Well, I finally did. And I ignored all the fluff, the hyperbole, the critics, the fans, and all the b.s. that came with its theatrical release about nine months ago.
And I think Watchmen is arguably the best comic book adaptation ever made.
There are better comic book movies. Batman Begins is probably a better, more satisfying film. Christopher Reeves’ 1978 Superman is better. But Batman Begins was an original story that adapted many aspects of the Batman mythos, just as Mario Puzo compiled a variety of disparate story ideas from the Superman mythos to write his original screenplay.
To be honest, most comic book-based movies, such as X-Men, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Electra, Barb Wire (ultimately forgettable except for Pamela Anderson in black leather and stilletto heels), Smallville, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lois and Clark, and most of the rest, are not adapted from a single story out of the comics, but are written by Hollywood writers who are free to take as much info and ideas from the comics and change them around to — with luck — work on the big screen instead of the page.
And usually, those stories don’t really transfer. Hence the disappointing Daredevil, Electra, and Barb Wire (except, of course, for Pamela Anderson in black leather and stilletto heels). The others might work, but they’re pretty much just . . . okay. All right. Could be better.
Watchmen is faithfully adapted (for the most part) straight from the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel, and the writers and director have successfully transferred the word to film. The budget is right up there on the screen, from the dramatic opening, to the comics-panel-inspired opening titles (the first tableau is a nod to Batman’s origin), to the effects-laden denouement.
The climax is altered from the original book in an effort, I think, to make the events more credible and less fantastic to mainstream audiences. I had no problem with the changes, although I understand diehard fanboys were disappointed. Personally, I think the filmmakers’ creative decisions were more than acceptable compromises.
If there are flaws here, one might be that audiences may have found the film a little slow compared to other superhero movies. It is most definitely a thinking-person’s superhero movie, and for that I loved it.
The other flaw is that, 22 years after its initial publication, the resolution of the mystery at the plot’s core is, at best, anti-climactic. I saw it on Heroes two years ago. And the identity of the villain is pretty much choreographed to the audience very early in the film, despite some dramatic curveballs in the storyline.
But what the hell? I loved both the book and the movie. See the movie first, then go read the graphic novel, which is more deeply developed and imaginative.