Dr Manhattan from Watchmen

Dr Manhattan from Watchmen

Today Char and I got to catch a matinee of Watchmen, and it was…

Watchmen, for those of you who don’t know is the adaptation of a 12 issue mini-series produced by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in 1987 (and available on All New Comics as a softcover and hardcover edition).  It is about big ideas, treating comic book superheroes as if they were in a real world setting, and the changes that would happen to history if this were the case.

From the description:

Written by Alan Moore; Art by Dave Gibbons

It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians?

On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet!

Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story – the story of The Watchmen.

Yeah…it’s big ideas, and it’s a big story.  People as varied as Sam Hamm (writer of the original Batman), Terry Gilliam (director of Brazil and 12 Monkeys), and David Hayter (the writer of the X-Men movie) have tried for two decades to translate it into film.

It was considered by many to be unfilmable.  Until Zach Snyder got hold of it.  Snyder, hot off of 300 took on the project…and he delivered something.

The film runs 2 hours and 43 minutes…that’s long, but it blitzes by at an incredibly fast clip.  The film is dense, and packed full of goodness.  It stays true to the spirit of the comics, but you can feel that they are condensing what should probably be about 12 hours of story into 2:43.

The characters are spot on, with Jackie Earle Hailey’s Rorschach being absolutely incredible.  He’s brutal, psychopathic, and downright scary.  The world felt like the comic, the palate was reminiscent of the 4 colour version, and Snyder is developing a little auteur streak with his use of slow motion when he is emulating a panel from the comic.

I’ve read a lot of criticism of the flick, saying that it should have been an HBO series, or it should never have been made.   Personally I thought it was an excellent superhero flick, and I enjoyed every minute of the nearly three hour ride.

This isn’t just a movie, it’s a love letter from a comic geek to the rest of the geeks out there saying “See?  We can make this stuff come alive, and it looks just as good as you imagined.”

Snyder manages to take the broad strokes of the comic and distill them into a cohesive murder mystery.  The entire time I was wondering how he would treat the this scene or that, whether he would include the Tales of the Black Freighter (which he didn’t in the theatrical cut, but which he apparently will in the Ultimate DVD this Christmas), and not once was I disappointed.

The ending is significantly different than the comic and has an entirely different morality than the comic, and kind of makes the introduction of Ozymandias’ engineered lynx a little useless, but the end result is still the same.

I read recently that the various costumes represent different film takes on comic book films.  Silk Specter represents the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, Ozymandius represents Joel Schumaker’s Batman films,  Rorschach represents Sam Rami’s Spider-Man flicks, and Nite Owl represents Chris Nolan’s Batman.