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Watchmen

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.”–Juvenal, Satires

I didn’t research that, it’s actually in the back of the graphic novel. I’m not going to pretend that I was a big fan of the comic when I was younger or that I read it many years ago. I had flipped through it when I worked at Media Play, thought it was interesting but never bought it. I finally perused the whole thing in November and felt that the book lived up to the hype. It was one of the first comics to deal with the darker side of superheroes, portraying them as flawed.

We’re talking morally flawed, psychologically broken in some instances whereas comics like Batman dealt with personality issues, Ironman with Tony Stark’s alcoholism, Watchmen was unique in that Rorschach is a sociopath and the Comedian…well it’s hard to say just what his deal was. I thought that the story in the comic was incredible, rarely did comics go into such deep psychological character studies while not sacrificing on the mystery. It is an extremely dynamic story.

The movie adaptation falls well short of the bar the book sets. I suppose that this is to be expected and it’s not the fault of the writing, it seems to be a fault of the production. The best part of the movie, the opening credits sequence which is absolutely incredible, really gives you the impression that this movie is going to blow you away. Then bad editting and worse direction turn the movie into something else.

The problem lies in the difference between adaptation and translation. I briefly mentioned this back in 2005 when I reviewed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. When something is adapted for a different medium, the adaptor should be willing to make changes. Things that work in a comic don’t exactly work in a movie. For instance, one of my favorite segments in the comic is the backstory of Dr. Manhattan which is shown in different time periods with his narration. It not only gives us the back story but also shows us that he perceives time simultaneously just like how St. Augustine said God does. In the movie this doesn’t work and it completely slows down the story. It should have been cut, or better yet, not filmed. Or possibly shown in still photos in the opening sequence.

There doesn’t seem any justification for these types of decisions other than filming it because it was in the comic book. The story of the book centers around the death of the Comedian and Rorschach’s theory that someone is killing off former super heroes. That’s the story which is set against the threat of nuclear war and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Everything else not related to that story doesn’t need to be in the movie. Showing Dr. Manhattan abandoning Earth is integral to the plot, the fifteen minute sequence of his backstory isn’t.

The problem we have in this adaptation is that it presents a parallel world that can work in a large scale comic story. The movie has to pick a story and run with that, not the whole thing unless it wants to release the movie in a series, which probably would have worked better.

I don’t want anyone to get the impression that the movie was terrible, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even that bad, it just wasn’t good. It was, in the terms of the internet, “meh.”

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Categories: movie review, movies, reviews
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