Friday, February 27, 2009

The Inevitable Watchmen Post

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.


SciFi Dad said...

I think that the film will be a moderate success. While Dark Knight's numbers were certainly buoyed by Ledger's suicide, people still went to see it, even though it was dark and brooding as well.

Vancetastic said...

My prediction is that it's better than 300. Since I'm slightly less excited for it than 300, if it's slightly better than 300 wasn't, then it should pack a good wallop for me.

Coachdad said...

Great post... I have never heard of it. However, I want to go see it now. Thanks for the info!

B, Esq. said...

My husband is a 36 year old guy who has an account at the comic book shop. I had no intention of ever seeing this movie with him, but your description (below) actually sounds wicked interesting, and I think I'll surprise him with tickets for us both.

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.

Vancetastic said...

Oh, and I count at least two with superpowers -- the blue dude (yes, I know his name is Dr. Manhattan) and the guy who can make his mask change. Doesn't that count as a superpower?

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Vance...unfortunately it doesn't. There's an explanation for Rorschach's ever-changing mask.

theunemployedworkaholic said...

I have serious doubts about the adaptation of Watchmen. I love the graphic novel and but find it's strength and beauty in the writing and the composition of the panels. I think the book is a work of art. That said, I think the success of the movie will have little to do with the book itself. Concept isn't the strength of the graphic novel, character is - and I don't know how they'll manage to cram it into 2 hours. My guess it that those who like the book wont love the movie...and those virgin to Watchmen *could* like it. Long winded way of saying I know nothing.

Lucasb said...


We've kind of discussed the novel before, and I feel the same way you do, seeing as I too just recently read it.

I've been arguing with other geek friends about how well the film will do. A lot of peeps think it is going to be HUGE, but I really doubt it. I don't think it will bomb but I really don't think it will be a huge blockbuster. Besides hardcore geeks it doesn't have any built in following, i.e. Batman. Although early reviews seem to be good, word of mouth after the opening weekend (which will probably be big, 60-70 mill.) will be what makes or breaks the final count. It won't hurt that it's being released in March with little to no competition.

ZenMom said...

Ok, so did you actually *see* it?

No, wait! No spoilers!

I only read Watchmen a short while back, too. Similar to you, someone (can't remember who) told me I *had* to read it years ago ... but I just never did.

Ironically - because I LOVE comic book heroes and stories - I was never much as comic book *reader* as a kid. I didn't "get" it.

Fortuntely, DC and Marvel offered up a lot of Saturday morning cartoons to make up the gap in my geek-culture education.

So, I didn't read the book until I started reading all about it in the pre-movie blog-gasm.

I agree there were parts that dragged. And the logic of the deneumont was a little "iffy" IMHO.

BUT - I loved the original premise and story and characters. And I really liked the way they presented the whole Dr. Manhattan time-paradox thing.

Will the movie be "as good"? I don't know. I can't think of any movie that has ever been as good as the book. With the possible exception of Jackson's LOTR.

But ... I will definitely blog about it after I finally get a chance to see it. When I do, I hope you'll come by and share your thoughts. :)

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Zen...of course I saw it!! I think how you like the movie depends on your like of the graphic novel. Me? I thought it was good. I actually liked the movie more than I thought I would. It sure was a visual feast. However, it didn't stay with me. I really felt very little connection to it, in the same way I felt very little connection to the characters.

At the end of the day, I think they were a little too faithful to the source material. What little they changed, I think was for the better. If they had allowed the movie to breathe and work as a movie, instead of just the comic come to life, I think it would have worked better.

My prediction for it was pretty spot on. It didn't really transcend the way they were hoping it would.

Zen, I think you'll dig the movie and when you write about it, I'll engage you more.

Brad c DMD said...

I'll admit, haven't seen Watchmen yet. its still sitting in my car. i boguth it the day it came out. i free night this past month and we watched Coraline instead. Loved the book (everythign Gaiman touches turns to gold, book was better). That's what happens when you have two kids, little time for movies.
Read Watchmen years ago, started off good, bogged down at the end. Fin sihed it but was disappointed.
My favorite graphic novel? We3- Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely. ultra violent, heart wrenching, powerful, wonderful. best comic series? Preacher.
I still get my comics at teh same shop I;ve been going to for 22 years, since I was 8
Check me out at Think you'd enjoy some of it.
I'll be checking back here to read up on my fellow Geek Dad. Check out my Wii Love post.