So I actually went and saw Watchmen a couple weeks ago—the Monday after opening weekend, since I was sick in bed opening weekend. I have been writing this review ever since. So either it is a work of genius or a work of imbecility.
The most remarkable thing about the Watchmen movie is that it makes me realize how much I love the book.
Well, specifically the Giant Squid. But I’ll get to that.
I can only review the movie as someone who has read the book; I found myself wondering, as I watched it, if somebody who had not read it would be able to follow the plot. And in the pursuit of full disclosure, I adore the book. Graphic novel. If you haven’t heard of it, Watchmen is the definitive graphic novel of our time, written by the inimitable Alan Moore. Almost 25 years later and its genius has not faded.
Alan Moore refused to have anything to do with movie. Unsurprisingly; his graphic novels have been turned into notoriously bad movies: V for Vendetta, From Hell. Watchmen is a special case, though; Moore has long declared the book unfilmable, and he claims he will never watch it now that it has been filmed.
I am not such a stickler. With any book-to-movie adaptation there will have to be cuts and reimaginings. You can tell, reading Watchmen, what will have to be cut (the Black Freighter bits, obviously). And being a nerd, I had done my homework and knew going in pretty much everything that would be different. So no surprises there. And all sensible cuts. Nothing to get het up about. Or is there?
But first, the normal movie things. It’s a beautiful film. It’s dark and rainy and beautifully shot. Shot like a comic book. I loved it.
Goes well with the storyline which, for those of you unfamiliar, is dark and violent. It makes Dark Knight look like Pollyanna. A group of aging superheros are coming to terms with each other and their place in the world. (The world, btw, is an alternate-reality 1980s where Nixon has just been elected for his 3rd term.) There is much blood, guts, and flashbacks—flashbacks that were done extremely well. I was concerned about that.
The actors were very good. (*is too lazy to go look up names*) Particularly the Comedian and Ozymandias, which is good because those are my two favorite characters (Rorschach can bite me. No wait I don’t mean that). Nite Owl and the chick have never been my favorite characters, so I was dubious about seeing them on screen—Nite Owl surpassed my expectations while Silk Spectre II turned out to be one of my least favorite actresses—the annoying sister from 27 Dresses. (Yes. I have seen 27 Dresses. Don’t judge me.) Considering she’s my least favorite of the superheroes, I wasn’t too heartbroken. But my two faves (Com and Ozzy, as I like to call them) were beautifully portrayed, showing off the complexity of their characters. Rorschach’s voice was a bit too Christian-Bale-Batman-growly for my taste, but the actor was superb.
So overall, the filmmakers did a good job taking the book to the screen. Again, I don’t know if people who haven’t read it can follow it, but I think people who like their violence violent, their superheroes moody, and their comic book stories complex will really enjoy this film. One word of warning: Watchmen may contain the longest and most awkward superhero sex scene in the history of mankind. “Hallelujah” is involved. You have been warned.
But now, let’s talk about the Giant Squid.
The book ends with our bad guy unleashing a giant squid on Manhattan. His purpose is to convince the world that there is a new and unknown alien enemy, and so the human race (namely the US and the USSR) should band together and stop trying to kill each other.
Now, ending a dark and intense movie with a CG giant squid is just asking for trouble. It would be laughable. Ridiculous. So, very reasonably, the filmmakers changed it.
Instead of a giant squid, the bad guy destroys half a dozen world cities in such a way that it looks like Doctor Manhattan.
Now, Doc Manhattan has declared that he’s done with the human race and has spent the last week or so on Mars. But—do we really think the USSR would believe the US had no complicity in this? “Oh, sorry Kremlin, yeah this dangerous weapon that just destroyed Moscow used to belong to us but he’s totally rogue now. No really!” And yes Doc Manhattan does destroy New York and L.A. too, but any Soviet Union worth its salt would be able to blame the U.S. anyway. The U.S. got what it deserved, and it caused mayhem here in the USSR. Let’s kill them all!
So really, the end result was that I became fonder of the Giant Squid than I ever had before; I understand why it was so important. It so obviously did not belong to any country that it had the desired (by-the-bad-guy) result. I remain unconvinced that a rogue Doctor Manhattan would have produced the same feeling of solidarity in the world leader’s.
So the basic upshot is I really enjoyed the movie, I’m going to go see it again. If you have read the book, get over the fact that it’s going to have differences and go in and enjoy it.
I would like to point out, to the idiots among you, that this is not a good movie for children. So what the fuck don’t take your four-year-olds.
That is all.