A look at the modern, gritty Watchmen movie originally planned

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Adam-Troy Castro
Dec 14, 2012

Before Zack Snyder made his perhaps too faithful adaptation of Watchmen, Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass worked on a different version of the film that would have been a modern, gritty take on Alan Moore's iconic comic. Comic Book Resources recently unearthed production art from the Greengrass film and also spoke to the man who created it, production designer Dominic Watkins, who said they were working on a film that would have been more like Batman Begins.

"I thought it was interesting because I thought we could do something very interesting in his style that hadn't been done before. The Nolan Batman hadn't been done at that point, so everything was still kind of very stylized."

"At that time, I thought it was very poignant because it was written under the backdrop of Reaganism and all that in America and the Cold War being in full effect. I thought that the political climate from Bush was escalated to a similar point, with us on the brink of something quite catastrophic, so I thought making a version of 'Watchmen' that was more contemporary and applying it to the decade of the '00s was a good idea and was a lot more relevant than it turned out to be. I think the difference between Zack Snyder's 'Watchmen' and ours would've been night and day. He pretty much made the movie page-to-page from the graphic novel. Ours was definitely going to be based on the graphic novel and all the characters would've been drawn on that, but we'd have updated it somewhat."

"It would've been done a little bit documentary-style, with a little news reporting mixed in. I feel like that would've been really interesting to see it as real-feeling as possible. Obviously, Doctor Manhattan was always going to be the biggest challenge to that. When there's a 50-foot blue man, it's hard to cinematically make it feel real. I felt they actually did a good job with that in Snyder's."

Watkins estimated they'd already spent $2 million-$3 million in preproduction before the film was shut down and were about to start work building a backlot on the West Side of Manhattan. Their plans included a "f-cked up" version of the Owl Ship that was in bad shape after being mothballed for years, and buildings created by Dr. Manhattan that looked "very much like living atoms."

He added that one thing he designed that made it into Snyder's movie -- or that was at least a shared idea -- was Night Owl's house. "My thought was that if you lived in New York, how would you have this hidden workshop space with the Owl Ship down there? You'd have to be closest to a subterranean world and also have something that looked like a normal apartment, so my solution was to have him in this split-level brownstone, and that in turn led to underneath Manhattan, where there are a lot of other tunnels besides the subway system going back to pre-Victorian and late-18th-century times."

Although we liked Snyder's take on Watchmen just fine, we'd have been really curious to see this version as well. As for Watkins, the next movie where you can see his work will be the Red Dawn remake.

Comic Book Resources has more production art from the film, and you can read more their full Watkins interview there. It's well worth the click.

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