People are always bound for disappointment, whenever their favorite book, comic, etc are adapted for film. Very few are able to stay close to the source material, simply due to the inherent differences in the medium. As much as I love the LotR movies, they veered off from the book, rearranged some things and left other scenes out completely; yet the spirit of the books was there. Everything that mattered was there. I’d love to have seen Tom Bombadil in the movie but also realize it really added nothing to the book, and would probably slow down the movie. Yet many other scenes came to life for me, and the trilogy are three of my favoritte movies. Okay, maybe The Two Towers not so much…
I mention that and use it as a comparison because Watchmen goes to the extreme in adhering as closely to the book as possible. Many scenes are shot frame for frame from the comic.; much of the dialogue is taken from there as well. I’m rereading it now and actually surpised at how much of the original dialogue made it into the movie. It’s to Alan Moore’s credit, that writing from 20 years ago is as relevant and contemporary as it is today. The slavish devotion to recreating the comic on screen is also one of its downfalls, and keeps it from being a classic. If you had never read the original source material, and only knew about Watchmen from the commercials, you’re liable to be scratching your head by the end wondering what the hell just happened. If you are familiar with the graphic novel, you’ll probably love it or hate. Indeed, from opinions I’ve seen so far, there’s no middle ground on this one.
I happen to love it, in spite of some things that I have problems with, which really have nothing to do with the adaptation itself. The acting is really uneven. I mean really, really uneven. Fortunately the strength of the other performances compensates somewhat, but it prevents you from getting involved with the characters when you’re cringing at the acting. Specifically for me, it was Patrick Wilson as dan Dreiberg (the Night Owl) who struggled to keep up with his costars. It’s a shame because, he has almost as much screen time as Rorschach, and Dr. Manhattan, who both happen to give the two best performances. Silk Spectre also has some dodgy bits, but tends to redeem herself by looking nice in latex. Some of the scenes on Mars, are plagued by really poor, and almost cheesey special effects. Given the general excellence of everything else, it makes me wonder if they were running out of money for some of those shots, or it was simply harder than they had thought. Some of the violence was way, way over the top, specifically a bit that was added to Rorschach’s scene in prison. Although it fit in perfectly, and I suspect Moore himself would love that bit, it was a bit too gruesome. Finally, in terms of things that bring it down, is a critique that is two sided. It’s a drawback, but also a strength. Someone forgot to tell Warnr Bros. that Watchmen is as far from mainstream as you’re likely to ever see. In fact RN Lee over on SL compared it to an art house film, and I completely agree. It doesn’t follow any of the conventions a blockbuster movie should have. The action, while excellently done, are few and far between in a movie that runs 2 hours and 43 minutes. Instead, you have to listen, and watch and pay attention. so that’s a negative for the mainstream unwashed masses, but a plus for those of us who view movies as somethign a bit more than mindless entertainment.
As for the change in the end, I like it. Sure there’s no giant squid, and I never liked that in the original anyway, but what they did was far better, more suited to movies, and made more sense.
In the end, if you’re not a rabid fanboy, who thinks the whole thing would be ruined if some small bit isn’t included, you’ll love the movie. If, however, you think not showing Mason Hollis’ death is a gamechanger, well, you’ll still have you graphic novel, your ppreeeccciioouusss.
for the rest of us, we have a comic adaptation, one of the best we’ll likely ever see.