Monday, March 9, 2009

Watched the Watchmen

The highlight of the weekend was seeing the matinee of Watchmen on Sunday. There was some good previews with films I’m interested in (Pixar’s Up) and not (Terminator-Salvation, for reasons I’ll explain in another blog post). With so many reviews out there I won’t bore people with another. Yet since I did blog about the movie before it came out I might as well add an addendum.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The movie was well made and the acting was well enough. I’ve read reviews which bashed the acting, but you have to consider the source material. What is emotional depth in comic book panels is not necessarily satisfactory for emotional depth in film. Herein lies the problem that I alluded to in the earlier blog. I give great credit to director Zack Snyder for making a film that was true to the source material, but in doing so he may have been too reverential. Synder, like he did with 300, essentially used the comic book as a story board for the film. It’s the closest adaptation of a comic book series I’ve seen. But in doing so Snyder did not attempt to—dare I say—improve upon the source. Creative interpretation rather than static replication would have been better. David Edelstein of New York Magazine put it bluntly: “They’ve made the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve.”

I had no problem with the length of the film (close to 3 hrs) or the violence (Watchmen was a violent comic). [***Note: I still call Watchmen a comic book series because that was how it first came out when I bought each issue. The term graphic novel came later. Back to the review, non-review***]

The problem was—as I had feared—that the source material seemed dated on the screen. If this same movie would’ve been made 10 to 15 years ago it would’ve been as groundbreaking as the original comic. It would’ve been a perfect response to the train wreck that was George Clooney’s Batman and Robin. Instead, Spider-man filled that role. Then came Spider-man 2, Batman Begins, Ironman, and The Dark Knight. Those five films represent the benchmark for comic book adaptations with the perfect combination of action and emotional depth of the characters. They were both reverent to the source and sought to improve on it. The problem with Watchmen the movie is that it was made as if these five films never existed, and, thus, did not seek to improve on them. Or in other words, like many of the characters in the comic, the film was still fighting a battle that was no longer being waged.

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