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Watchmen: Fun For Fans

It's obviously difficult to adapt a beloved written (and, in this case, drawn) work for the big screen — and it’s downright impossible to make an adaptation that satisfies every viewer (or certainly every megafan). I truly enjoyed reading the comic book series Watchmen by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, and having seen the film adaptation, I don't dislike it. It's probably the best we could have asked for as far as adaptations go. And I know it's useless now to say that the work should never have been brought to film in the first place (though I do feel that way), so now that it has been made into a movie, is it any good? From a fan's perspective I say, sure, it's fine. But I don't have any other perspective to go by.

I have no idea how this movie comes across to someone who has never read the comic book series. I can't even pretend to be unbiased about this — as a fan, just seeing these characters come to life is incredibly exciting. But as a standalone movie, I can admit that it's probably not great. Essentially, it's made for the fanboys (and fangirls) and other viewers may not understand or like it. It's campy, sometimes resembling a silly soap opera, and truthfully I am hard-pressed to remember any distinct images or scenes from the movie, just a few days after seeing it. It's certainly temporary entertainment, and for some it may be frustrating to watch. For more about the movie and my take,


The opening credits (which I got to see at Wondercon, awesomely) are perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing as we hear Bob Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changing" and go through a series of slow-motion images of what's been happening politically over the Cold War years, along with images depicting the rise and fall of masked vigilantes in the US. Originally revered as society's helpers, by the 1980s masked crime-fighters have become hated, and people want their good ol' police officers back protecting them. One "mask" is the dark outlaw Rorschach, who still wears a mask of ever-shifting ink blots over his face. Now in 1985 New York City, Rorschach notices that someone has been murdering former masked avengers one by one and he becomes determined to get to the bottom of it. Meanwhile, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union are reaching a boil and nuclear war seems imminent. The movie strings together several different stories of the various former crime-fighters while simultaneously increasing the threat of nuclear destruction within the US-Soviet conflict.

Director Zack Snyder is very faithful to the written work (though he makes some decisions to make certain scenes bigger or smaller, like a particular sex scene that seems to go on for approximately forever). So any real issues one has with the story of Watchmen or with the characters are probably issues with the source material itself and not so much with Snyder's adaptation. That said, even having read the series, the movie is way more violent than I thought it would be. At times it's that cartoonish violence that's easy to take, but some of the gore is startling. In movie form it's just gruesome.

Despite this faithfulness to the material, though, there's a weightiness and a complexity to the written work that doesn't quite come through, leaving many of the scenes to fall flat and empty. The written work is expansive and complicated and multilayered — to pare it all down to a storyline people can understand (even in the lengthy running time of approximately 162 minutes) is an insanely massive task to take on. And in attempting to do so, some parts of the book simply don’t translate well. Dr. Manhattan (a physicist who has an accident in his lab, resulting in his becoming an all-powerful blue, glowy giant being), for example, comes across as just silly and in fact, I found myself at times bored or annoyed with him. His scenes with Laurie are even more tiresome.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (but no less satisfyingly), the best moments come from Rorschach. Aside from being a fan favorite in general, Jackie Earle Haley does a marvelous job making us care about Rorschach and see him as a disturbed man with a strong sense of right and wrong. He's pitiable and a little bit frightening, too. It's easy to root for Rorschach; it's easy for the audience to want to be on his side. We know that he's a bit messed up but somehow all the more likable because of it. And the dark electricity Haley brings to the screen in each of his scenes sets the character of Rorschach apart from the rest.

And maybe I'm easily amused, but the ever-shifting mask he wears is unendingly cool to watch.

See, that's the thing. As a fan, I forgive so much. I don't know how to recommend this movie to the uninitiated — I have no idea what it looks like, or if it's worth the nearly three hours in a movie theater. But as a fan I was going to go anyway, and short of total disaster, I was probably always going to think what I think: that it's cool-looking and super satisfying to see these characters come to life.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

Join The Conversation
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
It was such a great movie. And to be honest I don't get some people complaining it was too long. I don't think the ever hid the fact it was close to 3 hours. Plus there is so much story to tell it had to be close to three hours. I'm planning on seeing it again, I loved how unheroic these heros were. Maybe it was because I read and loved the comic.
Suzaila Suzaila 8 years
I am not a fan of the comic and I didn't enjoy the movie. Only thing I like is Adrian (I think he is cute) apart from that snoooze fest. These 'heroes' have too much drama. It's not an action movie, it is a soap opera with a lot of violence thrown in. Anyway, it is a ridiculous movie. So ridiculous it is laughable.
beansandsyke beansandsyke 8 years
it was a long movie. long lots of blah blah like it could have been good just seemed tooo blahblahblah but you needed the blah to get the point of the main story also. blue penis no thanks and there was a family in the theater when i went to see it. kids talking.. during the sex scene and blue penis and violence. ... messed up
Fellora Fellora 8 years
Well my husband who was a fan before loved it. I, who never read it, hated it. The beginning was my favorite part and Rorschach story line was always good. It was all over the place and 3 hours long....3 hours!!!! I was so agitated I just wanted them to destroy the world and get it over with. Also, way too gory and totally unnecesary nude scenes through out the whole movie.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
i thought it was good but had a lot of things wrong that could've made it better. I haven't read it so maybe I should, but really I agree that the sex scene and glowing blue weiner were a bit much. Did anyone else notice during the sex scene she is wearing like 5 inch stiletto boots but then in the fight scene in the prison they're suddenly flats. I wish I had some magic shoes like that. Super sexy when needed but practical when walking home haha
Sakura-Ga-Saku Sakura-Ga-Saku 8 years
I liked it immensely, but I've also read the comic. For those who haven't read the comic, the comic and movie ending are different, but the change was necessary to shorten the movie to an acceptable length. Certain end scenes were cut out that I really felt would have made it better, though.
Pinkrabbit Pinkrabbit 8 years
I actually didn't get a chance to read it. However I really really liked it. I thought it wasn't boring, or confusing. I understood it all and am really only confused by the people saying that it was confusing...
rainbow-cadillac rainbow-cadillac 8 years
I didn't read the comics and I actually disliked this movie. It was way too long and there were many unnecessary scenes. For example, the sex scene and the naked Dr. Manhattan. And Dr.Manhattan's voice was so monotone. The only thing I liked about the movie was the superb graphics and selected fight scenes.
eowynnie eowynnie 8 years
* I meant had a slightly varying opinion, but along the same lines as "is a frustrating mix of like and dislike" view
eowynnie eowynnie 8 years
Buzz, there's an interesting post from an Empire writer who feels the same as you:
Michelann Michelann 8 years
I never read the books but I agree with Buzz's review mostly. Rorschach really was the saving grace, but overall the movie was disappointing. And as much as I wanted to be interested in Dr. Manhattan, I just found myself wanting his scenes to end every time he started to talk.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I'm in no rush to see this film, it's been too hyped up for me to actually think it's worth much. Comic-book adaptations haven't really interested me much, though I did like 300. All I keep hearing about now is Dr. Manhattan's abnormally large blue penis... D:
kafarine-tin-tin kafarine-tin-tin 8 years
I'm not a fan of the comics and I really didn't like this movie. I didn't hate it, some of the fight scenes were awesome, as was Rorschach, but I felt like it went on waaaaay too long. And that sex scene? So unnessecary. As was Dr Manhattan's penis. I mean, seriously?! On a big screen? Swaying as he walks? Geez.
Fashion Fashion 8 years
I didn't read the comics so...the only two things I liked about this movie. 1) Rorschach's dope morphing mask! 2) The hot glowing blue man who is always nakie. ;)
emalove emalove 8 years
This is a wait-for-DVD type of film for me.
bleached bleached 8 years
I just got the comic book yesterday for my birthday. Once that is finished, I'm off to see the movie!
blondie829 blondie829 8 years
The reviews on this movie seem so split. Since I read the book, I'll see the movie, but I'm not going in with high expectations.
Symphonee Symphonee 8 years
I have never read the series but I have followed the story of getting it out for a few years. I am excited to see it and from the trailers and sneak peeks I'v seen I think it would still be entertaining to a non reader like me.
vanilize vanilize 8 years
I'm so ready for this film. I've been waiting on which year this film was going to get produced and I am very lucky It didn't take 10 more years to create.
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