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Who Watches the Watchmen?

March 13, 2009


Even as I hesitate to watch the film in order to preserve the graphic novel’s imprint on my mind, the reviews are in:

  • The Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott: “Watchmen is a bore…It sinks under the weight of its reverence for the original.”
  • Newsweek’s Devin Gordon: “That’s the trouble with loyalty. Too little, and you alienate your core fans. Too much, and you lose everyone – and everything – else.”
  • Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman: “Snyder treats each image with the same stuffy hermetic reverence. He doesn’t move the camera or let the scenes breathe. He crams the film with bits and pieces, trapping his actors like bugs wriggling in the frame.”
  • The Chicago Reader’s Noah Berlatsky: “Snyder never pauses to develop a vision of his own. The result is oddly hollow and disjointed; the actors moving stiffly from one overdetermined tableau to another.”
  • New York Magazine’s David Edelstein: “They’ve made the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed.”

Rotten Tomatoes ranks it at 64% for goodness sake! Now I wonder how much the screen adaptation has truly massacred this phenomenal graphic novel.

First of all, what is the problem with just reading the damn thing? We’ve gotten too lazy to dabble with the written word, even a novel in pictures is too much to handle. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, Alan Moore’s  Watchmen is the one to start with. The plot and array of characters are not only expansive, there’s enough psychological nuance to choke a textbook (one of its pivotal characters is aptly named Rorschach). This is not your run of the mill superhero comic book.

If nothing else, read the novel for its 4th chapter: “Watchmaker”. It gives the back story of Jonathan Osterman/Doctor Manhattan in a way that befits his unique dilemma of being inter-spatial and existing in a non-linear plane of time. If there ever was a symbiosis of art and science in pop culture, this would be it.

However, I did watch Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic, and apart from the fact that the narration sucks (Tom Stechschulte voices all the characters, male or female, and often not distinctly), it’s another lazy way of forgoing the book. Still, if you just absolutely hate reading, this might be better than watching the movie.

It’s interesting to note that Andrew O’Hehir at Salon gives the movie version a thumbs up without going too much into comparisons with the graphic novel. Perhaps the movie is adequate if you’ve never heard of, much less read, the novel.

On the other hand, the common vein in the reviews I’ve listed above is that the movie is faithful to the original. Which means it might not be so wretchedly awful…

Oh hell! It’s off to the theater this weekend.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 13, 2009 1:17 am

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

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