I have not read the graphic novel the film WATCHMEN is based on. However, I can imagine (and have read repeatedly) it is a tome of epic proportions, this statement now enforced by my viewing of the film at a midnight screening last night. Prior to watching the movie I regretted not having read the book—I’ve wanted to read Watchmen for a while but it had been relegated to a long list of “books I intend to read” some time ago. Now, I feel as though I have to read the book. I simply must. While the movie was fantastic, I got the sense the book would be an unparalleled literary experience—much how I feel about Lord of the Rings. The films are incredible at putting that story to life, and while they are faithful—it is impossible for a movie to completely capture the grand scope of the tale, and such is the case with Watchmen, even in such a detailed adaptation.
Yesterday when I told people I was going to the midnight screening of Watchmen, I was greeted with varying responses. My brother was envious, a co-worker declared my Geekdom official, and a friend asked “Why? It’s gotten terrible reviews.” Indeed, reviews have been mixed—but a common complaint is that the film is too faithful to the book, and at 2 hours and 45 minutes—I don’t doubt that. Certainly, its length is exhausting—especially at the end, when I was again reminded of Lord of the Rings and its multitude of endings. However, I appreciate when a film is faithful to a book, and also when a film does what a book cannot, be it eliminating extraneous story lines, or putting words to image. Watchmen must have been a bitch to adapt—you already have images, as it’s a graphic novel, and an extensively intricate one at that. One of the reasons I wish I had read the book before seeing the movie was because in some scenes it was obvious certain frames were exact replicas of a comic panel—as a book fan that would have been very gratifying.
The film’s plot is complex and smart; one in which an alternative history of the US is imagined, complete with Nixon in a fifth term as president and the US and Russia on the brink of nuclear war. It’s 1985 and masked vigilantes—the superheroes that comprise the Watchmen—are outlawed. Cities are gritty, full of crime and paranoia. It’s oddly beautiful, however, both the cinematography and the effects. I especially loved the 80s jams accompanying the film, as well as the clothing. Overall the setting was spectacular, which made up for the occasional lack of backstory or confusing plot hole.
Watchmen is not for the faint of heart. It has graphic violence and sex, spans settings from New York to Mars (yes the planet) and Antarctica. The plot is complicated but packs a punch—there’s a great twist, and Easter eggs planted in many shots (probably more for original book readers—another reason I need to get my hands on a copy of the novel) and even with the length, I was captivated well into the wee hours of the morning. In fact, I want to see it again. I’m not sure that the average comic book movie fan will enjoy this—some of my friends didn’t love it as much as I did, even if they were X-Men or Dark Knight fans. I do think it’s worth seeing—it’s groundbreaking and thought provoking and one hell of a ride.