“Where’s the squid?”
That probably crossed the minds of a few movie-goers who already had read the revered graphic-novel Watchmen as they watched the credits roll on Zac Snyder’s recent adaptation. Indeed, Watchmen presents a plethora of challenges for a filmmaker attempting to bring Alan Moore’s unconventional visions to the big-screen. But, then, that problem is nothing new, Moore has already sworn off previous Hollywood versions of his comics like V for Vendetta, Constantine, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Snyder’s goal, then, is less to please Alan Moore and more to build around the delicate balance between good-filmmaking and a faithful rendition of the source material.
To the latter end, many have already commended Snyder’s reverence to the comic, from direct dialogue to story-boardesque scenes filling much of the movie. Synder does well to imitate, certainly to the delight of fan-boys everywhere greatly anticipating the day this film would get made. And after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it right? There are times however, where Snyder does misfire. Specifically, in the scenes detailing Rorschach’s transformation into, well, Rorschach (these scenes are done over several meetings with the psychiatrist in the comic), Snyder does not let the scenes breath enough to pack the enlightening and emotional punch for one of the more intriguing and mysterious characters in the story. Certainly time is an issue, as it will be for any movie topping the two-and-a-half hour mark, but Snyder could have rearranged this issue by cutting time from other places (like, say, the unnecessarily long sex scenes) and injecting that nuance into those scenes where it was more necessary.
More times than not, though, Snyder gets it right. He ably directs the Comedian, Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Dr. Manhattan into solid performances which are so necessary in a film driven by not-quite, but almost super-hero caricatures. It’s no easy task to bring to life the inner turmoil each character represents into a singularly woven story on-screen, but Snyder mitigates the novel to find those elements which are absolutely necessary to the tale.
It’s easy to see, though, why many people will not care for the film. There is no easily identifiable protagonist and the story’s format of flashback sequences can be trying on some audiences’ patience. The flashbacks and lack of hero structure tend to negate the progressive journey necessary for an epic film, and for this perception, the marketing is partly to blame. I had the same expectation of a greater epic arch (before reading the novel) when I saw the trailer so gloriously colored by stunning visuals (Snyder borrows well in slow-mo captures from 300) set to the equally epic retro-grunge tidings of the Smashing Pumpkins. Instead the film focuses on those inner turmoils of its ordinarily extraordinary characters and the sadistic nature of humanity set to the soundtrack of folksy/rock-pop Dylan and Hendrix types, which adds an interesting contrast throughout (I particularly enjoyed the opening credit sequence a great amount).
Ultimately, Snyder should be proud of what he accomplished. Regardless of expectations, the film is solid, hits the core on many levels of its story, and handles the balance well enough to create an enjoyable and, perhaps, thought-provoking experience.
Maybe Alan Moore doesn’t approve, but that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from watching and enjoying the film for what its worth.