For everyone out there anxiously awaiting the 2009 releases of Watchmen and Star Trek, I wanted to share with you a conversation with Kevin Smith that I got to join in on. The writer-director behind this fall's Zack and Miri Make a Porno now appears to be the only person in the world who's actually seen both movies!
Cole Haddon: How much can you talk about Watchmen?
Kevin Smith: They made me sign an NDA [Non-disclosure Agreement] on that movie. I was like, "Who doesn't know what Watchmen's about? Just buy the comic book."
CH: Rumor has it writer-director Zack Snyder has changed the ending?
KS: It's a little different. While it is a slight departure, it actually makes sense in the context of the story because it brings the characters back into it. It kind of makes the movie more about them by the end of it because of the switch they made. I would never say Alan Moore f**ked it up or something. I love the ending of the Watchmen comic book, but I think this ending works just as well.
CH: The Dark Knight, it's been argued, could be up for a Best Picture and a lot of other awards. Do you think Watchmen is on par with that? That it could be an award kind of film?
KS: I feel like Watchmen , when I saw it, and I've seen it twice now...
CH: I hate you.
KS: Yeah, sorry. I saw it once when they had out of something like 500 visual FX shots, they only had 10 percent done. Next time I saw it, I think they had 15 percent done. That's the one thing I haven't really said. I watched that movie without all the FX shots done. Through most of the movie, Billy Crudup -- even as Dr. Manhattan -- looks like Billy Crudup. And still that movie works like gangbusters, even though it's not completely fleshed out and finished visually speaking with the digital FX. That being said, when I watched the movie, the biggest impression I walked away with was, this could totally be Pulp Fiction to some degree. For the mainstream audience, when Pulp Fiction came along, they said, "Okay, I know crime thrillers. I know the genre, kind of. But this is a movie that spins it with this left-of-center view." With Watchmen, you've got people very familiar with the comic-book format of the movie, but it takes this left-of-center view of it. People who love the comic book are definitely going to go in droves, but I think they're going to get a lot of people who would never see this movie -- based on the buzz factor. It's the goods, man. It's a really smart, intelligent film. It's just like reading the book, but a movie.
CH: When The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen came out in the '80s, they were so cool and so postmodern that it was hard to imagine doing comics after them. Are these movies setting up that same situation?
KS: I think what it does is forces studios to be more honest and hone closer to the source material because the three movies that came out this summer: Iron Man looks and feels like Iron Man; Dark Knight looks like Batman, feels like Batman; The Incredible Hulk, the same thing. Bryan Singer did it very well with the X-Men movies, too. They've proven now you don't have to take this vast departure, you don't have to change their outfits, you don't have to change the villains to make them more believable or realistic. So I think it raises the bar, but I don't think it means no comic-book movie is watchable after Dark Knight. If I stood by that logic, I'd never watch another movie after Godfather. They might not all be Dark Knight, but they're going to try harder and make stuff more in keeping with the source material -- which I would appreciate.
CH: Why does Star Trek work?
KS: Star Trek works in a way where you're sitting there going, "I can't believe this works." I remember when they announced it, I felt, "Look, it's one thing to introduce a whole new cast of characters. It's another thing if you're going to take the original characters, have other people play them, and do a Muppet Babies version of Star Trek." But it f**king works like gangbusters. The credit goes to [director] J.J. Abrams and his writers, but definitely to the cast. They pull it off. Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk in the movie, does not do a William Shatner impression, but, at the same time, he's unmistakably Captain Kirk. He just brings all the brio, the gusto, everything about Shatner's delivery to bear on the character. It doesn't disavow anything that's gone before. It lives side by side with everything that's gone before in Star Trek lore, in the movies, and the TV show. He did a great, great job. It's totally a fun movie.
CH: How was Simon Pegg as Scotty?
KS: Simon Pegg was good. I don't want to spoil too much because they made me sign an NDA as well. But he's not front and center right away. He comes into the movie later. I'm not going to compare it too much to The Blues Brothers, but it's definitely a bringing the band back together even though they've never been together movie. So the characters come out slowly. Slowly they bring in character by character. And Scotty's the last one they bring in. But he's pitch-perfect.
CH: What environment did you watch it in?
KS: It was Paramount, on the lot, and J.J. had pulled together a family-and-friends screening just to throw it up there and see how it played. That's another movie where he's like, "We don't even have a tenth of our FX shots done. Some places your mind has to fill it in. But it still works even though all the FX shots aren't done."
CH: Do you, as a fan, debate not seeing it in that condition?
KS: No, no, shit no. I've got to see it. I remember, we were at San Diego Comic-Con and that's where I met Zack Snyder for the first time. He invited me. He was like, "You gotta come over and watch the movie." And I was like, "Oh, I gotta! You can't keep me out of that screening room." He was like, "It ain't finished." I was like, "Dude, I don’t care. The fanboy in me needs me to see it!"
Editor's Note: Want more Kevin Smith? We're so cool we interviewed him twice. Here's an audio interview with Laremy and Kevin re: the MPAA, red band trailers, Comic-Con, and the box office chances for Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Warning: adult language and themes: