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Culture: Rumours of 300 Sequel, Ronin and Zack Snyder's Watchmen
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Monday, 12 February 2007 Written by Alexander G. Rubio
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As we first reported back in late March of last year [further coverage here and here], director Zack Snyder, who will soon see the general release of his comic to screen adaption of "300", the story of 300 Spartan soldiers' last stand at Thermopylae during the Persian Wars, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel, has been tasked with another comic book adaption, one long thought to be simply impossible to film, Alan Moore's 1986 deconstruction of the superhero genre, "Watchmen", a book considered one of the seminal works of literature from the 1980s.

Snyder has wisely chosen to retain the mid 80s Cold War setting of the story (though the parallel timeline has Richard Nixon still being President of the United States), a strategy that probably was a bit of a hard sell to the studio execs. But updating it to a contemporary setting would all but gut the core issues and the central theme.

Heather Newgen of Superhero Hype! asked Snyder some questions relating to the planned "Watchmen" during the press junket for "300" in Los Angeles.
SHH!: What's been the delay with the movie? 10 years ago it was a Joel Silver film.

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Zack Snyder
Snyder: I can only thank God that they haven't gotten it together yet. I think the delay is that they haven't known what it was. I set the movie in 1985 and I have the luxury of being far enough away from 1985 so that that is a viable idea. I think what happened in the past was that when you're only five years away from 1985, it's a weird time to make a period piece that took place three years ago, but studios don't get that. There has been a push I think on the other scripts that exist about trying to update the movie or trying to make it take place in present day and things of that nature. I think by setting it 1985, by having the Cold War, having Nixon, having all that stuff, you sort of reinvigorate what the story is about. It allows all the metaphors to sort of erect. But, if you set the movie in modern times, you're basically saying it's the war on terror right is the thing. Then the movie is asking me, "oh Zack, what do you think of the war on terror? What's your take on it?" Who gives a f**k about what I think about the war on terror? That's not why people go to the movies. I think that what Alan in his book, the comment he's made about authority and government and all those things, maybe if you make that movie right what that has to say makes people think about what's happening maybe now or in their own lives. That's my hope for what the movie could be.

SHH!: How has the universal praise for "300" assisted you with making "Watchmen" and possibly other projects?

Snyder: I can't say it hasn't helped a lot. What it does do [is that] people have said to me, "What's going on with “Watchmen?” You’ve got to make sure you don’t f**k that up. What can I do to help?" And I said, "Go see '300.'" The truth is, "300" to the studio is a graphic novel movie. It's not a movie that they necessarily understand exactly when I pitch it on paper. They feel in some ways the same about "Watchmen." They don't understand why it's not "Fantastic 4." I have to remind them that it's much more "Strangelove" than it is "Fantastic 4" which they don't like hearing, but they believe that I know, and in that way, it helps. When they finally saw this movie, I think they felt, "Wow, we didn't know this was the movie you were necessarily making, but we like this movie." Maybe that will apply to "Watchmen."

Alex Billington of Firstshowing.net relates some of his thoughts on the use of CGi digital effects, or the partial lack of them, in the film.
“The idea of Watchmen is not to do a CGI movie, but to do it when it's necessary. Like when Doc Manhattan goes to Mars, there's an issue here, we've got to figure that out. We can't go to Mars, I know, a lot people are going to be disappointed by that - but I just don't have the money. Antarctica also, there's no Carnac built there. I know, again, we should probably build it and then go film it there, but I don't think they're going let us do that. So those two things right off the bat you can think about. Dr. Manhattan himself, what do you do, how do you make him - how do you render him. Rorschach's mask. There's things that have to be dealt with and figured out. But I think that the appetite for me is to make a movie that feel's more like Taxi Driver than like Fantastic Four, again. So it's a balance.”

The decision to use CGI, which has been a tad over used in the last couple of years, only sparsely just strengthens the feeling that Snyder might actually do the work justice on the screen.

Sheila Roberts of MoviesOnline sat down with Snyder and asked him some follow-ups.
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Alan Moore
Q: Are you going to be at Comic-con this year?

Zack Snyder: I don’t know if we’ll get shots done by Comic-con this year, but hopefully. Our plan is to shoot in the summer, but I’ll go down there and I’m sure I’ll have something to show. I hope.
[...]
Q: How far along are you on that production right now? Where are you at currently?

Zack Snyder: We’re trying to get a budget together that is palatable to everybody. It’s a long movie, and I’m trying to shoot the Black Frater (sic!) [Editors note: What is refered to is the "Black Freighter" pirate story within a story in "Watchmen"] part as well, and no one has ever even talked about that. You know, it’s like crazy time. And whether that ends up as a DVD extra or as a special release or something like that, that’s yet to be seen. But I don’t know, that’s my plan anyway.
[...]
Q: Are you drawing the storyboards on Watchmen?

Zack Snyder: I am. The way I do it is, if you look at that book – the way I do it is, with Watchmen, the cool thing is that Watchmen is much more of a linear story, not when you look at the overall – it goes all over the place. But if you look at the scenes, for instance, when Rorschach picks up the badge, and looks up and she fires this grappling gun and goes up to the thing and looks around the room – there’s no reason not to shoot it like that.

I don’t know if you didn’t shoot it that way, that would mean your ego got f*cked up somehow, and you thought, ‘Wow, I can do it better than that; I’ll do a low angle, and I’ll dolly in, and ooh, I’m cool.’ You know, that’s not how I want to do it. So basically in my book, it’s similar to that. I have a drawing, but then I redraw the shift frame because all those frames are like this. So I redraw it, but then I glue in the book right next to the drawing, the frame from the graphic novel.

It would seem that the studio has put quite a bit of faith in Snyder's work on "300", because not only has he been entrusted with making "Watchmen", but producer Mark Canton expressed an interest in a sequel to "300", according to MoviesOnline.
At this weekends press junket for 300 Mark Canton made it REALLY clear he would like to see a sequel to 300, noting that Frank Miller has a ton of stories up his sleeve, and where there is a will there is a way. He also made it quite clear that he would be very interested in having Zach Snyder come on board.

Of course, and more than 2000 years after the fact, I hope this isn't a spoiler for anyone, the Battle of Thermopylae ends with every Spartan dying. So, barring zombie Spartans marching off to war, how in the world would they go about making a sequel proper to this story? Of course, the later battles of the war, the naval clash at Salamis and the Battle of Plataiai, are up for grabs, as is the earlier Athenian-Persian battle of Marathon.

According to Richard Brunton of Filmstalker and Bits of News, One of the other producers at the same event, Gianni Nunnari also revealed that he was working on another Frank Miller work, "Ronin", in which a Ronin, or masterless Samurai, is re-incarnated in a dystopian future New York.
Nunnari also said that the other comic book film he was working on was Warren Ellis' Ocean, however Comic Book Resources talked to Ellis and he was firm on who owns the rights, he and Chris Sprouse, and they have never been sold, so assume that comic book may not be as close as Ronin.