Posted by: kshayes513 | March 10, 2009

Watching the Watchmen

Okay, I give. This makes two movies in a row, so I’m officially starting a “What I’m Watching” category as well.

I reread Watchmen last month, and went to see the movie over the weekend. I found it absorbing, entertaining and amazingly faithful to the comic. I know Alan Moore has a deep and passionate opposition to seeing any of his comics adapted for the screen. But for most writers, it would be a dream come true to see a movie adaptation come so close to capturing their work. It’s especially impressive that the movie achieves much of the comic’s philosophical and moral complexity; that sort of thing is usually lost in the transition to film.

In terms of worldbuilding, perhaps the trickiest part of the film is setting up, for a 21st century audience, the alternate 1980’s setting of the story. Moore didn’t have to worry about this; his audience was familiar with the 1980’s because they lived in them. But for this movie, more than half of the audience, anyone much under 40, thinks of the 80’s as ancient history. Snyder accomplishes his worldbuilding in about 3 minutes, with an opening title montage that gives a compressed history of this slightly off-kilter mid-20th century. If I were a history teacher, I’d use that montage as a starting point to teach my students about the real events that inspired each scene.

Yes, there’s lots of blood on screen, actually more than in the comic, sometimes. But you can always look away from the worst gore; and to my mind, there’s not a thing in Watchmen that’s more disturbing than just the trailers for some of the more recent slasher movies (okay, maybe one thing…).

Yes, there’s sex and full frontal blue nudity. None of this disturbed me. It’s pretty average R movie sex, not even particularly sizzling; and the blue nudity is never the focus of any scene, it’s just how the character happens to (not) dress.  If you’re not adult enough to look at a man who happens to be nude in some scenes, you’re not adult enough for Watchmen, anyway.

A quick look at Yahoo Movies and on Rotten Tomatoes shows that critics either love this movie or hate it. To me that’s usually a good sign of a movie that defies easy definition, that doesn’t fit the conventional genre and formula definitions. Watchmen fits that description.

Don’t listen to the naysayers. Just go see Watchmen, whether you’ve read the comic or not. I guarantee you won’t see anything else like it this year, and probably not for many years after.

Then, if you haven’t read the comic, go read it.

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