Monday, March 09, 2009


Watchmen was the first graphic novel that I ever purchased. As soon as I opened it, I got lost in its pages. In anticipation of the feature film, I skimmed through the graphic novel and watched episodes of the Watchmen Motion Comic. I was surprised by how much I had forgotten; in particular, the quality of Moore’s flowing prose:

“Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach … the streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.”

“The city is dying of rabies. Is it the best I can do to wipe random flecks of foam from its lips”

“Is that what happens to us? A life of conflict with no time for friends so that when it’s done only our enemies leave roses.”

The Motion Comic is an excellent adaptation and has number of well chosen quotes by Nietzsche, Farjean, Dylan, Jung, and Shelley to the end of each section, replacing the newspaper-style articles on Watchmen. (The graphic novel had one quote from Juvenal Satires, sed quis cutodiet ipsos custodes?” or loosely, “but who watches the watchmen?”).

Last night I watched the feature film, throughout which Snyder employs the hyper-violence associated with his past films, e.g., 300 and other comic adaptations, such as Sin City; however, in doing so, he relies on crisp movements which crowd out the dark gritty world of the original. On other points, he does fairly well: he successfully recreates the pseudo 80’s of the comic and sticks to the original story line. However, in what is perhaps a patriotic display, the World Trade Centre features too prominently, as do concerns over the environment. At least Snyder did not over-play his hand like the directors of a Quantum of Solace and Transporter 3, movies that I watched on fast forward due to their careless (and vacant) treatment of climate change. The Watchmen sound track is fantastic: not only for the innovative pairing of song with scene (at a loud volume), but also the comprehensive compilation of classic songs.

Snyder faithfully reproduces most of the major characters; however, he chooses to make Laurie much more potent than the original where she’s weak and emotional (mainly at the expense of the Drieberg who becomes even more impotent.) The Nite Owl II also loses much of his intelligence and resourcefulness, perhaps to boost Veidt’s stature. Veidt loses his spirituality, which was fuelled by a long journey and night of Tibetan hash in the comic. Although Dr. Manhattan’s portrayal captures the original, the special effects used to make him blue reminded me too much of Xerxes in 300. Rorschach becomes much less of a protagonist in the film, e.g., Nite Owl and Silk Spectre incapacitate most of the inmates while this was originally Rorschach’s doing. Nevertheless, Snyder’s use of the swinging door to reveal less and less of Big Figure’s murder is magnificent.

Snyder obviously could not get everything on film and had to make some noteworthy omissions (usually due to an incompatibility of mediums or time constraints), such as the Tales of the Black Freighter (a comic within a comic) and newsstand activity (Bernies, delivery drivers, Lesbians, and Jehovah Witnesses). Similarly, Seymour, the reporter, only gets one quick reference at the end. Overall Snyder did a magnificent job and produced a faithful tribute; unfortunately, this does not always translate into a great film, especially in scenes where the violence detracts from the story.

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