Watching the Watchmen

Watchmen

I just got back from seeing Watchmen, which is a film I’ve been anticipating since I read the graphic novel a couple of years back, so I just wanted to put down some thoughts while it was still fresh in my mind.

I’d been generally avoiding reviews, but what I’d picked up from friends and Twitterers who had seen it in advance it had been suggested that it was maybe too close to the source for its own good. I’d pretty much agree with that. There were parts that could have done with trimming for the screen that were left identical to the book, but then Snyder was happy to alter the ultimate plot twist to make it work better on screen, which makes letting other parts suffer a bizarre decision.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the ending doesn’t make as much sense to me as the one in the book did, but at the same time I can see how that one wouldn’t have worked on film. Not only would it have looked silly, but it would also have required a lot of exposition and bloated it further with the setup interspersed throughout. The film was labyrinthine enough as it was.

Could it have┬ábenefited┬áby having a different director who is perhaps more comfortable with gravitas and directing emotional scenes? Possibly, as there’s one scene in particular that I’m not sure was being deliberately and ironically cheesy or if Snyder thought it was actually going to bring tears to our eyes. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that this is the guy who gave us 300 because a lot of the action is very similar, and despite being set in the 80s we have a lot of the modern music video school of direction tropes like slow motion. I might be being pretentious here, but I’d prefer it to have been directed less stylistically, because I think – or hope – that this kind of direction will date horribly in a few years when people grow out of it.

Don’t let me put you off it if I’m sounding negative, though. Overall I enjoyed it, and I mean it as a compliment to say that it didn’t feel like the 163 minutes that it was. Getting Watchmen into a single film was always going to be tough – I’d still like to see it as a miniseries one day – and they did a good job, thankfully without watering it down for a lower age rating like we might have expected. Hell, the sex and violence quotient is higher than I can remember being in the source, which doesn’t happen a lot these days. There’s an awesome jizz gag as well.

For anyone who hasn’t read Watchmen in a while and has seen the film, I recommend perusing this fairly comprehensive list of the changes. There are quite a few that I’d forgotten about or not noticed in there. It contains spoilers, obviously.

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