Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watching the Watchmen

Watchmen was the most popular movie in the US last week but you wouldn't know it from the nearly empty suburban Chicago theater I went to Friday night to see it. The graphic novel was one of the highlights of the comic-book reading days of the 80's. I forgot most of the details in the over 20 years since I read the graphic novel and I purposely didn't go back so the movie would seem fresh.

Zach Synder did a good job of taking much (but not all) of the graphic novel into a 160 minute movie that never dragged. I enjoyed the movie but it didn't seem fresh since Snyder set it in the 1980's, an alternate 80's with Nixon still president, but the 80's nevertheless. At one point Ozymandias sits in front of a bank of TVs showing shows and commercials (Where's the Beef?) from my distant past.

But how would it play to those younger than me who can't remember the cold war, Vietnam and Nixon and the real threat of all out nuclear war between the US and Russia? After all the cold war ended in a much better way in reality than it did in the movie. It was a mistake not to put the movie in present day (perhaps with a 98-year old Ronald Reagan as president) and use our fears of terrorism as the catylyst for the events in the movie. The reference to current times came from the twin towers of the World Trade Center prominently found in the New York skyline shots in the movie.

Watchmen the graphic novel worked because it played on the issues of its day. Watchmen the movie tells the the story of a time distant in my memory and it just doesn't work as well.


  1. Putting aside problems with the setting, I was bothered by the idea that the director/writing team thought they needed to glam it up with more violence (knife through the neck in the alley scene, blood splatters on the camera), and augmenting the relatively tame comic book's post-coital partial nudity with a much longer and more explicit sex scene, complete with thrusting and multiple positions. (Everyone in my theater laughed at that part.) I thought it was disingenuous to the adaptation, but mostly I thought it was insulting, as a person who specifically likes Watchmen because of its subtle and nuanced take on the super hero story.

  2. (Unfair comment ahead: I have not seen the movie yet.)
    Making WATCHMEN, a brilliant
    12-part comic book series into
    a 2 hour movie seems like it can't be done. Would have been better as a 12-part miniseries. (Though Lance liked it, and I trust his opinion on most things.)

    bil g.