Watching the Watchmen trailer

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.

17 thoughts on “Watching the Watchmen trailer

  1. Fully agree. I’d go further and say that not only would it be nearly impossible to distill The Watchmen into a good movie, but that this task is especially impossible in the hands of Zack Snyder. 300 was a rush to see in theaters for the first time, but subsequent viewings have proven to me what I suspected shortly after, it’s just a terrible action movie done with enough flash to make people ignore that fact while they watch it on a big screen. I sincerely doubt the director is up to the sizable task of bringing The Watchmen to film, and the trailer seems to miss the mark completely in terms of tone and style (the slow-mo seems especially out of place, but that’s his trademark now I guess).

    And remember, Peter Jackson at least had three very long movies and nearly two decades of directorial experience to accomplish his translation.

  2. You hit it right on the head with the cool thing. One of my biggest concerns about the film is that Snyder seems to lack either the maturity or the experience to feel comfortable allowing the characters to be uncool. Which is a terrible shame, as taking the coolness out of superheroes is one of the major elements of Watchmen.

  3. Re: Coolness

    Nite Owl’s new costume kind of makes my stomach churn every time I look at it. Why does he have to look like freaking Batman?

  4. I read an arguement for the Watchmen movie (and forgive me, original author, I can’t remember where) that went something like this: Watchmen was a deconstruction of the superhero genre and all the nuance of it was a reflection of the obsessive detail of the source material. A Watchmen movie would only have to deconstruct superheroes as far as the public at large knows them, which is largely from superhero movies. The gloss and molded rubber are necessary to be recognizable to a mass audience, and the graphic novel can be boiled down to the elements that are relevant today. I don’t know much about Zack Snyder or whether he can pull something like that off, but it gives me at least a little hope.

  5. I have a hard time being too excited or too worried about the Watchmen movie because I believe we already have the definitive version of the story. Sure, the movie will be a nice little footnote to consider, but that’s all it will be.
    In my opinion, what made Watchmen so great was how perfectly every aspect fit together. The art and story complimented each other and the whole thing spoke to the time period in which it was published.
    The art will be gone in the movie. The 80s are gone as well. The story will stand alone, with new visuals and in a new time. Luckily, we’re in the middle of a glut of superhero movies, which will help Watchmen be more relevant. Plus, pirate movies are all the rage.
    Zack Snyder’s job is to find the universal themes in the Watchmen story, effectively communicate them through a different medium, and understand his creation will always play second fiddle to the graphic novel.

  6. Yeah, well, I think it looks completely awesome. Regrettable that they’ve apparently changed the ending, but I’ve never seen any adaptation of one medium to another that I’d call flawless. Better to evaluate the final product on its own merits than to hold it to some nebulous ideal that would be unreachable even with all the time and money in the world.

  7. Trailers for action movies are always too cool, and that’s all they are; there’s almost never any substance in them at all. In fact, I think the exact quality action trailers go for is “badass.” Hopefully Watchmen will be less “badass” than 300 was, but that’s certainly not likely based on the trailer.

    It seems like Alan Moore dies a little bit every time one of his books gets made into a movie. I’m not sure what I think of that, since art, once published, becomes in some sense public property, but I also can’t blame him for feeling like the end result is usually misrepresentative.

  8. The problem with a Watchmen movie is that it can either try to be some kind of commentary on the meidum its being portrayed in (film) – keeping the spirit intact but changing the nuances of the plot and pissing off fans – or it can try to keep everything exactly as it was in the comic, and therefore betraying the spirit of the source material.

  9. In the Latest issue of Wizard, Kevin Smith said he saw a cut of the movie and said we didn’t have to worry. There’s 2 small changes and one big change, and it all makes sense once you actually see it.

    Ironically, the movie is causing Action figures to be made, whereas when there were going to be action figures of the comic version, Alan Moore was all like “AW HELL NAH!” and they never got released.

    I too just recently finished the book (Just like you, Kat…I was 20 years late to the party, then again…I would’ve been WAY too young to have understood the book when it came out.) and all I have to say is: Ozymandias is a fucking GANGSTA.

    Zack Snyder did a really good job (I think) with the Dawn of the Dead remake…granted it’s better off as a stand-alone movie than being related to Romero. I still watch that movie today and it never wears thin. 300, on the other hand…when I first watched it, it was cool to me…subsequent watches thereafter…and I don’t mind the fact that I don’t own it, but considering he was nearly completely faithful to the book (example: The Spartans did not wear codpieces in the comics, meaning it was quite literally, a “sausagefest”. Had that carried over to the movie…as macho as it was, No “macho men” would have wanted to see it, ’cause you KNOW they would’ve been like “THATS GAY!” and left.) my question is this: Who is to blame for the movie being all show and no go? Frank Miller for writing it that way, or Zack Snyder for staying true to it?

    As for the Watchmen…well, pretty much any movie now…Never Trust the Trailer. I remember the V for Vendetta trailer was action packed…turned out those were pretty much the ONLY action scenes (save for the opening with Guy Fawkes) in the movie, which annoyed many people. Basically, let’s go see it when it comes out and then figure out whether or not it sucked…

  10. I’m pretty sure that, if nothing else, Watchmen is gonna be a visually nifty movie. That being said I will probably like it more than the comics because Moore’s rather dense style is something that I tend to enjoy in direct porportion to how lacking in serious the story is (see; Top 10, Promethea)

    Basically: as long as Watchmen is visually scrumptuous, and the characters don’t do anything ridiculously OOC, and it keeps the major themes of the comic (superheroics ain’t easy, hey how about we forcing world into peace?) I’ll be satisfied

  11. On the plus side, as far as Alan Moore adaptations go, there’s no way Watchmen will be half as terrible as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Er, sorry, I mean “LXG.”

  12. So… is that Lucy Lawless on the right hand side? Between her and the Autolycus-looking guy on the left, this is starting to look like some kind of futuristic Xena: Warrior Princess remake.

    (Why no, I don’t know a damned thing about the Watchmen! Thanks for asking!)

  13. Time. The Lord of the Rings films prove with enough screen time to get the job done (though the extended versions of all but the 1st film are pretty unwatchable). If it were a 12 part mini-series on HBO they could convey a lot more of the book…

    Still, Watchmen is currently 3 hours long from what I hear. That’s a good sign.

  14. I find it strange that people feel a movie version should be able to convey everything that a certain book or in this case comic book had in it. Maybe we all need to rewatch Adaptation.

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