(abrnt1) from CABERY, IL
Reviewed on 2/11/2012...
A film version of Watchmen was always going to happen sooner or later. Since the late 80s attempts have been made to put it into production. It's important to note that Alan Moore has stated that he's hated every film based on his comic work done to date (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen given how inept this wretched waste of cinema is Moore's hate is perfectly understandable/From Hell a decent version of the graphic novel that does change & condense some facts to make the material entertaining and understandable for a mainstream audience which is the overall purpose of a film/V For Vendetta a well crafted film that captures the overall feel of the source material quite well) and he does have every right to do so. Moore is a unique individual who's created some of the most iconic comics, but he's also had some which remain quite questionable to say the least (as does every artist no matter what medium they work in).
When it comes to the Watchmen it's important to keep in mind that these were not characters that Moore created. These are the Charlton heroes (Captain Atom,Blue Beetle,the Question,Nightshape,Peacekeeper,etc) under new names and with a different design. When Moore was assigned the job of writing a story to re-introduce these characters after DC purchased them what he turned in wasn't something the company wanted. The end of the graphic novel (where 2 characters die & one leaves forever) made the changes necessary. The fact that DC published the graphic novel (even though it really wasn't what they asked for does show the great amount of respect the company gave to Moore). Any other creator working in the industry at tha time would have been forced to make the required changes.
The film stands on it's own and is a well done movie. It tells the story with minor changes (which every adaptation of a comic to screen does by the way) while maintaining the overall look and feel of the source material. It is it's own seperate entity and should be judged as such.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
from KNOXVILLE, TN
Reviewed on 8/13/2009...
At the outset, I must admit my own hypocrisy, as I was initially very excited about this film. Like any normal fanboy or girl, I was whipped into a frenzy by the film’s stylish and intoxicating trailers. The very idea of seeing some of the best characters ever fashioned with pencil and ink brought to the screen was just too exciting a prospect to ignore. I wanted to see Dr. Manhattan willing the creation of clockwork structures on Mars. I wanted to hear Rorschach’s gravelly monologues. I wanted to ogle the real Silk Spectre(s). And my blinders were securely fastened by these wants. As the film’s release date neared, I thought it prudent to re-read the graphic novel, to ready my mind for the experience of seeing it “live.” After finishing the book for the umpteenth time, I came to an upsetting conclusion that I suppose my cinema-addled mind forgot to remember: Zack Snyder’s Watchmen probably shouldn’t exist.
Of course, this is not a minority opinion. For years, Alan Moore has claimed that his seminal classic was unfilmable—and I don’t believe he was referring to the aesthetic challenges of such an undertaking. No, Moore was speaking to his work’s intention. As writer Brian K. Vaughn put it, “the message is in the medium.” Watchmen is a view of culture through the eyes and constructs of a comic book, or, perhaps more accurately, a view of supermen who become the inevitable perversions of the common or accepted ideal. This was was Moore’s answer to decades of officious tights-wearing Gods. Indeed, one of the work’s more fascinating aspects is its meditations on the politics and psychology of the costumed hero in an alternate, but still very real, 1985 (with strong anti-Reaganism themes, mind you). These examinations only connect on the page where a medium history is present. As such, Moore’s vision can only accurately exist thusly. The film, as amazing as it is, speaks to almost nothing.
This begs the question of how we can appreciate a filmed version that will, make no mistake, replace the graphic novel for most of the mainstream audience, knowing that its very existence is an affront to the source material, as well as its creator. Well, I see two options. One, we could disregard the project as a blasphemy and, as Moore himself so eloquently put it, “never see that fucking thing.” Or, two, we could suck it up, understand that it’s a wrongheaded indulgence, and enjoy what is a very well-executed, even enthralling cinematic experience.
I won’t go over the basics of Watchmen, as I assume most of you have either read the graphic novel or would prefer to remain “spoiler free.” I can tell you that Watchmen may be, in as much as it can be, the most reverential comic book adaptation since Snyder’s own 300. However, unlike 300, Watchmen sometimes drowns in its own reverence. The story unfolds rather flatly, with the characters functioning as if out of obligation rather than genuine, urgent momentum. The contrasting natures of cartoon-ish caricatures of real world figures and that of the gritty realism of the Watchmen themselves doesn’t function as well on screen. In other words, what worked so brilliantly on the page, feels a bit stilted and plodding on film. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for treating the source material with care and respect, but not at the expense of the mechanics of cinematic storytelling. The mediums are different and require different approaches. 300 gave Snyder more room to illustrate the narrative on screen, as it is a more compact story. Watchmen is a very specific and dense tome, and in his panel-to-screen reverie, Snyder has left very little room to breathe. It’s like watching the Fates paint by numbers. Perhaps someone less familiar with the material would feel differently.
The minor changes Snyder and company did make, work, for the most part. The threads of the story are repositioned to accommodate these alterations in a reasonably intelligent manner as to not upset the balance of the overall story. However, the ending of the film is a different matter. For those of you who are aware of the furor over the changes to the film’s conclusion, I’ll simply say that nothing is ruined—but it does drastically alter the original meaning.
Snyder has a good eye, and the film excels in its visual accuracy. It’s brimming with bold, arresting visuals and action sequences that are impressive, to say the least. The characters exist in amazing sets (both real and otherwise), dress in intricate costumes, are surrounded by astounding special effects and are accompanied by a clever soundtrack. Snyder has assembled a fine cast, as well. The major standout, as expected, is the excellent Jackie Earl Haley, who is phenomenal as Rorschach (the mask is so cool). I also found Billy Crudup’s portrayal of Dr. Manhattan—a very difficult character to authentically bring to the screen—engaging and surprisingly resonant.
I left the cinema conflicted. Snyder’s film can exist on its own, away from Moore’s book, if you choose to allow it to (perhaps as an homage). Whether there’s value in this independence is up to the individual making that allowance. It should be mentioned that the film has an uncompromising integrity in that it is faithful to the sex and violence of the story, as well as to the psychologies that drive both. The R rating is certainly earned. So, even with my caveats, I can appreciate Watchmen for still being a ballsy, satirical and subversive work of cinema. It was obviously made by passionate fans of Moore’s work, and I was thoroughly entranced by the film from start to finish. But, as entertaining and visceral an experience as Watchmen is, I still can’t help but feel that it was ultimately a pointless one. And I’ve never been of the mindset that pure entertainment value is itself a validation.
Snyder has undoubtedly created a work of art—a bastard masterpiece, if you will—but his good intentions seem wasted and a bit ironic, as what he set out to do is, again, fundamentally impossible. We’re dealing with an important literary work that has been, in a way, abused here. It has been drained of large portions of its soul and historical relevance. And that’s something all conscientious appreciators should take into consideration when deciding how one watches the Watchmen.
Note: As an aside I wanted to mention that some of what Watchmen represents was already communicated to the screen, I feel, in a far more appropriate manner. The Dark Knight really represents the cinematic equivalent of the revolution Watchmen sparked in its respective medium. Nolan’s deconstructionist epic spoke directly to many of Moore’s themes and intentions, and I think The Dark Knight acts as an excellent counterpart.
2 of 6 member(s) found this review helpful.