Review: Watchmen

The hype has been deafening. Not as deafening as the hype for The Dark Knight mind you, but my ears have been blistering with the inundation of hype for Watchmen. Alan Moore has vowed to have nothing to do with the film and never wanted to see his works made into a film to begin with. I'm not going to review the story. Since its based on something else, I can't really review the movie from a story perspective effectively. I'm going to look at in comparison to the book, since that is the most obvious comparison. So how did the film play out? Read on to see. I'll start by saying that the movie is an extremely faithful adaptation of the book. While watching the film I could visualize reading the same panels in the book and Zack Snyder did a commendable job adapting one to the other. There are some anachronisms in the film that kind of detract from the setting (were 3.25" floppy disks even around in 1985?). Some of his other liberties were a little more jarring. First, there was way too much violence. I know, I know. The story is centered around violence. But Snyder's version was more gratuitous. Did we really need to see the assassin unload an entire clip when going after Veidt in his assistant's leg and one of the corporations CEOs head? Or Dr. Manhattan exploding a couple of thugs in a bar, seeing their innards splashed on the ceiling? I didn't think so. Violence is important in the story because it serves to indicate that violence is often the response to violence. Snyder seemed to want include some 300 in the movie which I think hurt it overall. Violence wasn't the only thing he changed for the worse though. Richard Nixon. Yes kids, here we have Nixon in his third term moving the plot of the world forward. I preferred the book's vehicle of backstory in the newspaper salesman and a young child that hangs out with him. Yes, they were in the movie. But they were there long enough to hug as the tachyons embrace New York City (more on that later). For people that haven't read the book, they may find it difficult to follow the story and figure out what the hell is going on. If I didn't know any better I would assume that the story was just aimless and served only to give people with superiority complexes an excuse to put on costumes and fight. Another change was Rorshach. I'll admit that the actor was good for the role, and his tendencies were translated on screen. But a lot of his backstory just wasn't there. Why do we care for him? Should we feel conflicted about rooting for or against him. The entire exchange with the psychiatrist was completely left out. I mean, we see the inkblot test where we learn why Rorshach becomes the current incarnation, but where's the fear? Its not just him. The film never really explains how Veidt can catch a bullet and combat roll away from a massive Dr. Manhattan hand reaching for him. Or how Nite Owl II was so spry in his old age. Or why Dr. Manhattan has to be naked all the time (do we really need to see his crotch that often?). You're appealing to a mass audience with the film, so it might be wise to add in bits here and there that might explain these things. Yesterday I wrote that I didn't feel the film would be a commercial success. My first reaction after seeing the film was simple: disappointment. I felt that the movie cheapened the experience of the book. As I was thinking more about it though, I realized that the film may not have cheapened my view of the book. It made me realize instead that the book really wasn't all that good to begin with. Don't get me wrong, there are some intriguing subplots Moore writes of. But watching it as a film made me realize the story more easily and notice that the story is somewhat aimless. You could essentially watch the last 20 minutes of the film and have Veidt sum the entire story up in his supervillain speech. Watchmen has become this mythological story of fear, redemption and change. And somehow the legend of the book has grown beyond belief, creating these mammoth expectations for it. It simply was never meant to be made into a movie. And I think Moore knew this and that's one of the main reasons he's been so against it from the start. It exposes the flaws in the story. I wrote earlier that if you take this story and remove the inking and illustrations then you have just another novel. Perhaps it has been lauded so much because people never realized that a comic book could touch on such poignant themes so well. But the dated aspect of the material just don't hold up in present day because we have different fears to deal with. Should Snyder have modernized the story? Hell no. Doing so would alienate hardcore fans as well short sell the brand name of the book. Should Snyder have even made the film in the first place? That is a much trickier question. Clearly there has been a market for this to be made into a film. But seeing the film made me realize what I should have realized at some point over my multiple readings of the graphic novel: the story is just so-so. We have to create chaos in order to save humanity from itself. And this chaos we realize that everyone of us is deeply flawed in some way. I get it. The movie just doesn't seem to get it. The characters are almost hollow (with the exception of the Comedian) and I just didn't care about them. I knew about them from the book, so I had more extensive history on them. But those that have not read the book (which I'm guessing will outnumber those that have read the book) may not care. It wasn't the worst movie, but it wasn't the best movie either. It was just a movie. I couldn't help but feel this hollowness in the movie.Snyder seemed to pay almost too much reverence to the book without giving the film its own spirit. There was this certain campiness to it which I don't think was intentional but was there nonetheless. About halfway through I wanted to check the time and see how much was left in it. Its not something I'm really looking forward to see again, but I'm glad I saw it at least once. Its nice to see something that has been facing such an uphill battle finally come to fruition, no matter how flawed it may be. I think Shakespeare said it best when he said that life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." In this case, the idiot is the Comedian telling a joke that we are all screwed up and the one that is seemingly most screwed up has it all right. Unfortunately, Snyder is no funnyman. Overall Score: 65 out of 100


  1. when I think about the Watchmen film I think about the old director Nic Ray who said "If it's all in the script Why make the movie?" Why were superfans of the movie so anxious to have a movie made when the text is considered so perfect? What could a movie do but take away from experiencing the book?

  2. Rorschach was an especially well developed as a character; i hope the actor that played his role is nominated for some kind of an award (when that season comes around again)

  3. I really like the graphic novel, I really like the movie. I'm in a minority, I know.

    I think the movie plot is superior to the comicbook plot, the latter being too attenuated. Moore himself admitted this when he revealed in an interview that the action chapters that ran the story from beginning to end were the whole story originally, then filler issues were added to pad out the thing to 12 issues. Sad but true.

    One criticism of all such dystopian writings for me is that they always begin from the same left-wing and pretty childish "given" that the world is on the brink of annihilation from nuclear war etc. Clearly not, since here we are, without any intervention from superbeings...


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