I have been waiting for a Watchmen movie for almost fifteen years and today it’s happening. Even the knowledge that the movie cannot live up to fifteen years of anticipation probably won’t stop me from being disappointed at one thing or another.

This post has two major parts. If you’re interested in comic books or comic book movies generally, read the first part. If you’re interested in the Watchmen in particular, read the second.

-{Part I: Will the Movie Be Successful at the Box Office?}-

It’s hard to say for sure. It depends in part on how good the movie is and whether Word of Mouth spreads like it did for Iron Man. I have my doubts, though. Comic book films do not succeed and fail on the basis of comic book fans. Non-fans (and casual fans) are typically looking for something different than fans are. Watchmen appeals more to the latter group than the former.

Who who knows? My intent isn’t to answer the question. We’ll find out soon enough. The intent is to stress its importance of the answer.

Movie-goers tend to really like comic book movies and critics generally don’t. Or, at the least, critics are tired of them. Superhero movies can be rather formulaic. Some movies perfect the formula or bend it a bit in the right way and are good while others are simply by-the-numbers tedium or aggresively awful.

I agree with the critics in that I would like to see move movies that do different things with the genres. Bend it further as they do in the comic books themselves. Expand it to characters that aren’t name properties with which the writers have more freedom. I would love to see a movie about The Authority, to pick an example.

Unfortunately, the more expensive the movie the more people it needs to appeal to and the less flexibility the directors have. Superhero movies tend to be expensive. If Watchmen fails, the clear message is that you need to be making the movie with a name property or follow the formula spectacularly. The best we can hope for at that point are low-budget movies and shows in the vein of the Darkman sequels. Or maybe animated movies. Even if The Watchmen succeeds in something short of an extraordinary fashion, we probably won’t even get that. A lot of its success will be attributed to the popularity of its source material.

-{Part I: Will This Movie Be Any Good?}-

It’s supposed to be very faithful to the comic book with the exception of the ending which supposedly needed to be revamped for different times.

I am frankly a bit suspicious of “revamping for the times”, to be honest. Though I liked the V for Vendetta that came out a few years ago, almost every contemporization was more a distraction than helpful. I thought that they did a good job of killing the subplots that weren’t necessary and creating a good flow. I mostly think that the efforts to make it more “socially relevent” (putting in pieces to let people know, “Psssst, we’re talking about Bush!”) make it so that it will date faster than the source material did, which didn’t feel dated even though I read it a decade or so after it was written.

Watchmen, ironically, would feel less dated today than when I did read it. It’s essentially a Cold War story and the Cold War had been won by the time I read it. Now, with the War on Terror and everybody quite a bit more anxious about things, it takes on a new resonance. Even though the graphic novel is still in an alternate 1986. I am really hoping that they don’t make it about the WoT with plants as unsubtle as V for Vendetta.

Then again, I haven’t read as much about the movie as other people have because I want to be more surprised. So maybe I misheard something and the ending revamp was because the original ending is too 9-11ish or somesuch. Seven years later, that would be pretty lame. But artistically it might result in a better movie than contemporization.

As concerned as I am about their decision to deviate from the source, I am also concerned about their loyalty to it. The Watchmen is already a pretty dense work in twelve comics. Trying to fit the whole thing in to three hours could lead to whiplash.

An example would be a couple audio adaptations I’ve listened to on my commute, Superman Lives and The Knightfall Saga. Particularly Knightfall. They did an amazing job of fitting just about everything relevent into three hours of audio, but the result that there was so much happening so quickly that you never got time to actually care about what was going to happen. When Azrael commented that it had been almost a year since he met Batman, I wanted to yell “Dude, it’s been less than two hours!”

The good news is that Knightfall was trying to fit material from 60 or so comics into three hours while Watchmen has 12 to fit into the same timeframe. Also, The Watchmen comic book is slower-paced, which might give them more opportunity. On the other hand, Watchmen is also celebrated in part due to its depth and re-readability, a lot of which is necessarily glided over in film.

All that being said, in a sense I don’t care if the movie is the inevitable disappointment I figure it to be. And if it’s going to fall short, I prefer it do so faithfully. Just having many of the individual scenes put up there to film will make the whole exercise worthwhile to me.

Probably not to Warner Bros, who is probably going to take a bath on this.

-{WARNING: Comment section contains spoilers}-


Category: Theater

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5 Responses to Watching the Watchmen

  1. kevin says:

    Let me know how you feel about the alternate ending. I have my thoughts, which I won’t reveal here (at least until I know you’ve seen the movie) but want your take.

  2. trumwill says:

    Kevin,

    I’ll write more later, but I thought the ending worked out quite well.

  3. Webmaster says:

    I am satisfied with the movie, with only two real complaints to make.

    #1 – in the novel, Dr. Manhattan’s usually drawn about as anatomically correct as a Ken doll. While I know the director was going for shock value, the whole “in all his naked blue glory” bit really wasn’t necessary and felt like they were simply going for a shock.

    #2 – The final scene being turned into a fight scene hurts a lot of the character development – first, they rob Ozymandias of his “magnificent bastard” moment, second, they distract from what’s going on at the time, and third, they turn Dr. Manhattan from a knowing accomplice to an unwitting one.

    I know they did it because they thought it would play better to a moviegoer audience… but it’s not as solid as the other way around.

  4. trumwill says:

    #1. Funny you should use the term “Ken Doll” cause Clint and I did when talking about it. We were pondering whether they should have Ken-Dolled his privates away. I hadn’t heard whether they would be there or not. I suppose they could have gone either way. With Ken Doll (of if they’d just kept him covered up at all times), there would have been a lot of complaints of how it was a betrayal of the comic book which had them there. But then going the route that they did made the guys behind us squirm and ultimately probably detracted more than it added for fans who weren’t expecting it. Their decision to make it… bigger… and draw attention to it was an odd one.

    #2. I sort of agree on Ozymandias being robbed of his “I did it!” moment (which I think is what you’re referring to?). I was hoping that it would be there, though the arranging of the final scenes didn’t really allow for it. It’s one of a series of problems I have with Ozymandias’s treatment in the film. His genuine excitement over his plan (apparently) was one of Veidt’s few moments of true humanity. The film’s lacking that hurt. The fight at the end actually mirrors the comic pretty closely. The big addition was Nite Owl’s Moment of Masculinity, pummeling Ozymandias. In return, they cut some of the fighting that was going on while Ozymandias was explaining what all had happened. The most significant thing, I think, is that they took out the stuff that surrounded the fighting, which gave it more of the sense of a “big fight scene” than I think it had in the comic book. If anything, Dr Manhattan’s involvement was heightened in the movie compared to the comic book.

    I have more than two complaints. Most are pretty nit-picky, though. Not to give away my upcoming review, but the movie actually increased my appreciation for one of the characters. That was… unexpected.

  5. Joe says:

    I kept thinking that the guy who played the Comedian was Javier Bardem (I found out later that it’s actually Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but the two actors definitely look alike

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