For the average person who would read this blog it would likely be known that the Watchmen movie was for some a rather anticpated event. I'm safely guessing, though, for the average movie going punter they had to be told, via the marketing, that they were supposed to be anticipating it. Still, that means that there were a fair number of people ready to not just watch it or review it but analyse it in depth and detail and reflect upon it the original text, namely Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' best-selling graphic novel (which was first a twelve issue comic event, at least in comic circles, from Sept 86 and Oct 87).
Watchmen still remains the best comic / graphic novel work I've read. It truly deserves the status as a novel. And ever since there had been talk of a movie, and there has been lots for a long time, I was always doubtful of what would be the eventual outcome. Regardless, I was curious as to the final result.
So too were many Planet staffers. Each came into work the night after seeing Watchmen and shared their thoughts with the rest. What struck me was not how varied their opinions were but the arguments put forward. So I decided to invite them to let me put this in the blog. Some took me up on the offer and I now invite you to check them out. Emily / Rental - I enjoyed the Watchmen movie; it was probably as well done as could be expected given the source material. Most of the performances were well done as well. However, Snyder has tried to cram so much material in, it doesn't really give the scenes any sort of gravity. It helps with the pacing, sure, but with the comic you were able to digest things in full. The slow-mo and the sex scenes were a too prevalent for my tastes, too.
Sam / Books - It's prettier, it's louder, it's shorter and less nuanced, Snyder's adaptation is visually excellent with inspired casting but was doomed from the outset to underwhelm. When Richard Linklater directed the film adaption of A Scanner Darkly he was free to bring fantastic new ideas to the text and made the film a work of art in it's own right. Snyder, however, has no such freedoms; the characters and sets mirroring their graphic novel counterparts to the extent that watching the film feels like I'm reading the graphic novel for a third time and skipping all the parts that turned a great story into a great world. Like all graphic novel adaptions this could have gone two ways; an insult to it's origins or so accurate that it becomes redundant. I'm pleased it became the latter, but not so much that I'll be watching it again.
Keir / Rental - Having not read the graphic novel, I went into Watchmen with no knowledge of the story why it was so popular. I left the cinema with much the same feeling. Watchmen felt like two and a half hours of exposition, building to events that never came. The dialogue should have stayed on the pages of a comic book because when delivered by actors became laughable. I could never really work out if the Watchmen were ordinary people who took on roles of crime-fighters or whether they all had super powers and the line between factual and fictual political history was blurred. Overall I was very disappointed. Pretty pictures do not a good film make.
Ethan / Rental - Here's what I liked about the film...It looks great, it sounds great, and that's about it. I did not care for any of the characters, Rorschach came closest to the one I could 'side with'. The plot was constant back story and structurally it felt very disjointed. And then the rest of my grievances were simply continuity debacles such as 'Why is Dr Manhatten's glistening wang out in some scenes and not in others? He has the undies. We saw him wear them in another scene' and...'Why is Rorschach so tough? At least when Mickey Rourke takes a beating in Sin City my brain can justify it by the fact he's a big mother f%#$er, and he shows pain after, Rorschach was a runt with an illogical psychedelic mask, oh his mother wanted to abort him...Still makes no sense'...and during the sex scene 'Where are all their god damn bruises! They just got in a vicious alleyway fight recently!'
Cassie / Books - I really enjoyed Watchmen, it felt like a real treat, that Snyder had made the film just for us fans who'd been waiting forever for this adaptation. I loved seeing the characters on screen, Rorsharch and Comedian put in great performances and I delighted in the mise en scene and costume. It was infinitely better in all ways than most superhero movies, and while it wasn't as stylistically cogent as Dark Knight, it was a far more interesting and complicated film. I went specifically to see a giant many-tentacled entity but alas they thought Dr Manhattan needed a bigger role so I had to make do with a single tentacled entity...
Nick / DVD retail - I'm still kind of torn as to how I felt while watching Watchmen. On one hand I want to congratulate Zack Snyder for delivering such a faithful adaptation. In some ways, though, it's painfully faithful, to the point of mimicry - I'm really not sure what Snyder really brought to the table here. I mean, the storyboard and script were already written, right? All he had to do was get costumes and cameras and get to it! On the other hand, the very small adjustments that were made seem completely pointless, and leave me baffled.
I think I probably need to watch it again to formulate an opinion on the movie, AS a movie, but the truth is I can't differentiate the movie from the book, and I don't want to watch it again. I can't watch the movie and appraise it "just as a movie." Why? Because the real problem is that it was made at all. In 2002, after the From Hell movie, Alan Moore spoke of "the fallacious modern notion that making a movie of something somehow validates it." The one thing that Watchmen, the movie, makes extremely obvious, is just how unnecessary it was in the first place.
Chris / Rental - I loved it. Visually the film is stunning - menacingly dark in places, contrasted with vivid splashes of colour from the Watchmen costumes or the splash of blood. The costumes are suitably outlandish enough for comic book heroes but also somehow real enough to make them believable in the alternative reality being created for us. As for the story, the film makers have been pretty true to the original, with time constraints mostly dictating what was left out of the film. There will be some opposition to the minimal differences in both texts, but what is important to remember is that they are both different texts - they should stand alone. The film is an adaptation, yes, but it needs to be remembered that the mediums of graphic novel and cinema, while they have many similarities, are still very different in how they are made, viewed and, perhaps most importantly, intended to be viewed. The makers of both mediums should be utilizing the best aspects of those mediums, not simply trying to fit one into the other. With the Watchmen graphic novel and film, I think you come very close to having the best of both worlds.
And my thoughts - On the whole I give it a thumbs up. But yes, with some minor reservations, largely with narrative structure. I find many friends and associates (some mentioned above) who have issue, albeit personal critique issue, with graphic novel purity and the valid argument that it adds nothing new. Some (not included in the above) just didn't get the politics stuff. Understandably, cause when you go to a superhero movie you've more often than not been trained to expect an Iron Man or X-men style of film. My opinion is that what narrative flaws there are (including some bad music choices) were all overshadowed by good filmmaking and a sincere attempt to tell a good story and honour the source material. In short, you have to disregard the nature of Hollywood and the practical systems of general filmmaking to not appreciate that it is a miracle Watchmen is as good as it is.
But I have one final view to put down here. I asked a senior manager, one I knew was a big fan of the original comic mini-series, that when he saw Watchmen, can he give me an opinion. He told me he had no intention of seeing it. Why? Because the original work has come to be an integral part of a memory of a particular time in his life that whether the film is good or bad he has no want to have it alter the way he remembers it in his mind's eye. And you know, it was very easy to respect that.