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We need a Snyder Cut for Watchmen — here's why

We need a Snyder Cut for Watchmen — here's why
(Image credit: Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Now that we've had one Snyder Cut — it's time for another, but not the one you're thinking of. After several years of rumors and fan campaigns, people finally got to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League earlier this year. And since Snyder himself loves to talk openly about everything involved with the movie, the topic of other “Snyder Cuts” has come up.

Or more specifically the topic of whether Snyder would consider going back and giving 2009’s Watchmen a do-over came up when speaking with Uproxx. The movie became a bit controversial, thanks to its  completely new ending that breaks from the source material. 

Logistics are allegedly to blame for Watchmen’s final act

For those that don’t know, the Watchmen comic ends with a giant ‘alien’ squid landing in New York and causing untold psychic and physical devastation. Though the ‘alien’ was actually a creature created by Ozymandias in an attempt to avert global nuclear war. The movie changed that, with Ozymandias framing Dr Manhattan for a series of explosions in cities around the world.

“And by the way, I love Watchmen. I have no regrets. I love that movie 100 percent. It’s exactly what I wanted,” Snyder told Uproxx. “I think there’s a great college class that someone could teach on the difference between Dr. Manhattan and the squid. And why we would have chosen Dr. Manhattan and how thematically that works as it relates to the climax of that book.”

Despite that love for his own original take on Watchmen’s ending, Snyder admitted he would consider going back to change it: “But I would also say, that based on doing the movie that I just did, Justice League, I might consider it. Only because I feel like it would have required a slightly longer movie to do the squid, than say, Dr. Manhattan.” 

I say do it. Go back and give Watchmen the ending Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons gave us back in 1987. An ending that the HBO's Watchmen miniseries used to great effect, and really didn’t need changing in the first place.

At the time Snyder maintained that he would have needed to add “about 15 minutes” to the movie’s runtime to explain the Squid’s appearance correctly. Because apparently “otherwise it’s pretty crazy”. He reiterated that when speaking to Uproxx, and spoke about how they needed some set up for the squid.

Which is weird, because the comic didn’t. We don’t actually see anything about the squid until it’s already landed in Manhattan and killed everyone. While there are teases about what Ozymandias has been up to, including the mention of a dead psychic’s brain being stolen. 

The movie ending doesn’t come out of nowhere, with some scattered scenes that add some context to the final attack. Basically Ozymandias dupes Dr Manhattan into letting him study his powers under the guise of developing clean energy, but instead he replicates the power to fuel his bombs. 

Maybe I’m oversimplifying it, but there isn’t really much backstory that’s needed. It’s a big alien squid created by Ozymandias, used to try and unite the human race against a potential invasion. It’s not exactly the most complicated concept to get your head around. And it wouldn't take another hour-plus to add — and so Snyder could prove that his cinematic correctives don't always need to be epic in length.

The ending is Watchmen’s biggest flaw

While Snyder has been criticised for replacing a lot of the humor and nuance from Watchmen in favor of making an action movie, the movie is pretty faithful to the source material. Well apart from the ending anyway, and some of the costumes.

Snyder didn’t even shy away from showing Dr Manhattan's penis, which is the kind of thing the MPAA usually takes issue with.

Despite its shortcomings, and the criticisms (which are not unfair), I still really enjoyed Watchmen. Or at least I enjoyed the Ultimate Cut, which arrived on DVD several after the movie hit theaters. Yes, just like Justice League or Batman v Superman, Watchmen is an example of how Snyder’s movies improve when he’s not constrained by a traditional movie theater runtime.

Going back and giving Watchmen a true ‘Snyder Cut’ experience, and restoring the source comic’s ending, could make a good movie great.

watchmen tv series squid

(Image credit: HBO)

I’ve maintained that Snyder and Warner Bros should have kept the original ending for several years. After all, it always felt like humanity suddenly joining forces because they’re scared of an alien attack was more realistic than Ozymandias correctly predicting that the USA and Soviet Union could be tricked into nuclear disarmament after being bombed. Even if those bombs came from a seemingly-omnipotent member of the Blue Man Group.

Humanity finally putting aside our differences because of aliens isn’t the most original concept in science fiction, but it is one that makes sense. And frankly it’s always been disappointing that we never got to see the squid on the big screen.

You can imagine my excitement when it finally appeared in all its disgusting glory in HBO’s Watchmen miniseries. And that was on a TV budget, so it’s not like anyone can say it would have looked awful in the movie. 2008 was not that long ago, after all.

Could Snyder Cut lightning strike twice?

It doesn’t matter whether Snyder would ever seriously consider restoring Watchmen’s original ending. The fact is, it’s never going to happen. Even if the cast would return, and Snyder employed some effective anti-ageing technology to restore their youthful late ‘00s visage.

The issue is all about logistics. The main factor being that Watchmen cost between $130 and $138 million to make, but only pulled in $185.3 million at the box office. Traditional thinking is that movies need to double their budget at the box office to break even. Watchmen didn’t even come close, which means there’s no financial incentive to do it.

On top of that, the Snyder Cut only really happened because fan campaigns demanded it. How many people are going to actively campaign for Watchmen to get a similar treatment? I would not be surprised if I was the only one, and I don’t have the time or energy to go up against a major Hollywood studio.

Why the Watchmen Snyder Cut won't happen

Sadly the main hurdle is that Zack Snyder and Warner Bros seem to have parted ways for good. The director has spoken at length about his time working on Justice League and the DCEU, and it seems the two have parted ways for the foreseeable future.

Snyder himself has even gone so far as to say the studio is ”aggressively anti-Snyder”. Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder’s wife and producer of a lot of his movies, even admitted that the pair had hoped to make the upcoming ‘Army of the Dead’ at Warner Bros. But by moving to Netflix they found that the streaming service was much more flexible with how things would be done.

Not only did Netflix offer a larger budget and automatically greenlit two more Army of the Dead movies, the Snyders were offered considerable creative freedom. Something that Warner Bros seemed adamantly against during the troubled production of Justice League. Plus Netflix was much more willing to invest in an original IP, while it sounds like Warner had dug its heels into the ground for the better part of a decade.

In other words it doesn’t feel like Zack Snyder will be going back to Warner anytime soon. Even if there was money and interest available for Watchmen’s tentacle-infused ending.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.