I Watches the Watchmen

I’ve never been one of those people who thought Watchmen was unfilmable. Anything is filmable, it’s just a question of how well it’s done. But in my mind, the ideal format to translate the graphic novel was a mini-series on HBO, where it could be given the time to spin its tale without any restrictions on content.

While I still wouldn’t mind if that had happened, the film we ended up getting is absolutely amazing. I’ve been impressed with Zak Snyder since his Dawn of the Dead remake — I liked that he chose to go in a completely different direction than Romero’s original, offering his own take rather than a slavish copy. And I was blown away by the sheer visual audacity of 300, and how Snyder managed to make what is a pretty basic story into such an absorbing film. So I had faith he could pull off a Watchmen film, but I was still surprised at how good it was.

It didn’t click in my head until I watched GoodFellas yesterday, but Watchmen reminded me of a Scorsese film in a lot of ways, particularly the use of music and the fluid camera movement. And the film just feels like a big sprawling novel whose pages you just can’t stop turning. Snyder does about a good a job as any could at distilling the story of Watchmen down to feature length, and as well as I know the graphic novel, the omissions didn’t glare at me in the slightest. This is comparable to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings in that sense — it may not adhere to the letter of the source material, but it gets the spirit right. And that’s more important in my mind. If all you do is present a visual summary of the book, you end up with Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.

The opening credits to the film appeared online yesterday, and I must have watched them about half a dozen times. They so perfectly capture what I love about this film — the attention to detail, the visual style, the economy of storytelling that still doesn’t lose the story’s meaning, everything. I’ll certainly be seeing this again in the thearer, hopefully in IMAX. And the director’s cut coming to DVD later on is going to be a must-buy.

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