How do you adapt what is commonly referred to as the most celebrated graphic novel of all time? The answer is very very carefully.
Alan Moore has never approved of any adaptation of his work. He has a history of giving away the money he receives for the rights and furthermore, not going to see the movie based off his piece of work. Moore has said on more than one occasion that he believed Watchmen to be a graphic novel which couldn't be filmed. Part of that shows with how long it took the movie to get to the big screen. There were a few attempts, but nothing which ever really came to fruition. Going from director to director and screenwriter to screenwriter. After the success of 300 in 2006, Hollywood finally found a director who they thought was capable of bringing Watchmen to the screen. Unfortunately, when it comes to 300, it's an entirely different entity from Watchmen. Zack Snyder, the famed director, certainly knows how to appeal to the eyes. The artistic direction of the Watchmen movie is certainly spot on. Snyder has stated himself that he used the graphic novel as a storyboard for the film. It shows.
This is where talking about Watchmen becomes a little tricky. Unlike 300, there's a lot more to the plot. It's a very complex and complicated plot, that is structured in such a way that a movie is a huge challenge (the narrative spans forty years). And while millions of people have no doubt basked in the graphic novel, but millions more have not. I'm sure those who read the novel as I did were very excited to see it being made into a movie. On the other hand, those who haven't might wonder just what the big deal is. In terms of being faithful to its source material, Watchmen succeeds, but outside of that there are a few things which keep it from being an overall good movie. While there is much Snyder left on the cutting room floor (The Tales of the Black Freighter is just one such thing, and of course, the squid), what you get is still a treat to fans of the novel.
The movie opens very nicely to Bob Dylan's "Times They Are A-Changin'" giving us a montage and look into the world which we are about to enter. After that the movie begins a to unfold in what might appear to be a convoluted plot. The plot isn't exactly convoluted, there's just a lot to follow and a lot to pay attention to. It's actually relatively simple. After the opening credits, we're treated to the murder of the Comedian, a super hero who once served the United States. After his murder, another vigilante named Rorshach steps onto the scene to investigate what the police won't. Someone, it seems, is picking off what's left of the Watchmen. But who would want to do that? And why? As the United States and the Soviet come closer to nuclear war, it turns out that the murder of the Comedian and the countdown to doomsday can be linked. Whoever is pulling the strings on our costumed heroes has planned things out very well.
And then there is Dr. Manhatten. While the other heroes are just people in costumes, Dr. Manhatten is the real deal. He has super powers, and has been used by the United States government. In this alternative 1985, the United States has won the Vietnam war and as a result, Nixon gets to serve a third term. Dr. Manhatten's next task may be to save the very world itself before the United States and the Soviets destroy it all. Yet it appears that someone is planning on that happening, as the one behind the scenes has found a way to get rid of Dr. Manhatten too. Who will save the world? It's up to the remaining Watchmen.
One thing the movie does do well is develop all the characters very well. Every character has a back story. You might get the feeling, as a result, that the movie dwells in a little too much narration in that case. And make no mistake, there's a lot more talking than actual action (contrary to what the previews might have you believe). It can feel like it's moving at a snails pace. This is mainly because it has to develop a large cast of characters and it isn't given enough time to do so. In spite of that the movie still clocks in at nearly 3 hours (it's about 2 hours and 43 minutes long). But the movie doesn't pass the butt-shifting test by any means. There are moments where you just want it to get going. You get the idea of what's going on in some cases long before your heroes do, but you have to wait as they take five or ten minutes to put clues together.
While it stays pretty faithful to the graphic novel as a whole, there are some moments where you get the feeling some of what's in the novel, might've very well been better off just staying there. Some of it, I hate to say, just doesn't translate well to the film medium. There are a few cheesy lines in here that were most certainly not cheesy in the novel. When Dr. Manhatten speaks of time, for example, it comes off as a lot cheesier than the serious tone with which it was delivered on the pages of the novel. It may have more to do with how the actors deliver these lines than anything else. Some of them are either dry in their delivery or just come off sounding completely unnatural. And as the movie drags on a lot more of it comes off as cheesy than you'd expect. This is despite the source material it's based off of being extremely well written and designed. When one of the characters catches a bullet, for example, you almost can't hold back laughter as you're reminded of that campy and crazy Batman television show starring Adam West.
Those who read the novel know that it was most definitely a violent one. There's blood all over. Snyder is no strange to blood. He is, after all, the director of 300 and the director of the remake of Dawn of the Dead. He's faithful in keeping most of the blood there (save for scenes which were cut entirely) but at some points he happens to bask in it a lot more than Dave Gibbons (the graphic novel artist) did. To the point where he gets a little over-sensational. In one scene as Rorshach whacks a man with a cleaver several times (and you see all that blood just spraying) it actually becomes tiring. I'm a good sport about violence, but don't oversensationlize in it so much that it takes focus off the main progression of the story and character building. In some cases you wonder if it was really necessary for the violence at some parts or if he just threw it in there to beat into the heads of parents, "This is not a movie for your child!" But I exaggerate a little. While the violent moments are a little sensational, there isn't quite THAT much. It's just that what you get is pretty brutal.
Of special note is just how much slow down action there is here. You could crack a million jokes about it. A lot of works and adds to the atmosphere but again, Snyder tends to oversensationlize in it. One of these days Snyder is going to make a movie where someone is making a cup of coffee in this fashion. Or maybe he'll shoot a movie where someone takes a leak and he slows down for it just as the urine hits the toilet bowl... you'll see small droplets of water come splashing up in 300 style. He'll finally let off the slow motion as the toilet flushes. How interesting would THAT be?
It's really a mixed bag. The movie looks good. Fantastic. The costumes are almost exactly as they appeared in the graphic novel. The look and feel of the world is brilliant. If there was anything to be nit picky about, however, it might Richard Nixon, who looks just plain awful. While some of it comes off as kind of cheesy and kind of long, you might still find yourself enjoying what you can. There's not a lot of action, but there's a lot of intrigue in many of the movies moments.
For those in the crowd who read the graphic novel, you'll be pleased to know that a lot of it has been kept in tact, but what isn't there might cause for alarm. There's a lot of backstory misssing, and the ending has been completely changed. The new ending works just fine (it doesn't change the outcome of it all too much) but for some fans, Snyder changed what was considered one of the defining moments of the graphic novel. Either way, you're more likely to be impressed by the movie than someone who hasn't read it.
If you haven't read the graphic novel, however, there's a lot that might either go over your head... or not interest you at all. The crew hasn't done a lot here to appeal to people outside the core audience of the graphic novel. At some parts you might be asking questions because there's a moment where Snyder cut something that might have done well to answering a specific question. If not that, you might be confused as to why the graphic novel had such a huge impact. There's no guarantee you'[ll be pleased if you haven't picked up the source material. Snyder knows who his audience is and he goes after them specifically.
It's really a mixed bag. A lot of what worked for the graphic novel doesn't translate well to the big screen. But it comes alive enough to keep you entertained, even if it doesn't fully satisfy. A few cheesy liners and a few moments where the movie takes itself a little too seriously is nothing to deter anyone from going to see it. And for what it's worth it's a decent movie. The problem isn't so much the movie, but more that what they had to work with was very complicated. I would say they did a pretty good job with what they had considering that upon finishing the graphic novel my first thought was: "It can't be done!" Snyder proved me wrong. And I'm glad he did. Some things don't translate well, but a huge chunk of it does.
All I know about WATCHMEN I learned from the movies. I'd never read the graphic novel…I'd never heard of it, in fact, until buzz about the movie started. So I cannot comment on the faithfulness to the source, or whether it captures the spirit of the original work. So for this novice, WATCHMEN was a big, often entertaining, sometimes tedious mish-mash of straight-forward action film, a tongue-in-cheek spin on the superhero genre and a sometimes interesting … more
Careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I always wanted to see the Watchmen made into a movie. At the same time I knew it would be a train wreck. It had to be. How can you get everything from the graphic novel into one movie? You can't. it's just that simple. Still they tried. Problem is I don't give credit for effort. Only for success. The biggest problem for me is how they changed the ending. … more
I'm a firm believer in that you shouldn't review something if you don't know the full story (or at least the background), like a person who doesn't play video games reviewing a video game movie or criticizing a Sci-fi film because you don't understand something or a better example me reviewing the Watchmen Movie. See i never read the graphic novel so I went into the theater (opening day might I add) expecting a classic Superhero movie, (Spiderman, … more
WARNING: This review may contain spoilers! For the past decade Hollywood has been scrambling over the rights to adapt comic book characters to the big screen. This year one of the most celebrated graphic novels is being brought to theatres in a cinematic adaptation that may very well be the most highly anticipated film of 2009. But can director Zack Snyder's film adaptation of Alan Moore's masterpiece Watchmen satisfy legions of rabid comic book fans and still succeed commercially … more
If there's one thing that I lament about the film-going experience as I get older, it's that I move further and further away from the boy who used to watch movies with unquestioning wide-eyed amazement. When I turned thirteen I started looking at film with a slightly more critical and as the years packed on with an increasingly cynical eye. It's a very rare experience for me to walk into a film without the baggage of 20 odd years of cinema watching experience, comparing … more
I never read the old Watchmen book. Called by many the greatest graphic novel ever and read by millions, I was going to consider reading it after I saw the film maybe catching what they changed and get more insight but now, I think I'll pass. The film is about an alternate 1985 where Nixon has remained in office and the world is constantly facing a doomsday clock where Russia could launch it's weapons in a moments notice. A once proud group of masked crime fighters have … more
Comic book adaptations are all the rage these days and they are a dime-a-dozen. To prepare for the film and to write this review, I re-read the graphic novel so I can give a more detailed viewpoint. "Watchmen" is adapted from the award-winning 12-issue mini-series in the 80's which in turn became a popular graphic novel. The graphic novel was written by Alan Moore (From Hell, V for Vendetta) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons (Green Lantern) and adapted to the big screen by Zack Snyder (300). … more
It's really a mixed bag. A lot of what worked for the graphic novel doesn't translate well to the big screen. But it comes alive enough to keep you entertained, even if it doesn't fully satisfy. A few cheesy liners and a few moments where the movie takes itself a little too seriously is nothing to deter anyone from going to see it. And for what it's worth it's a decent movie. The problem isn't so much the movie, but more that what they had to work with was very complicated. I would say they did … more
Zach Snyder does his best to adapt the "unfilmable" graphic novel magnum opus from Alan Moore, and comes up short from either fans who wanted more, or didn't think it stuck close enough to the source, not to mention the general public who the story went over they're heads due to almost requiring the audience to come in knowing whats going on. Uneven performances and loss of narrative hurt what could have been a pretty good adaption.
The movie was a little bit dark (the superheroes in this parallel universe literally kill their enemies) but I found it entertaining throughout. The movie starts with the murder of The Comedian, a sometimes hero, most times a nasty bully acting as a hero. He was part of a group of masked adventurers called the Watchmen. Most of the Watchmen were retired but they get together at the funeral and each has their memories of the group that go back to the 1940's. There is also … more
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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There have been numerous attempts to adapt the superlative graphic novel Watchmen, which was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, into a feature film. The first serious proposal to do so came in the late 1980s and for a long time director Terry Gilliam (director of Brazil and 12 Monkeys) showed interest in making the film. However, after numerous attempts to create a script, Gilliam was quoted as saying that the graphic novel was too complex and too amorphous for even him to adapt. Later acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) was reported as a possible director, but this never came into fruition. Initially set to direct the film was Paul Greengrass (director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum). However he was sacked during budget disputes at Paramount Studios, who were at the time meant to release the film. Since then Zack Snyder (director of the remake of Dawn of the Dead and of the film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300) has been assigned the role of director and the film has been moved from Paramount to Warner Bros. Studios.
The film was released on March 6 of 2009. On July 21 of 2009 the film was released in both theatrical and director's cut editions on DVD. On November 10 of 2009 the film was released in an Ultimate Edition containing Tales of the Black Freighter animated sequences and linking scenes.