March 13, 2009 by Tim

I’m going to talk about Watchmen here. I am not going to be spoiler sensitive. If at this point you have not read the book, tough.

So I did get to see Watchmen earlier this week. I had been anxious to see a midnight opening last Thursday, before Digital Overload, but I knew better. See, in 2007 ‘300’ came out during Digital Overload, and I went to see it without Britanny (she had classes), and I’ve been hearing about it for the last two years. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

So after Digital Overload was all wrapped up this year, we stuck around Providence for the afternoon on Monday and headed over to the IMAX to see Watchmen. I wasn’t one of those people who said “No no no, they shouldn’t touch this book, they’re going to ruin it!” Rather I hoped that they would pull it off. I knew it wouldn’t be exactly the same, I knew they’d have to change some things, but that was okay. I wasn’t looking for the movie to replace the comic book, only to compliment it.

Having seen it now, I can say that I was not bothered by what they changed. If anything, I was most bothered by what they left out.

To start, I know that this is the stuff that was largely considered “unfilmable”, and it absolutely is. The newstand/pirate story, the lover’s quarrel, the biography excerpts and newspaper clippings… you can’t add these things directly to the movie, because they would drag on, and add an hour to an already long movie. However these things were integral to the over-all feel that the comic book had, and so in removing them you lost a bit of that feeling in the movie.

I was also upset that they had to cut other things like Hollis Mason’s death, but I do understand that they’ll re-add that to the Director’s Cut this summer, so I’ll definitely be checking that out.

I will say that, focused just on the primary story, I believe the movie was about as accurate and faithful a retelling as you could get.

I loved the opening credits. That was a nice treat. It filled in a lot of backstory in its own way (though I’m not sure if you’d get as much from it if you hadn’t read the book), and was really fun to watch.

They updated the costumes, but I’m alright with that. I think some of the comic book costumes worked largely because of the color pallete used, and to see them on a real person might have looked silly and distracting. I think the new costumes paid enough homage to the originals, aside from Ozymandias, for whom I think they missed the point with his new threads.

Dan maybe could have been a little tubbier, a little more depressing to look at, but I think you still got enough of his state of being to get the point across.

It bothered me that Rorschach flat-out brained that kidnapper/murderer instead of tossing him the hacksaw like in the comic book. That’s a change I just cannot fathom a need for.

Clearly they changed the ending, but I’m actually happy about that. In the end, the effect/purpose conveyed in the comic book is exactly the same, and the giant fake alien explosion (which worked in the book due to the slow buildup, ie, the missing reporter etc) would have added a cheesiness to the film that I believe would have detracted from that intended effect.

I was a little annoyed by Adrian at the end… in the comic book he had a calmness, and aloofness… a confidence in his vision that really made you start to feel like “Hey, you know what, I see this guy’s point of view. Maybe… maybe he was right”. But in the film he came across as a typical borderline psychotic at the end.

I am left pretty curious what my thoughts on the film would be if I hadn’t read Watchmen a few times. Looking back, I was seeing stuff on the screen, hearing dialogue, that was incredibly accurate and faithful to the book, but at the same time I think my brain was filling in all of the backstory that wasn’t being shown.

In that regard (and I don’t think it should be any different), I think the movie will function best as a compliment to the book. You should read the book to enjoy the incredible story, and you should see the movie for a new way to enjoy that story, but it won’t/can’t be a replacement.

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