Who watches the Watchmen? I do!

Watchmen is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. In this case, the term “graphic novel” is appropriate in describing my reading experience; I’ve never even touched the individual issues that ultimately comprised this wonderful narrative. My paperback copy was purchased spontaneously at a coastal book store, and the dog-eared corners present even then have grown more prominent with each passing year. Fans of the book shouldn’t be surprised; Watchmen demands repeated readings.

Give me smallest finger on man’s hand. I’ll produce information. Computer unnecessary.
Watchmen Movie PosterBatman remains my favorite superhero for his conceptual brevity, but Watchmen is my favorite superhero story. You can imagine, then, the anticipation I felt up to the moment I finally experienced the long-awaited film adapation in Vancouver’s wonderful Cinetopia theater.

If the movie had attempted to completely encapsulate all of what Watchmen is in under 3 hours, it would have failed. This is why I admire the direction taken, which feels more like an incredibly vivid window into the key points of a tale wide in scope. The result is that, at it’s worst, the film feels like an impassioned love letter to a piece of iconic pop culture. At best, it captures the depth, intelligence and wonder I felt when I first read the original.

Yes, the ending feels a bit flat. Yes, the licensed music feels odd a couple times. And yes, they did omit several scenes. But when you see Dr. Manhattan glowing and Godlike while losing touch with humanity, or Archimedes bursting from the river and flying through the clouds, or Jackie Earle Haley playing Rorschach flawlessly, none of that seems to matter at all. I ate it up.

The only problem; I have absolutely no objectivity. I can’t decide if I was drooling over the film for the fact that these characters and plot points were interpreted in glorious motion, or because it was simply a good film. My geekiness has completely usurped my objectivity; I love Watchmen too much to hate this film.

So what did you think? Did the uneven pacing throw you off, or were you speaking in a gravelly voice and denouncing humanity under a creepy mask and fedora as you skipped out the theater?

Responses

Matt says

Ha ha, I thought I said no more ‘watches the watchmen’ references!

It sounds like you felt really similar to the way I did – overjoyed at seeing everything in film form, all the parts that bring the illustrations to life flawlessly… the switched ending didn’t really make me happy, and you’re right, the music choice was weird at a few times.

The other thing that I noticed was that in the climax of the graphic novel, I was able to accept Manhattan’s decision regarding Rorschach, but in the film I empathized a lot more with Rorschach, and felt a lot worse about what happened. Maybe it’s just a difference in mediums – I’d have to watch it again to point out the parts that changed my mind, I think.

Responded

Tyler Sticka says

I chose that title just to irk you, Matt. Mission accomplished!

Rorschach was just amazingly executed from start to finish. I’m unsure of whether or not an emphasized amount of empathy was felt because of the strengths of this adaptation, or simply because his treatment therein, like the character himself, was without compromise in comparison to his fellow heroes.

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mason says

I actually had the opposite impression of the film. The blind reverence to the source material, for me, took the joy out of the story. I didn’t leave the theater feeling like I had just experienced something I love being brought to life. I felt like I watched a movie.

As a counter example, I’ve been citing the Harry Potter films as a successful example of films that take the literary works, touch on points of the story in a very literal way, and filled me with joy by doing so.

Just me. Glad some people like it.

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Tyler Sticka says

Very interesting! Did you have similar experiences with, say, 300 or Sin City?

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mason says

Short answer (since I’m on the iphone): No. Loved both sin city and 300. Captured the spirit of the books while being very literal adaptations.

Something I’ve been thinking about re:Watchmen is that the mood of the book is very slow, brooding and intellectual. Maybe that just doesn’t make a good movie? But I feel it could… And has. Will find some examples but would love thoughts. What about the mystery of the book? Didn’t feel that in the film. Because I know it too well?

That went longer than I intended…

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Tyler Sticka says

For me, the crux of Watchmen has always been “question authority.” If superheroes hadn’t been around at all, things wouldn’t have escalated to the level they did, and they wouldn’t have had to intervene in such an objectionable way. While I think an argument could be made that certain moments of heavy-handed foreshadowing may have belied the mystery, I think that essential theme made it through the film largely unscathed.

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David Stewart says

I dabbled in comics as a kid but didn’t really get in to them. When I was introduced to the Watchmen as well as The Long Halloween about 6 months ago that changed. The novel format changed the way I consumed the content.

The Watchmen’s deconstructionist depiction of super heros (like Batman) hit a chord. I devoured the book and pondered the implications.

The movie, although different from the book in many ways kept the spirit and overall style. The actors and director brought the Watchmen panels to life in a way that extended and embellished what I had imagined.

As far as it being successful beyond the interpretation of the graphic novel, I think it was. I saw it with my wife the second time (in HD too, which was cool because I saw it first at a regular theater). I expected her to be confused and appalled by some of the violence. Instead, she loved it. She thought it was the best, highly-stylized, mind blowing action movie since the original Matrix. That is high praise in my book. She caught on to all the subtleties and “got it” in the same way I did after reading the book.

In the end, I think the concepts and the parallels they have in our lives today are kind of universal. This was the right time to make this movie.

Responded

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