Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watch this

What I'm about to say may constitute comic-book heresy, but Watchmen the movie is better than Watchmen the book. The director has managed to pick the best, most exciting parts of the graphic novel and edited out the boring stuff (Tales of the Black Freighter, anyone?). And whereas the art in the Watchmen comic always struck me as too sterile, the movie's visuals are stylish, emotional, and even set to music.

If you've never read the comic, it's set in an alternate reality where there were a couple of superhero teams: the Minutemen (1950s), and their successors the Watchmen (1970s). Both teams eventually disbanded, due to political pressure. This alternate history is depicted in the gorgeous opening montage (set to Dylan's Times They Are A-Changin'). The story focuses on the living members of the Watchmen, one of whom has recently been murdered. It takes place around 1985, but there are a lot of flashbacks, so keep that in mind while you're watching.

Rumor has it that Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen, took his name off the movie halfway through production over creative differences. I'm not sure what his problem was, seeing as the film is remarkably loyal to the comic. Most scenes are so similar that I'd swear they used the graphic novel as storyboards. The performances are excellent, especially Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian). Watchmen is a long book, with a lot of little stories and big ideas. Turning it into a film is no easy task. Yet they managed it without diminishing the individual characters or bungling the plot. Alan Moore set out to blow up comic book cliches and raise questions about human nature, and the movie stays true to that. Looking at the final product, I think he'd be proud.

Beats the hell out of V for Vendetta, anyways.

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1 comment:

YZF said...

I disagree. Watchmen has always been more intriguing than entertaining, but at least the comic had some neat tricks among all the excess. (The fifth chapter, with its mirror imagery, is pretty darn cool.) The movie, on the other hand, felt like cliff notes. Almost every scene was either underdeveloped (anything with Ozy and/or Comedian), campy (the love scene, Nixon), or just plain gross. The only part which really worked was Rorschach -- and he unfortunately got stuck with all of director Zack Snyder's stomach-churning "improvements" over the original violence.

And try to imagine it from a different perspective... for someone who hasn't read the source material, the movie probably seemed extremely excessive. Since it was only able to touch upon the concepts in the comic, large chunks of film came off as bizzare and pretentious (Dr. Manhattan), or even completely unnecessary (Nite Owl, alas). The comic may be bloated, but at least it takes the time to flesh out its many ideas.

The only thing the movie gets points for is that it'll no doubt inspire folks to read the comic... and frankly, they could read something better than a dated, meta deconstruction of the superhero genre. But as a stand-alone work, it seemed pretty lifeless to me.

PhD Comics