I certainly didn’t expect to. Not that Zak Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ highly regarded graphic novel of pre-apocalyptic tension and realistic superheroes was bad. It wasn’t. I just didn’t think I’d ever spend another three or so hours of my life with it again. Why?
Let me explain.
Like many, many others I went to see Watchmen in the theatres knowing what I was going to get was what I had longed for with most other comic book adaptations – for the filmmaker to simply act as a transducer for the story from the medium of the page to the silver screen.
Read: No Changes!!!
And for the most part that is exactly what I (we) got. Sure, there were changes to the plot, but they were forgiven because, in a way, it made more sense for the overall plot to involve Dr. Manhattan than abducted artists and a Lovecraftian squid-monster. I for one prefer the squid-monster when all is said and done, however print is the medium for such flourish; screen is not. Mr. Snyder’s changes were welcomed for the film adaptation of the story if for no other reason than they made sense. And really, other than that, from the moment the film started I knew, knew without a shadow of a doubt, that this was going to be that one expectation finally arrived.
No change of origin, no change of costume. No change of nothing. However, while watching the film that first time I was extremely surprised to find myself unimpressed and even slightly bored with the film. I ended up leaving the theatre thinking something akin to: “Well, I got what I always ask for and it turns out it didn’t really matter, it didn’t knock me over as I’d expected it would.”
I thought about this seeming conundrum for some time and realized that Occam’s razor was indeed present; the answer was of course the simplest one: the story simply works better as a graphic novel.
End of story.
So while curious about the director’s cut and the extended cut and the super-insane-director’s-extended-cut I moved on to thinking about –and watching – other things.
Then the other week I came across the ‘Ultimate Watchmen Set’ or whatever it’s called for such a ludicrously inexpensive price I had to pick it up. And I took that set home and re-watched the film, as Snyder originally intended it, complete with Tales From The Black Freighter interspersed throughout the story and you know what? I rather enjoyed it. I do not credit this to anything other than distance from the hype-machine and, perhaps more importantly, my own expectations. The Watchmen may still work most perfectly as a graphic novel, but the fact is the film was going to be made eventually, by one director or another, and Zak Snyder did a damn fine job creating a very faithful and dare I say stunning adaptation for the screen. Definitely not something I’d throw on very often, but definitely worthy of a spot in ‘The Library’.
However, next time I sit down to a comic-book-turned-movie-adaptation I will remember what I’ve learned and try to appreciate any changes for screen effect.
Unless they suck, which they most often do?*
* Took three times to get The Punisher correct. The Punisher? The easiest of them all. Black suit? Check. Skull logo on chest? Check. Wife and Kids (not five fucking generations of his family) killed by criminals? Check. Mass murderer of criminals? Check.
How hard was that?