What the Internet needs is another review of Watchmen. And I aim to please.
With the geekosphere agog and aghast about what is or isn’t faithful to the comic, it’s difficult to add much new to the debate. It’s fair to say that 90% of what’s on the screen is a live-action version of what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons put down on paper, so almost everything hinges on that revised 10%: either it works for you from a storytelling standpoint … or it perverts everything you hold to be pure and true in the Nerdiverse.
It worked for me. I believe it when director Zack Snyder tells us the original ending (extraterrestrial threat) wouldn’t work on film. So the new ending (terrestrial threat) uses the tools already laid on the table to solve the problem of plot. Unfaithful to the World’s Bestest Ever Graphic Novel, sure, but clever and efficient.
For me, of greater concern is not whether an alien squid is an untenable way to end a pseudo-realistic movie, but how it would lengthen the movie. I [heart] the source material as much as any comics fan, but that movie was already pretty doggone long. With each origin story and my-favorite-Comedian-memory moments, you could feel some wind go out of the sails. Without much capital-A Action to carry this superhero picture along, we needed to get to the finale before I officially lost patience, which was juuust starting to wane.
Speaking of that superhero Action, one picky nit I’ve encountered in more than a few reviews is how the supers seemed to have extra-normal fighting abilities beyond what we see in the comic. Comedian can punch through walls! Pudgy Nite Owl and prepubescent Silk Spectre can jujitsu entire cellblocks of thugs! It’s all too unreal!
To that I say: Thanks, Zack Snyder, for following cinema sensibilities and making your action actiony. Shrimpy little Rorschach better be able to toss big dudes around like water balloons or we do not have a superhero movie, no sir.
Such artistic choices are the classic movie-versus-book chestnut that will never be cracked. Should Old Yeller be a cat in the next movie remake? Well, sure, if it makes sense for the specific needs of feature film storytelling. Don’t like it? Stick to the book.
The debate reminds me of stuff I read around the time of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some sad purists bemoaned the use of Liz Tyler’s Arwen, the omissions of pointless asides from the book, even the design of the cities. (“Osgiliath wouldn’t have been so ruined! It was a functioning city within the previous decade!”…)
It’s not an easy to watch movie, or even, at times, a fun one. But a truly classic story is still there, and it would be a shame for geekish persnickitiness to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of a well-made genre movie.
Glowing blue dingdongs notwithstanding.