Warning! Warning! The following is a review of Watchmen and so contains an extensive reference to the movie’s plot points and characters and the original graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Contains minor spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…
Welcome back future thinkers, it’s been a while. The following is a short review I wrote based on my thoughts of recently watching the movie Watchmen. I know this isn’t typical Sci-Fi but I had a lot to say and just had to say it somewhere. If you’re a fan of the movie, I’m sorry, I was just not a fan although I have some good things still to say. This is going to be filled with minor spoilers, mainly related to the comicbook so if you haven’t read the fantastic graphic novel or watched the movie, I’d advise to do so before reading the review. This is a one off, I don’t usually do reviews for comicbook movies and don’t expect them here although I had some big things to discuss so that’s why I created this post. But without further ado, onto the review.
There’s a thing with Watchmen were following such a brilliant Graphic Novel is going to be super difficult and I’ve heard many mixed things about the movie. Some people love it, some people hate it but it’s one of those movies that I had a lot of problems with but there’s also a lot to discuss. Visually, Watchmen, the movie is great. There’s some fantastic cinematography and everything on a visual level jumps straight from the comicbook which is great for adaptations, it is a very good one but…here’s the thing. On a writing level and conceptually it just doesn’t work.
In many ways, it is like the Psycho remake which was an experiment where the visual style, plot and shots are copied near exactly but having different actors and the team behind it which is unless there is a very good understanding of how exactly the characters work and the metaphor behind the story itself and it’s importance at not just that type in society but also in comics themselves. Watchmen was released in a new era for comics, trying to It both feels like it is trying but in many ways feels like it’s trying to hard to cram the story into 3hrs and that is not a small feat and in many ways it does well in that. I’m talking here mainly about the theatrical version of the movie rather then the extended cut (which I will update this post on when I watch it eventually).
The thing is you can tell that Zack Snyder likes Watchmen, but he just doesn’t understand that importance of the story. It is a critique and real-life look at comicbook heroes and society at that time. It’s kind of like copying notes from a textbook that you don’t understand. It’s going to get across the idea of the same points but you’re not doing it in your own way. You just don’t get it and putting it into practice other than just repeating exactly what you read. One of the main messages of the graphic novel is a message against the violence, how it is presented in comics and the idea of how Superheroes in many ways glorify an aggressive way to sort problems and achieve “peace”.
The idea of that is there and I enjoy how Dr. Manhattan is instead blamed for the attack as an allegory for nuclear war compared to the alien invasion ending in the graphic novel but the problem is the violence is glorified. Violence doesn’t have consequences in this version but instead is glorified in an intense and really gory way. It seems like it is trying to reach for the 18 rating rather then a character like Rorschach being the main character who results to killing (I will get to that later).
This adaptation is like that and because of that other than having some cool scenes for comic fans and presenting these ideas to people that haven’t read the comic, it is just an experiment of where sometimes adapting something exactly is never really the good call. A good example of this is Logan which instead takes the ideas, characters and comicbook material and makes something entirely new of it. It doesn’t copy it but takes all the best parts of it and tries to a movie of its own from it.
There’s really a lot to breakdown but it just doesn’t get what exactly the comicbook was going for and how the story was told. This is like a lot of the comics focusing on it that weren’t by the original team as well. Especially a character like Rorschach. Rorschach is a character that is based on the character by Steve Ditko known as the Question…who had a very questionable philosophy. Basically his hardboiled violent form of vigilantism, where people are either entirely good or entirely evil. Rorschach was instead meant to be more of a critique on this philosophy and this is ingrained into his character. It really just doesn’t have the same impact in the movie and even glorifies his brutality and psychopathic nature which would eventually seep into his characterisation of Superman in Man of Steel.
This is not the case for all characters but they lack the necessary set up and execution other than Dr Manhattan (who loses the cool perception of all moments of his time at once), the Comedian and Owl Man (although his mentor is missing the great side story he had in the novel, oh well, that was definitely to be expected for a movie like this). The Silk Spectre is authentic to the comics but the acting really not great and she feels like a sex object that is passed between the male characters rather then a woman from a damaged family of superheroes. Ozymandias also feels very two dimension in this version which really diminishes the point of the character and his perception of the world. How he kills part of humanity also makes sense in concept for a movie and works well but really doesn’t have the impact of the original graphic novel even if conceptually, it wasn’t a bad change.
I’m sorry I’m looking at this so much directly to the graphic novel but with something so exactly copied in a visual and plot way, it is important to look at it in such a way. Again, it is visually well done…well apart from perhaps some bad pacing at times, some weird editing between flashbacks. In many ways, it is also violent in a way that is just unnecessary and feels gory for the sake of an 18 rating especially in the latter half of the movie. I must say though, the opening scenes and especially up to the point where Rorschach gets out prison is very well visually presented and entertaining if only to see eye-candy of some of the scenes within the comic, especially the fantastic montage of the old version of the Watchmen compared to the beginning of the movie.
All and all, very well done in the visual department, in the conceptual and adapting the story in a new and interesting way…yeah, not so much. It’s an interesting idea to do and having Zack Snyder and his crew such as cinematographer Larry Fong but the writers and Zack himself really should have looked deeper at what exactly the comicbook was going for and not just imitated the visual side of the comic.
Other than that, it is middle of the road but only as a great visual set piece for some of the best scenes from the original graphic novel. As a fan, I was visually stimulated but on a intellectual level not so much. I’m not saying the ideas still aren’t there in ways but how violence is glorified compared to the message of how in the graphic novel, the story and characters are meant to show when violence isn’t the answer to world peace. In the end, it comes from a very different time and in trying to make something like this after 911, there is going to be a different interpretation of that type of idea and message. All in all, however, I would rather read the comic any day but that doesn’t mean it was a bad or boring experience. It just felt like trying to give a big self-serious action movie spin on something that is trying to critique and look at the effects of this on society and real-life. I give this movie, a Read the Review/10.
You can watch the Watchmen on Netflix and/or DVD and Blu-ray now. I really had big problems with this movie and really wanted to address them properly. I had a lot of pet peeves and in many ways the graphic novel has many cool Science Fantasy elements and discussions which the movie tries to do but just doesn’t get. I’m sorry I didn’t have any content up this month so far but there’s more to come very very soon. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie and/or the brilliant graphic novel, future thinkers. Have you watched it? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below…
Michael McGrady, Signing Off.