The Spoils of 300

This past weekend’s $70 million box office gross for the historical action/drama 300 surprised and surpassed nearly everyone’s expectations*, making its director, Zack Snyder, Hollywood’s Golden Boy of the moment. And that’s good news for those comic book fans who have been waiting for a big screen adaptation of the seminal classic graphic novel Watchmen. Created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen was a deconstruction of superhero tropes disguised as a murder mystery that not only forced those beyond comic book fandom to re-evaluate the potential of the graphic storytelling medium but also became the only graphic novel named to Time magazine’s list of 100 Best Novels Since 1923.

Watchmen has been in on-and-off again development almost since its publication in 1986. Director Terry Gilliam had been anxious to do the film, working with Batman (1989) screenwriter Sam Hamm on the screenplay. Gilliam even wore a Watchmen blood-splattered smiley pin on a 1995 appearance on The David Letterman Show while promoting his just-released Twelve Monkeys. Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass also took cracks at the project before moving on to other films. Chief among the reasons that none of these versions came to pass is the amount of money needed to bring the sprawling epic to life.

But now the Watchmen ball is in Snyder’s court and has been since this past June. Snyder has been deep into script development and has already done some costume tests, as evidenced by the quick image of Watchmen character Rorshach discovered hidden in the most recent 300 trailer by Snyder.

Snyder has stated during the press rounds for 300, itself an adaptation of a comic book miniseries from Frank Miller and Lynn Varney, that he is looking to start shooting Watchmen this summer, although the film has yet to be officially greenlighted by studio Warner Brothers. Industry scuttlebutt says that Snyder’s vision of the Watchmen world will cost the studio somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million, while Warners would prefer to cut that budget by a third to around $100 million.

However, this weekend’s greater-than-expected grosses for 300 give Snyder a rather large bargaining chip to use against Warner Brothers when it comes to discussing the potential budget of the film. Snyder delivered the visually sumptuous 300 on a budget of just $65 million. With this weekend’s receipts at $70 million, the film is well on its way to being one of the first blockbusters of the year. Directors have been handed to the reigns to bigger projects for lesser reasons.

* 300 has done so well, that I see no point in writing up a review for the film. Still, I do want to share one thing I jotted in my notes while watching the film this weekend, just because I like how the wording came out.- “300 makes no pretense at a realistic depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae. It is a myth, a legend, a story told in the light of the modern day, 24 frames per second flickering campfire of cinema.”

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About Rich Drees 7195 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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