Watchmen 2009: A reverent stab at the impossible

One could call bringing Watchmen to the large screen a curse of a task. In adapting the most revered comic ever written, Zack Snyder has visually triumphed under pressure where visionaries Darren Aronofsky and Terry Gilliam failed. Snyder successfully got Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ fantastic comics mini-series onto the cinema screen in a must-see movie for every Watchmen fan.

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As a massive fan of the comic and its author, it is hard for me to call Watchmen a truly great film. While stuck between its loyalty to the source material and a want to carve out its own space, the very violent epic is a gore filled mess but its heart in the right place and beating. The issue is its brain which appears to not in the frame, unless that core story is all about marketing, products and potentially making a stack of cash.

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Owls watching owls kissing girls.

Adapting Watchmen into a movie that would please fans of the comic was a near impossible task. You can make a case that no one could make a film that would live up to the comics’ dense, metafictional, intertextual mythology and esoteric messages and meaning, which effectively deconstructed storytelling and reassembled it into something more, something that took life within itself. Those who have read will understand this movies impact.

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As above so below, the Mothman gets screentime only in the fantastic intro.

Watchmen devotees can be encouraged by loyalties to the sacred paper comic while still waving a fist at the screen for its changes. Zack Snyder’s labour of love does contain a few too many deviations from the respected comic, and this is the largest issue. Watchmen is a movie parable beyond that of a parable in that it’s a reflection of humanity itself. A vessel for themes that somehow aren’t out of place inside a movie that draws from established comic book lore, Egyptian mythology and most of all, Moores magickal senses.

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The largest change is the ending, which is altered from the fake alien apocalypse to a staged Dr. Manhattan assault on Earth’s power in New York, Moscow and others. In a post 9/11 world it takes more than the destruction of New York to awaken a 21st-century entered apprentice to the real agenda behind Watchmen. Moore said as much in a 2004 interview: “I’ve heard some people who were apparently in New York during 9/11 say that it felt like the last episode of Watchmen, that they were expecting some giant alien jellyfish to turn up in the middle of it all. Because it all felt staged somehow.”

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Alot has been made of the movie’s missing Lovecraftian beast but Zack Snyder’s alterations in less pivotal scenes seem to commit more sacrilege than the closing act. Rorschach’s backstory is rushed all too quickly. Instead of Rorschach handcuffing Blair Roche’s murderer to the scene of the crime before torching the place, a key moment in his transition, Snyder has him kill the monster in a bizarrely violent way. This misses the point and just like the other changes, debases the very essensce and hidden meanings behind the cultural behemoth that is Alan Moores Watchmen.

Get it but read the comics, this is a fan-services of a movie.

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