Watchmen Reviewed: Has Zack Snyder Killed The Comic Book Adaptation?
, February 27th, 2009 04:10
It's one of the most talked about graphic novel adaptations in cinema history. But will creator Alan Moore's misgivings about filming Watchmen be realised?
You probably know that Watchmen is a movie based on this totally awesome comic book that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did in the 80s that pretty much single-handedly dragged the superhero genre (and the public's perception of it) kicking and screaming into the Modern World. This led to comics being sold in book shops and all sorts of neat stuff like that (it was also responsible for acres of really shitty comic books about ridiculously emo superheroes with creepy sexual hangups, but so what? Hunter S Thompson was responsible for more shit "journalism" than you could shake a sack of coke at - cough - but I was still hyped about that Fear And Loathing movie.)
The work's author, world-famous magician and Northampton resident Dr Alan "RZA Rings" Moore has notoriously refused to have his name on the credits, and has been telling anyone that asked for as long they've been asking that the comic is unfilmable, and that any attempt would fail harder than the Titanic did at Being A Reliable Method Of Water Transportation.
But no-one listens to comic book writers, especially when comic book movies have been making almost as much money as drugs and guns and bestial ninja pr0n lately. "Fuck Alan Moore," my overtly-manly geek-off Welsh buddy Gwylim spat at me, when discussing the subject recently. "Unfilmable my arse. That hairy fuck hasn't got a clue. They've got the technology to do anything in films now." Gwilym loved 300, incidentally - Watchmen director Zack Snyder's last comic book adaption, an intensely racist and magnificently dumb affair, that manged to be both homophobic AND homoerotic all at once.
“I would rather not know [about the movie],” said Moore, last year. “[Zack Snyder] may very well be [a very nice guy], but the thing is that he’s also the person who made 300. I’ve not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn’t particularly like the book 300. I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them."
Yeah, but so what? Watchmen is based on Watchmen, and Watchmen is the best comic book ever! Or one of the best comics ever, anyway. Zack Snyder says he loved Watchmen more than his mother and his God combined, and has made an "unprecedentedly faithful adaption"... How could it go wrong?
You have no fucking idea.
Zack Snyder's Watchmen is the most incredible feat of "faithful adaption" fail this side of The Bible (ask Jesus if you don't know what I mean). It's like somebody traced a picture of a lovely shiny tasty apple, then scrawled maggots all over it, then wiped their arse with it, then decided to feed it to a passing toddler and draw a picture of a banana dipped in pestilence instead.
You kind of realise it's going to be shit from the first moment. The Bob Dylan song used to illustrate the effect superheroes had in this alternate reality between the 50s and the 80s is about as subtle as a Spiderman outfit at a funeral, and then they go and set their stall out for all to see by adding a load of unnecessary post-Matrix superviolence to The Comedian's death scene - those cartoonish, slow-mo blood-spatter sequences that gave all those 12 year old boys who loved 300 all those cute little erections. That shit runs rampant through this movie like acid diarrhea. A part of you does go, "ooh, that looks just like the comic!" when he gets chucked out of the window. It really does, and that happens a lot during the film - most of the key moments are indeed, perfectly executed, filmed versions of panels from the comic book. But that's it. That's the only thing that is any good about the movie. And that's where any connection between the comic and the film ends.
A comic book is - shock fucking horror - more than a storyboard. There's stuff that goes on in a comic book, in the panels, in the drawings, in the speech bubbles, and in the gutters (the space between the panels, ign'ant non-comic reading scum). To successfully adapt Watchmen, a filmmaker would have to be able to recognise this. He would have to be able to read, and understand a comic book. Something eight-year-olds the world over have learned to do just fine, but something that, on this evidence, Zack Snyder has not.
Zack Snyder's Watchmen is a travesty. Dialogue and plot points are butchered, moments of true emotion are rendered lifeless, dull, and at some points quite mirthful, by a combination of bad acting, bad editing, bad direction and outrageously populist, woefully inappropriate music choices (Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' is dropped on a sex scene, seemingly for comedic effect) Stunningly bad lines are added willy nilly (there's even a tacked on "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the end, which made me laugh out loud), and that's not even getting to the wholesale abuse of the characters and the story. The most important stuff is gone, and what's left is exaggerated beyond reasonable comprehension (right down to giving Dr Manhattan Donkey Dick) and dragged out for what feels like seventeen years, until all memory of what was great, moving, beautiful and true about the comic is gone, and all you're left with is a gang of whiney arsehole lead characters you don't give a fuck about (Jackie Earle Haley put in an admirable effort as Rorscharch, to his credit), a convoluted, nonsensical mess of a story, and an outrageously shitty 911-evoking new ending (!!!!!!!!!!!) that ruins the whole point of the book. Were it a horse, it would be dragged out back and shot. And made into that knock-off Pritt Stick that doesn't work. And sniffed by NME readers at Pete Doherty lookalike parties.
Incredibly, Snyder has taken one of the greatest comic books ever published, and made the the single worst comic book movie ever to see daylight. Batman And Robin was Apocalypse Now compared to this. Watchmen: The Movie! is a goonish, damp, moronic, downright rude travesty. Alan Moore's worst fears could not prepare us for what Snyder has done to his most beloved work. Watchmen may have single handedly killed the comic-book movie genre. And you know what? Good. Maybe Snyder and his ilk can try coming up with their own ideas, and curling off huge diseased shit-heaps all over them, and maybe comic book scribes can stop trying to write movies, and get back to doing what they do best, and what only comics can.