I wont try to explain the graphic novel to people who haven’t read it. Or people who have read it for that matter. You can read about it all over, even my own blog if you click on the Watchmen or comic book or graphic novel tags. Wikipedia, the love of my internet life, has a fair breakdown of characters, though somewhat trivial at times. It contains “spoilers” – if you can call them that, you know, because a book is a spoiler to a movie. usually.
I also won’t give an account of all the stuff that happens in the movie because if you want to know, this review does a good job of pointing out all the crap as well as some of the good stuff. The reviewer didn’t like it and I know many friends who are big fans of the book didn’t either.
So I’m gonna just give my opinion and let others do all the hard work of picking the thing apart. I LOVED IT!!! And here’s why.
I have never been one to so closely hold up the book to the movie that any deviation or license taken ruins it for me. I often say that they must be treated as separate but equal entities. That said, the overall arc and theme of a work should probably remain intact. In fact, I say there should be a law against using the same name if the ending changes significantly or if characters are completely botched or added. Coraline the movie comes to mind. But I won’t beat that dead horse again. You could use a derivative or something from the book, but not the same title. And especially not the format of the “author’s name title,” i.e., “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”
Most people will say that sometimes trying to stick to the book too faithfully just becomes laborious and doesn’t translate well to film. Usually I agree as we don’t “learn” the same way visually as we do textually and often imagery changes perception or can lead our minds in the wrong direction. In this case, though, some of the shots that Snyder took obvious great pains to recreate from the book, were in my opinion worth it. They were gorgeous. One of the main criticisms of this movie was that it just didn’t even need to be made. Alan Moore himself didn’t want it made and refused to have his name on it any where. We could argue for hours about whether any book should be made a movie or if filmmaking really has become so jaded that we can’t find any original ideas any more. Or maybe some stories are just too good to not be told in as many mediums as possible. Whatever, I’ll leave those arguments to people who care. Personally, I felt I had absolutely not say or control over whether the movie was made and since it was, I’m going to support it with my money by buying a ticket, and if I liked it, by saying so.
Unfortunately, Snyder went a little goofy about certain things that I felt fully displayed the exact reasons someone like Mr. Moore hates Hollywood. Oversexed for one thing – an overlong sex scene that was way too stylized and pretty – this isnt the Watchmen I know. everything is gritty and clumsy and raw. The violence was just right, I felt, way over the top and well, bloody. Not too comic-y though, and I thought Snyder did that well. The last 20 minutes or so were a bit insulting, changing significant parts of the ending to maybe fit in with the ideology of today’s audience? I don’t know. But it didn’t work for me.
Now, here is where you may find me rather complex in my opinions. Some will find that the characterizations of women pretty much suck. As far as I’m concerned, that’s in the original text, so take it up with Moore. Not that he will give you the time of day. I would argue that Moore doesn’t really get women in his books. I find them just a touch flat and more like necessary to the plot than valid characters.Which may make you wonder why I like the book in the first place. But then again, I like Lord of the Rings and there are like 2 female characters and Tolkien himself admitted he put women on an unrealistic pedestal. But some will try to say that this movie version is more about Laurie/Silk Spectre than the book is – and maybe that’s where the flaws reside. The change in ending and the role that she plays in it all, while partially faithful to Moore’s story, isn’t entirely so. And that’s where Snyder gets into some trouble. Probably only Laurie and Dan/Nite Owl have any kind of arc at all and so that’s where a movie will focus because god forbid we watch an almost 3-hour movie with no arc!!
But the truth is that all of Moore’s characters are seriously jacked up. All of them flawed and some ridiculously so. The question of “heroism” comes from this place of wondering what exact make up it takes for someone to be a hero. What is the pathology behind a vigilante, a successful businessman, a soldier, a president? It’s something we don’t think about in any way except with reverence and respect. We are in awe of them and exhort each other to live as they live. But Moore takes that a step to the dark side, something he is great at, and says, wait a tic. Let’s look closer. Granted he takes some of the most extreme characterizations, like the Comedian who blows away the pregnant Vietnamese girl he knocked up and is now leaving, or Rorschach who I can’t even begin to describe here. but then he shows us people like you and me, the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, who are just trying to live normal lives and still be happy with themselves for turning away from heroic deeds. Is it possible to do that – to go about your life without trying to help your fellow human? Or after trying to help over and over again, you see how in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really change anything, and how do you not fall into despair?
One thing I will grant the naysayers is that this film came out about 10 years too late. The ideas and the visuals seem “old” to todays audience because we’ve seen a good deal of it already. But keep in mind that the book came out in 1986-87, Moore was probably writing it before that, and for the most part comic book heroes were not all that complex and there were distinct lines between the good guys and the bad guys. Moore, along with Frank Miller and others, changed that for us in an epic way. People who don’t know any better will make comparisons to Batman Begins or to X-Men, or worse, the Heroes TV show, and I’ll just smile politely. Just remember that questioning our heroes comes naturally to us now, but it took a long time to lay that groundwork. Maybe centuries.
All that said, I really can’t see it doing all that well in the box office. It will alienate those who are expecting Spiderman or the Fantastic Four (barf) and it frustrates the loyal Moore fans. I hope that they will get over it and just appreciate it for what it is. At least I haven’t seen any lunchboxes yet. besides, my biggest hope for the hoopla is that a whole new generation of kids will pick up the book and it will make the kind of impact on them that it did on us.
This isn’t in the movie, from the book, and kind of a central theme if not THE theme of Watchmen…
Laurie Juspeczyk: Is that what you are? The most powerful thing in the universe and you’re just a puppet following a script?
Doctor Manhattan: We’re all puppets, Laurie. I’m just a puppet who can see the strings.