Geek Weblog
Watching the Watchmen
March 11, 2009

Saw Watchmen (in glorious imax) over the weekend. I was relieved it did not completely suck, despite the lack of participation from Watchmen comic book writer Alan Moore, who didn't want so much as a credit - which reads simply "Based on the graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Dave Gibbons".

Here's an entirely overwrought GBU:

The Good:

  • Director Zack Snyder and company perform a surprisingly solid job bringing the "unfilmable" book to the screen. The action sequences were great, the special effects were special, and the visuals were gorgeous - bursting with clever background details for comic book zealots to chew on. Spot-on presentation bolstered not only by a fat budget, but the support of Watchmen comic artist Dave Gibbons.
  • The casting was pretty terrific all the way around - Rorschach in particular.
  • Absolutely brilliant opening credit montage.
  • The studio "suits" didn't chump out on letting Dr. Manhattan strut around au naturel.
  • We can now all look forward to many years of Silk Spectre costumes at the San Diego Comic Con.
The Bad:
  • There was a constant screen-to-book comparison going on in my head that was powerfully distracting. I reckon it's a testament to the level of devotion to the source material. The film so closely follows the book, however, that any deviation, no matter how subtle, is absolutely glaring. The larger omissions and additions ran hot and cold - some of the new or re-tooled elements work (the movie beginning), some don't (the movie end).
  • There are several mighty important plot threads missing, which is not entirely unexpected given they're cramming such a dense, meticulous story into a movie-length feature. Still, there are some painful amputations.
The Ugly:
  • The script relies too heavily on comic book dialogue, which is meant to be read, not spoken. There's a translation that needs to occur when jumping mediums that isn't happening in the movie. The overly strict adherence to the printed word jacks-up organic conversation and natural speech pattern. Some of the more critical exposition feels forced, as if rehearsed too many times. Sin City suffered terribly from the same issue.
  • The Nixon prosthetics were beyond distracting.
  • I recognize the comic book ending would've been difficult to sell, but the end we got was lacking.

Overall, there's plenty to like about Watchmen and plenty to whine about. I liked it as much as I didn't like it. Still thinking the story would've been better served as a 12-part HBO series or some other long-form production. It'll be interesting to see what additional material will be inserted into the inevitable super deluxe, extended, director-cut DVD (said to run about 3.5 hours, which includes the Black Freighter animated material stitched into the movie).

See Also:
Official Watchmen movie site
Official New Frontiersman site
Opening Credits on Youtube
Opening Credits "Easter Eggs"
1970 NBS Nightly News video on Youtube
New Frontiersman's Photostream (not to be missed)
History of the Movie comic
Saturday Morning Watchmen (brilliant)
Watchmen Babies
Watchmen old-school 8-bit video game
Upcoming De-luxe DVD details
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter DVD
Watchmen: The Black Freighter On-Demand Video
Rotten Tomatoes Watchmen Reviews
LA Times Snyder interview
Stan Lee Version of Watchmen