As a long-time comic book fan, I can understand the enthusiasm surrounding all of comic book geekdom over the new movie based on the classic graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
From the trailers and photos I’ve seen, this film has the slam-bang visual appeal of modern superhero movies such as the Spider-Man and X-Men series, while maintaining its adherence to the original story material. In many cases, in fact, the film appears to be less of an adaptation of the comic and more of a literal translation.
Although those of us who love and understand the superhero genre recognize Watchmen (the book) for the classic work that it is, many barriers exist between that understanding and the mainstream movie audience.
The average moviegoer has been exposed to characters such as Batman, Superman and Spider-Man through other media. They have that initial familiarity to guide them through the characters’ numerous film incarnations.
Movie fans unfamiliar with the book may see these heroes as “knock-offs” of more famous characters (which, in fact, they are, but not the ones they think).
One undeniable factor that leads to Hollywood buzz and big box office numbers is the presence of an “above-the-title” lead actor. The climb to the top of the ticket sales table is much tougher (though not impossible) for films that feature relative unknowns and career character actors. When the most famous actor in the film is known as “that guy from Almost Famous” and he’s in blue full-body makeup for most of his screen time, this can pose a serious problem for a film’s financial success.
Graphic, bloody violence and nudity from both sexes are just the things that give a “superhero” movie bad publicity in the eyes of crusading parents’ groups and self-appointed moralists who wish to campaign against “poisoning the minds of children”.
The fact that the movie is rated “R” is almost irrelevant, as the story was not meant for children either in its original incarnation or in this one. Comic book movies, despite the success of films such as The Dark Knight, are still seen by some as juvenile entertainment. The presence of such adult situations, while integral to the story, will still leave a bad taste with ticket buyers expecting a spandex-clad joyride.
In times of economic uncertainty and fear, most people go to the movies to escape their worries and find a sense of sureness in their chaotic world. Good guy fights bad guy, good guy wins, and bad guy goes to jail – simple, right? But what happens when you’re not sure who’s good and who’s bad?
Is the insane Rorschach supposed to be a voice of reason? How can a sadist like the Comedian be considered America’s greatest hero? Is the all-powerful Dr. Manhattan really above the ideas of “good” and “evil”? While these make for fascinating questions in a college literature class, they may also alienate movie watchers who prefer car chases and explosions with their popcorn.
*Spoiler Alert* The ending of Watchmen is what really makes it stand out as a tale and blows the minds of everyone who has ever read the graphic novel. The ending was one of the main factors that supposedly made the movie “unfilmable” as any scene on film couldn’t stand up to Moore’s comic masterpiece. However when Zack Snyder decided he could undertake this masterpiece to the big screen (in only his 3rd directing gig) he decided to make the ending different from the novel. Many loyal ‘Watchmen’ fanboys think that this is blasphemy, and while Synder keeps a small portion of the Squid from the comics:
“One, if you want to know about the squid – well, he makes a small appearance. If you notice, [Dr. Manhattan's] reactor is actually called the Sub Quantum Unifying Intrinsic Device. You see that sign [with the S.Q.U.I.D. acronym] if you look carefully in Adrian’s [lair]; it’s in the consoles, and it’s also behind the thing when it gets teleported.”
This simply is a dealbreaker for anyone who is a raving fan of the movie, and just another reason this movie is going to suck.
In the minds of most fans, this film may be the most faithful transition from page to screen of any comic book movie done to date. The original story is widely acknowledged as a classic, not only in comic book circles, but in the literary ones as well. How well will a movie-going public unfamiliar with this story receive this visually stunning work? Only time will tell.
And the clock is ticking.
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