Watchmen Review

Posted on March 7, 2009

I’m a comic book fan… still read both Iron Man and Capt America actively. The following review is intended as contrast to the graphic novel and attempts to avoid spoilers.

First and foremost, let me say that the movie was an amazing translation of the book to the big screen. Everything looks just the way it should, more or less, and I was amazed they captured it so well. There were some small changes, most notably the costume design for Ozymandias and the design of Dr. Manhattans martian fortress, but both were minor. In fact, I thought the redesigned fortress actually was a good movie because it mimicked Jon Osterman’s watchmaking history, resembling clock cogs.

It was accurate to the point that I felt like I was watching a re-run and actually a little bored. Unlike a traditional novel where your interested in how someone else envisioned the source material, translating a graphic novel is a more straight forward process and they nailed it.

Naturally they chopped a lot of the sub-plots and condensed back stories in interesting ways, but all of them I thought were done in such a way that they didn’t leave the story lacking. The title montage I thought was a very clever way to fill in a lot of back story, or at least glimpses of it, while saving on time.

The big issue was of course the “new ending”. If you hadn’t read the graphic novel it would seem like only a minor detail, but I think it was significant. Frankly I didn’t like the ending of the graphic novel, I thought it was lacking… but the new one was even yet more lacking. Other than that detail it was true to form and all wrapped up in the same way. The ending bummed me out, but I doubt audiences could have handled it.

During the film I was surprised by the audience reaction. The brutality of the violence shocked many people in the theater, although anyone who’s read the graphic novel knows they only showed glipses of the real brutality. More importantly, I didn’t think it really came through that short of Dr. Manhattan no one actually had powers… I think many may just think they had really sucky powers, but powers none the less.

Personally, I think the real theme of the graphic novel was futility and facade. Things aren’t what they seem, people are just trying the best they can but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. In this, certain characters shine, those who’s either fully embraced the futility (Sally Jupiter, the Comedian, Ozzie, etc.) or more starkly those who reject it entirely (Rorschach). I’m not convinced that those themes came through in the film. Frankly, getting that out of the graphic novel takes some thinking, which is the genius of it, trying to make sense of all this chaos, as a reader. The ends justify the means… even if its morally wrong…. I’m curious how many viewers who’ve not read the graphic novel will catch that. Its still there, although not as pungently.

If you saw it please write a review in your blog or comment here. I’m very curious in the various reactions to it.