I am a movie fanboy and I have a blog, so I am bound by the laws of geekdom to write about WATCHMEN. For those of you not in the know, or without access to Wikipedia, Watchmen is a graphic novel originally published in 1986. It’s considered to be one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. In fact, it’s been mentioned in the same breath as “real” novels as one of the top literary works of the modern age. It’s taken over 20 years, but finally they made it into a movie, which comes out next week.
Here's the thing...I have a dark secret. I only read Watchmen a few months ago. Now that I've exposed myself, I’m expecting an email asking me to turn in my geek card to arrive any minute now. Many years ago, a girlfriend gave me a copy of the book, telling me it was a must-read. We broke up soon after. Considering that one of the reasons we parted ways was my secret questioning of her sanity, I wasn’t in the mood to look at anything on her recommended reading list in the wake of our failed romance. When the trailer for WATCHMEN hit screens last year, it dawned on me that I still had a copy of the book and figured that this would be as good of a time as any to crack it open. (Random fact: inside the book I found a piece of mail from her bank with her pin number.)
Many people have great reverence for Watchmen, but because I didn’t read it in my formative years, I have no sentimental attachment to it and feel I can look at it objectively. Without giving anything away, Watchmen is a dark, brooding tale about people who dress up in costumes to fight crime. Only one of them actually has any real super powers. The rest are just fucked up. In it’s time, Watchmen was one of the first comics to deconstruct superheroes and it was purported to be a dazzling experience for readers. I imagine it was the comic book equivalent of TERMINATOR 2, JURASSIC PARK or THE MATRIX, movies that in their day were groundbreaking and left audiences breathless. Today they remain great movies, but their visuals hardly deliver the gut punch that they originally did.
Watchmen is very well written, but it’s a sluggish read. It reminds me of some of the classic literature that they made us read in high school. I was told those books were important, but struggled to connect with many of them.
So the big question is, will modern audiences care about WATCHMEN the movie? Will they be captivated by the story the way readers were over 20 years ago? Our reality is pretty dark at the moment, so are the masses going to embrace such a lugubrious cinematic experience?
I believe that the fanboys and the curious will give the movie a big opening weekend. But I’m not so sure that WATCHMEN is going to be the blockbuster that Warner Brothers hopes it will. The danger is in the hype. Just because you’re told something is great, doesn’t mean that it is. And if you’re told a movie is made from “the most celebrated graphic novel of all time”, you have to work doubly hard to rise above inflated expectations.