Friday, March 06, 2009

I Watch The Watchmen

Man, this has been a good week. I've been walking around feeling fine and happy for days, which is a nice change from the low-energy, high-stress state I was in for a while before that. Mainly the difference is due to the fact that I've finally gotten my sleeping patterns switched around into something sane and adequate. As a bonus, my current sleep schedule means that I'm up and around during the day to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. And even the allergies that come with said beautiful spring weather haven't been nearly as bad as they were last week. In the interests of making a good week even better, I've burned some vacation time in order to put in shorter days at work and divided the hours thus recovered between accomplishing useful things (like getting a desperately needed haircut) and indulging in some quality goofing off. And then today I skipped work entirely and instead drove to Los Lunas to see Watchmen, which I regard as a truly excellent use of my time.

So, Watchmen... I gather that reactions to this cover a wide spectrum. Personally, I thought it was marvelous. Although I will admit that it's within the realm of possibility that the movie doesn't stand on its own quite as well as I think it does, and that the main reason it pleased me so much was because it did such an incredible job of evoking the comic, which I can say without hesitation is one of the best things I've ever read in a lifetime full of reading.

Mind you, it's been probably ten years or so since I last read the graphic novel. I had vaguely intended to give it another re-read before seeing the movie, but never quite got around to it. Which may be just as well. I find that with any movie based on something I've read, it works better if there's enough of a time gap to erase the details of the original from my memory. It means I'm not sitting there the whole time drawing minute comparisons instead of enjoying the movie on its own terms. What I do remember very clearly from the original, though, are the emotions it evoked in me, the themes and the symbols and the unique feel of the individual characters, and the movie had that stuff nailed.

There was one plot change that's impossible not to notice if you have any memory of the comic at all, but my reaction to that was, essentially, "Oh, man, I wonder how they're going to pull off [huge honkin' spoiler] with any credibility at all?" followed a bit later by, "Oh, I see. They don't need to. Huh. Cool." So, that worked, impressively enough. I guess that's the kind of adaptive tweak you can pull off when you really, really get your source material.

I do have one eensy, weensy nitpick, though. Guys, the word "gila," as in "Gila Flats" is pronounced "heela." Dr. Manhattan should not mispronounce things! But other than that, it kicked ass.

I was thinking that I'd find it really interesting to hear from anybody who'd seen the movie without first reading the comic, but honestly... If you haven't read the original and it seems remotely like the kind of thing you might be interested in, I suggest buying a copy right this minute. Then, as soon as you get your hands on it, cancel everything you have planned for the day and read the thing. Then go and see the movie; whether you want to wait ten years first or not is up to you.

(Note: I'll happily discuss the movie and/or the comic in the comments if people are interested, but I ask that spoilers be carefully labeled. I'd hate to ruin this one for anybody. Even if it's an entirely different kind of cool when you go in knowing what's going to happen.)


  1. A co-worker went to a midnight showing last night, he really enjoyed it and is familiar with graphic novel. However, he said it was full of violence and full frontal nudity. Would someone enjoy it if they never read the the comics?

  2. There is a lot of violence. There is a fair amount of sex. And there is indeed nudity. (I believe the full frontal is actually all male, interestingly enough. When you're an all-powerful superman, you don't feel the need to bother with trivial human things like clothes. :)) I would maintain that it all contributes to the characterization and the story, though your mileage may vary. Definitely not a movie to take the kiddies to, though.

    Whether somebody who hadn't read the comics would enjoy it as much as I did is the very thing I'm wondering -- and I still say the comic is not to be missed -- but my guess would be yes. You'll probably need to pay more careful attention as the backstory goes flashing by, because the comic has more time to develop it all. But the plot of the movie is the plot of the comics. It's just one story, not an adventure in the lives of continuing characters, if that makes sense. You won't feel like you've come in on the middle of something.

  3. My ex-coworker mentioned this weekend that he took his six year old son to see it, and the boy loved it. (I'm not sure what that means...)

  4. Um. Wow. I personally don't believe it's nearly as damaging to expose kids to sex & nudity as most people seem to think -- in fact, I'd probably argue that completely "protecting" them from that stuff does more harm than good. But the gore, looming armageddon, and psychopathic personalities in that move would sure as hell give me pause before showing it to a kid. Plus, it really is an adult movie, not just in the sense of "having content that gets you an R-rating," but in the sense of "made for people who have adult-level maturity." I think 95+% of it would be likely to pass over a six-year-old's head, although maybe there's enough shiny FX and stuff there to keep one entertained. Then again, who knows, maybe I'm underestimating that particular six-year-old.