Like tons of other nerds, I went and saw the Watchmen movie last weekend. It’s a divisive movie, that’s for sure, with half of the internet loving it and half of it hating it. What’s really important though is what I think of it.
I’m gonna say right off the bat that I enjoyed it and felt it was about as faithful a comic book adaptation as there could have been with a few rare changes that they made, both to the movies detriment and its enhancement. Seriously, if you didn’t turn back at the last spoiler tag, it’s gonna get worse from here on out. Don’t read if you don’t want the entire movie/book spoiled for you. The most prominent of these changes involves Ozymandias’ plot to unite the world. Instead of a giant alien squid killing millions in New York, we have staged attacks in every major world city made to look like Dr. Manhattan did it as a nuclear deterrent. While some feel that the giant squid would have looked ridiculous and detracted from the movie, my friend Lee pointed out, and I agree, that an action by Dr. Manhattan would be viewed as the actions of an American, even though he exiled himself from the planet just prior to the explosions. I’m sure they would have moved past it, but not without some considerable difficulty, since the US would have to account for what it did.
The other big change that I didn’t agree with was the, possibly unintentional, trivializing of the revelation that the Comedian was the father of the Silk Spectre. By removing more of her back story from the movie, Snyder either intentionally or unintentionally made her just a sex symbol in the movie, also a side effect of several sex scenes that were just a wee bit too long and stylized to be as understated as the ones in the book.
Not that strict adherence to the book would have unequivocally improved some of the issues. There were definitely lines in the movie that just fell flat in their delivery just cause of the different medium. Comic prose is not film and the Snyder style in the movie doesn’t allow some of the serious lines to come off as lame or trying too hard. The action scenes are over-emphasized and, as mentioned, the sex scenes go on for too long. Still, there are many bright lights in this movie:
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is amazing as The Comedian. There could not have been a more brilliant portrayal of the damaged, nihilistic, and barbaric hero. He steals almost every scene he’s in, just like the actual Comedian in the book. Also greatly cast were Nite Owl and Rorschach, both looked like they should and acted precisely like they should. Dr. Manhattan’s blue penis made plenty of great appearances as did Silk Spectre II’s rack.
Also amazing and worth noting, the opening montage during the credits.
The movie was definitely hurt by the removal of the meta-fiction materials. In fact, the general shortening of it makes me wonder if the uninitiated are able to grasp all of the nuances that are present in the book. What I don’t know is if the director’s cut that will try to include more of that will be too crowded and long. At two hours, forty-three minutes, the movie definitely is a marathon session to watch. I’ll reserve judgment on that until I get my hands on the blu-ray.
Should you watch it? Experiencing one of the most incredible stories in recent literary history is something everyone should do. See it, read it if your interest is piqued, even if you think you’re unsure about whether or not it’s worth reading. I absolutely love this book and you should still experience it in some form. Alan Moore’s work is just too good.