movie and book review: watchmen

So I saw Watchmen this afternoon, and am happy to report that it didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out, but it’s really not as good as the comic. I don’t know that I ever expected it to be and I was kind of relieved it wasn’t.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

While it was neat to see a bunch of the stuff on screen, it felt like it was a lot of eye candy but with like a salmon flavour (possibly tunafish). Just off somehow. Like Veidt is trying to get society off fossil fuels, when in the book he’d already done that and it hadn’t really helped the world. And Rorshach kills the kidnapper/killer with a cleaver instead of letting the guy make his own compromise to save his life or not. There wasn’t really a reason to care about anyone in the movie apart from the fact that it was a great book (which might have been the metatextual point).

The pace of the thing was wrong. I mean wrong for a movie and wrong for the book. In the book the simultaneity of the arrangement of panels on a page means that the whole Dr. Manhattan episode is actually happening all at once. It’s all right there and you can go with it back and forth, instead of being pulled through flashbacks. A movie goes forward even when it doesn’t really. But the structure of the thing needed to be handled differently. Movie flashbacks aren’t the same as comic book flashbacks. I know I’m probably just parroting a bunch of Alan Moore stuff here (it seems I a lot of my “views on comics” are the most easily understandable bits of his interviews), but I think in the end I do agree that it was unfilmable. (I do stand by my previous assertion that the best possible adaptation would have been as a 12-episode HBO miniseries.)

That’s not to say it was horrible. They did a good job with what they could do. There are lots of bits I missed seeing but they’re all still in the book. I just checked. No pages were erased by the existence of the film.

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