I Watched the Watchmen


Watchmen will be released next week and will either be a hit or not. But Watchmen is not a movie that will just come and go. It will be discussed and debated for weeks and months and years to come. I just returned from a midnight screening here in San Francisco. It was shown on an IMAX screen. Perhaps the size of the screen attributed to my experience of feeling completely overwhelmed. The story, like in the graphic novel, is a rich and complex tapestry spanning generations, ranging from international politics to interpersonal relationships. The novel tells the story in simple, yet evocative art. The movie tells the story on a grand cinematic scale, vibrant and rich and visually stunning. It inundates and overwhelms the senses. Devotees of the novel may rest assured that the story is delivered primarily intact. The characters are skillfully and accurately portrayed. Even Doctor Manhattan goes full frontal for most of the film. What is missing in its translation from page to screen is not the relationship or scope of any of the characters or storylines, but the relationship the reader had with the source material. The novel draws you in, seduces you with the poetry of the words and the images. The film holds you at arm’s length, bombarding you with the sights and sounds of a blockbuster. Though the film lacks the intimacy of the novel, it is not in any way, shape or form a bad film. It stands as an extraordinary achievement in cinema. Most of the time, I find special effects distracting and obtrusive (I’m looking at you, Benjamin Button). But Watchmen starts in a comic book world, and its visual effects and style roar across the screen seamlessly. Going into the theatre, I told my companion that I didn’t believe the story was designed to be marketed and delivered as mass entertainment. It is a cautionary tale, to be sure, but one told as a secret, leaving you to decide for yourself what to do with it. Having seen the film, I still believe that. Comic book fans, let alone the general public, will find difficulty coming to a consensus on this movie. This is a film that individuals will see and will have individual reactions to. And, perhaps, that is a form of intimacy after all.