Based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (2009, dir. Zack Snyder) is a very different type of superhero film. Its synopsis is as follows:
In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.
I must firstly disclose that I really, really love the original graphic novel and my perception of the film is always going to be entirely coloured by that adoration. I’ve heard some people who haven’t read the original source material describe Watchmen the film as too long, kind of boring in parts, with a dissatisfying ending. But to me, the film is a successful adaptation because it captures about 90% of the spirit of the original comic, brings certain moments to life really faithfully and improves upon others, plus it has some amazing cinematography and visuals (might do a separate post on that at some point). Some scenes are incredibly faithful to what we see in the graphic novel, and as a fan I really appreciated that attention to detail. Its story conveys the central themes and message of the graphic novel in a coherent and understandable way, and Snyder’s direction is thoroughly excellent. Not to mention, the ensemble cast of superheroes all match each other in terms of their performances. Usually there’s at least one weak link in an ensemble as large as this, but there isn’t one here.
Watchmen is quite a long film, yet it’s packed to the gills with content and backstory and an exploration of this alternate 1985, so the length doesn’t seem unnecessary. There isn’t a dull moment that you could even think about cutting because everything is in counterbalance. However, even with all of the action and interesting characters, some may argue that it’s too long to be a completely effective and thrilling superhero movie, and that the fact that it is filled with interesting characters and events means that it must be somehow overstuffed. My only real criticism of this film is that it doesn’t quite have the same impact as the graphic novel at the end, and it’s difficult for me to ascertain exactly why that is so. Maybe the graphic novel just had a big impact on me when I first read it and I expected my mind and expectations to be blown away similarly for the film, which isn’t really possible.
If you have an afternoon to spare or feel like throwing on a film whilst you vacuum your house, this is a good one to watch. Watchmen delves a bit deeper than your regular superhero film, exploring personal ethics and the concept of a moral compass, what it means to be a caped crusader and whether they really are better than the common man, and themes such as political and social awareness. Not to mention a healthy dose of existentialism and fast-paced fight scenes. I was so impressed and happy with this when I first saw it in the cinema, and it still holds up years later. Great film.
Watch the trailer here.
Watch this film at Amazon!
The only way to really appreciate this film is by reading the graphic novel first. The graphic novel provides the much needed additional background on the old time vigilantes and how their actions help shape the world in which the story exists. With that knowledge, the viewer can really understand what the film has to say and that is why people give Watchmen a bad rap.
I would definitely agree with that! I feel kind of divided though because to be a completely successful adaptation, the film should be able to appeal to both readers and non-readers. And it does seem to be the non-readers who have trouble with it. At the same time I felt pretty happy with it!
I agree it’s a really good film but my only problem was that it was too close to the book for me! That’s not a criticism it’s more just that there were no surprises. It’s an excellent adaptation though
It definitely was very faithful to the source material! I really love it when adaptations are extremely accurate but I can see the disadvantages of that. How did you feel about them changing the final ‘weapon’? That’s probably the most significant difference I can think of!
Reading your review inspired me to watch it again. I think the ending was great. It made a lot of sense and tied in well to the theme of the movie. There wouldn’t have been enough time to set up the ending of the book. Which was actually pretty silly!
Nice!! Loved this thing – I don’t get why there’s so much hate for it – it’s EXACTLY the graphic novel except for the stupid squid.
I don’t get the hate either! More evidence for #soulies, I hated that stupid squid too, even if it was meant to be symbolic of something or other. Imagine if they put it in the film. It would have been completely ridiculous!
Hmm, I read the graphic novel a while ago, but I’ve held off from watching the movie… mostly because I detest Zach Synder’s directing style. Sucker Punch is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. So… yes. I don’t want my impression of the graphic novel spoiled, even though I like Malin Ackerman!
I’ve never seen Sucker Punch, but I quite liked Snyder’s direction here! The cinematography is so great as well. It really is an amazing looking film! Tempted to watch Sucker Punch to find out exactly how bad it is. I don’t think I’ve heard one good thing about it!
The graphic novel is way better, but this movie still did all that it could to adapt it, without totally losing its audience. And for that, I give it plenty of respect. Good review.
Thanks Dan! 🙂 I really admire how it’s faithful to the source material, even though it was notoriously difficult to do so!
As a non comic book reader, I’m also a big fan of this. You’re right, it is a bit long, but the film has such a wonderful visual palette that that doesn’t really matter. And how good is the opening montage? Great work Anna!
Thanks Adam! 🙂 That opening montage is genius, every time I watch it I’m so impressed with it!
I’m not familiar with the source material, I liked the music and the effects but I did find the movie much too long and Wilson and the main girl were just so bad. The film would have benefited from giving Jeffrey Dean Morgan more to do and shorter third act.
You should definitely read the graphic novel! It’s so great! JDM doesn’t show up that much in the comic unfortunately, I would have loved to see more of him too. Maybe I should start watching Shameless.
I tried to watch this and I could not figure out what the hell was going on. Lol!
Haha! I reckon that’s fair enough, there’s a lot of multi-layered time-jumping narrative going on!
I liked this movie too, though not as much as you. I haven’t seen the graphic novel, and was not lucky enough to see it in the theater. Definitely has an extra dimension not found in your standard superhero movie, as you point out. http://markkadams.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/watch-watchmen/ for my few words on it.
I have to admit, watching this in the cinema was pretty amazing. Films like this are definitely meant to be seen on a large scale!
This one has never quite done it for me. But I don’t read graphic novels, so I’ve never read the source material. That might have something to do with it. It’s visually cool, but…meh. Lol. Glad you like it though! Good review, lady!
Thanks Cara! 🙂 It’s definitely a cracker of a film if you’re into the original graphic novel!
Nice review and thank you for the recommendation, that is how I watch crappy shows and movies, while I clean my house.
Me too! 😀 It’s the best way to watch a film you might find a bit questionable, because then you don’t really feel as though you wasted any time.
So it is the vacuum test?!
That’s the perfect name for it! 😀
[…] previously spoken on this blog of something that I’ll now be calling “the vacuum test“; sometimes with a film that isn’t so good, it’s worthwhile to start cleaning the […]
[…] seen which were crafted by Zack Snyder in some shape or form. I quite enjoyed 300 (2007) and Watchmen (2009), and given Snyder’s love of bombastic action sequences, I was eager to give this one a […]