I have really bad luck with spoilers. I had just beaten The Pain when I learned about the end of Metal Gear Solid 3 (courtesy of a sudden outburst on 1UP Yours), and I was in the middle of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when I learned who got the axe. So late as I was to the party (uh, twenty years late, but hey), I hope you can understand why I was reluctant to take the plunge and check out the much-hyped Watchmen trailer before I had properly finished the book.
Now that that’s all out of the way now, though, I’ve had a couple looks at the trailer, and I can safely say that I remain deeply ambivalent about the movie. That doesn’t mean that I think the movie will be bad, per se. Actually, I think that Zack Snyder and company are all fans who have only the best intentions for the movie. In fact, for that reason alone, it will probably be hugely successful, and have its fair share of fans. I just happen to think that a film adaptation capable of capturing all of the comic’s nuance is probably impossible.
I mean, we’re talking about a comic that takes the visual storytelling medium further than I’ve ever really seen it go. In trying to ask whether the means ever justify the ends, Moore doesn’t waste so much as single panel. All of the beauty is in the details, and that goes for everything from the costume choices to the detailed interviews and newspaper clippings that can be found at the intermissions. You can’t stuff all of that into a few visual “Easter eggs,” you can’t distill the comic’s amazingly detailed alternate history into an opening montage, and you can’t reduce the characters to a few definable traits (Rorschach is crazy, Nite Owl is naive, etc). Basically, you can’t faithfully adapt Watchmen without making it unwatchable.
So while the Watchmen trailer looks “cool,” I can’t help feeling that that’s all it is. Rorschach is “cool” when he says that “the world will cry out for forgiveness, and I’ll say no.” Nite Owl and Silk Spectre have “cool” new costumes. It’s “cool” when we see Dr. Manhattan, and it’s “cool” when the Comedian gets a slow motion shove out the window. Unfortunately, it was that focus on Watchmen‘s stylistic choices over its actual substance that also gave us the so-called Dark Age of comics and reduced Alan Moore to a bitter, bitter shell of his former self (well, the V for Vendetta film helped, but I digress).
I’m not yet writing off the Watchmen film entirely though. If anything, the Lord of the Rings films should have proven that enough love, attention, and, above all, money is generally all you need to get the job done, and Watchmen has sufficient quantities of all three of those things . I’ll be keeping a close eye on the its progress, and when I walk out of the theatres come 2009, I will sincerely hope that Zack Snyder has dispelled all my fears and then some.