Having finally seen the movie right after re-reading the highly acclaimed graphic novel, I am overly happy with the adaptation. I will outright admit this movie had many flaws which I will discuss in a moment. My concern is that Watchmen is more than just going to see the film. Reading the graphic novel is a preresquiste to appreciate the scope and magnitude Synder tried to master on the screen. This is where the problem lies as with many movie goers will not be aware of the graphic novel. To put this into context, watching this movie reminded me of when I saw David Lynch’s Dune. A dear friend from my old neighborhood knew that this movie was for me. I loved what I saw but I had no idea about the book by Frank Herbert. I went into this movie cold and looking back, Dune too vast of a tale to tell with many story plots and characters that the movie failed to establish. I grew to appreciate Dune even more after reading the book several times. The same would apply to seeing Watchmen.
Let me begin with the problems I had with Watchmen. For starters, the length of the film was not enough for me simply because there are many threads Moore weaved over the course of 12 comics and the film just could not tell. While these were not important enough to the overall story structure, those lost elements would have helped to enhance character motivation and flesh out the looming WW III threat. Again, Lynch had the same problem trying to tell the world of Dune to an audience that may or may not have known about the book. Two possible solutions, Synder will add the additional Black Freighter storyline when the movie will be released on DVD. In addition, I hope that there is more footage that is restore to the overall length of the film. Dune fans will know that The Scifi Channel had shown a much longer version of Dune to almost 4 hours running time with commercials and in my opinion, filled in many of the gaping holes the original movie could not tell. Yet, this was not approved by Lynch hence the Alan Smithee director credit. While I prefer the longer edition, the shorter version still works for me. Second, just as there was a film version of Dune, the Scifi Channel also did a miniseries that was 6 hours long. I was truly blown away by how well produced this story was done for television. Could Watchmen over time be given the same treatment? If the Scifi Channel ever took a chance like this in the future, they would have restored my respect for this channel.
Next, I am a huge soundtrack fan going back to my early Star Wars days back in ‘77. I understand the importance about marrying visuals with music to help deliver the overall tone and feel to the film. Most times, films just slap on pop songs to convey certain character’s feeling or help establish periods in time. Forrest Gump’s soundtrack works because of the songs chosen reflected those different times in Gump’s life. With Watchmen, we are treated to songs like 99 Luftballoons, Sound of Silence, and Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Yes, two of these songs were from the 80’s but since this was an alternate ‘85 timeline, there was no need to have these songs as part of the mix. At the very least, come up with something totally new and original.
From the little score that I remembered that stood out effectively was a section done by Philip Glass. When we see the origin story of Dr. Manhattan, we hear Glass’s music brilliantly in perfect sync to the visual storytelling but only for a small part of the film. The rest of the score is sadly forgettable. Watchmen could have benefited from a stronger score a la Glass all the way through. Check out The Illusionist with Edward Norton and hear how well this music plays through out the film.
So, what in the hell did I like? Moments upon moments. Synder does a masterful job in not only creating a living comic but his casting was spot on the money. Everyone not only looked the part but they felt right together and on their own. The new ending worked just as well as what was presented in the comic. I can only say that I fell in love along with Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl) when fighting along side Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre II). I have felt the disconnection from society many times just like Dr. Manhattan. While I never acted out on violence like Rorschach, I understood the power that one is capable in the name of justice.
Finally, Watchmen the movie will never give you those moments. When you combine the reading of the graphic novel plus the movie watching experience and even the motion comic DVD does Watchmen makes sense to a wider audience. Over time, I feel this will only get better over time.