Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming Watchmen, told reporters that adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel for the screen meant consolidating story material and streamlining the logic—and defended his one big change, the film's ending. (Spoilers ahead, especially if you haven't read the book!)
"Most of the adjustments we made in the movie are what I would call, like, pull-ups, because you pull material together," Snyder said in a group interview in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday. "[And then] you need to bridge those things, because now you've created, like, a logic gap in the story."
Watchmen is set in an alternate-universe 1985 Manhattan in which superheroes really exist, one of them is murdered and the others try to uncover the conspiracy while the world ticks closer to nuclear armageddon.
Despite his own changes to the graphic novel to adapt Watchmen to film, Snyder said that he had to jealously defend the story's integrity from studio executives who wanted to make wholesale changes.
"They were like, 'We saw, like, the Comedian's funeral. Like, that feels like it could be [cut], nothing happens there!,'" Snyder said with a laugh. "'This whole thing where Manhattan goes to Mars, that seems also like an area where nothing happens. And then, also, when Rorschach's being interrogated by this psychiatrist, that's another area where nothing happens. So if you just lob those three areas off, we're going to have a nice tight little movie.'"
Executives also wanted Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson) to kill the antagonist at the end of the film.
Snyder was incredulous. "I said, 'Guys, truthfully, those [three sections], that's why I'm making the movie. Really. These three sections of the movie.' ... Otherwise, ... I don't know why to do it. There's just no reason to do it. Because, by the way, if you take those three sections out of the movie, ... and have Dan kill [the bad guy], it's a bad superhero movie. That's what that is."
Snyder prevailed in the end, preserving most of the graphic novel's story, with one notable exception: the finale. (Spoiler!)
"When I originally got the script, the squid was gone from the [end]," Snyder said, adding: "I was like, 'OK, well, we should try to put the squid back in the movie. We should see if that's a thing that could work.' And, really, I think the reason why we in the end decided that it was probably best not to was that it just ended up adding another ... 15 pages to the script. You know, just to kind of make that make sense. Because you couldn't just cut to it like you do in the graphic novel."
Unlike the graphic novel—where the giant city-destroying squid is revealed in a large panel once you turn a page—the movie had to lay narrative groundwork throughout its story to set up the appearance of such a creature in the end.
"I knew that ... if I spent that time with the squid, that's just time ... that I wouldn't have for ... Manhattan or Rorschach or ... the Comedian's funeral," Snyder said. "Because ... those are my favorite parts of the book, you know?" He added: "There's something elegant about [the end we chose]. If you're going to stay with the characters and the [idea of creating an] 'Other' to hate, ... there's something elegant about that Other being God. To me, anyway."
Watchmen opens March 6.