we didn’t end up with Gilliam’s version.


  2. Skyblue

    March 4, 2014 at 09:10

    I enjoyed Watchmen but I never read the graphic novel first. These novels cannot always be done scene for scene as there is always a bit of lunacy in them that would not translate well to cinema. Marvel movies are a prime example of how they pull more feasible story elements from hundreds of different idea’s published over the last few decades… and then there is Thor… hmmmm now I though those flicks were kak as they are aimed at a young demographic and my wife (she actually said “yummy” when she saw Chris Hemsworth).
    Wanted is an example of how not to adapt a graphic novel as the final product was so far removed from it’s source you could remake it and most people wouldn’t realise that they were watching something they had already “seen”.
    Anyway, I’m currently reading The Boys and would love to see it made into a film eventually but I don’t think movie audiences are ready for it yet. They’re still swooning over superheroes but the time will come when we can kill them or disfigure them horribly and call it Torture Super Porn :-p


    • Kervyn Cloete

      March 4, 2014 at 09:54

      Interesting fact about Wanted: The writers had only read the first 2 issues out of 7, before they wrote the screenplay. And it clearly shows.


      • Skyblue

        March 4, 2014 at 21:55

        I did know that, consider me informed ;-p
        And you are correct, it did really show


  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    March 4, 2014 at 09:20

    I enjoyed Watchmen so much I went out & bought the graphic novel, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. The movie is an excellent interpretation of the source material.

    I never mind it too much when some details are changed across the various mediums, because what works in the one may not work in the other. If I’d read the graphic novel first & then went to watch the Terry Gilliam version I’d have flipped my lid though. There’s changes to make things work, and then there’s just changes for the sake of making changes – that I don’t support at all.


  4. Jon-Laurence Esnard de Cespede

    March 4, 2014 at 15:53

    I saw the film first…then the graphic novel…i found both to me incredible works of fiction and i totally agree with Zack Snyder in his ability to manifest the ideas and messages behind The Watchmen to the big screen…i would KILL to see him do the Elephantmen…


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