Zack Snyder is no stranger to controversy. The slick, visionary director wet his beak in the medium of music videos before raising universal horror geek ire when he chose, as his first feature, a remake of the epic cult classic zombie film Dawn of the Dead.
But he emerged from that experience relatively unscathed — with his fresh, breathlessly-paced thriller being embraced by both mainstream critics and hardcore genre buffs alike.
Now, after tackling graphic novel greatness with the thundering 300 (and receiving similar flack for being both racist and historically revisionist), Snyder is poised to unleash his most high stakes and potentially controversial effort yet: A gigantic — and mostly faithful — rendering of Alan Moore’s celebrated anti-superhero allegory Watchman
Opening Friday, it’s a picture that at first appears to be another comic book film but is, in reality, light years removed from Spider-Man.
“I didn’t want to make a PG-13 version of a superhero movie,” says Snyder, “I wanted it to go all the way with violence, sex and fight scenes, in the opposite way than X Men or Fantastic Four would go.
“This is a hard movie on every level, without question, and people who go in to the theatre expecting a film like X-Men are going to get punched in the face.”
For more than 20 years, filmmakers of every persuasion have attempted to bring Moore’s layered, complex and relentlessly nihilistic story of faded costume heroes and their varying levels of psychosis to the screen, with cutting edge director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) even once slated to helm.
But Snyder has used Moore’s revered source material to fully expand his developing sense of visual-based cinema, sculpting some of the most dynamic and potent imagery ever committed to pulp fiction filmmaking in the process.
“I love tone and self-reflection” Snyder says about his creative leanings. “That’s what I’m all about. Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop is one of my favorite movies because you can either interpret it as a movie about a robot policeman who kicks ass or as an anti-technology film about man losing touch with his place in the universe.
“So it’s that kind of duel dynamic that I hope I’ve achieved with Watchmen.”