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Watchmen Reviewed: Has Zack Snyder Killed The Comic Book Adaptation?
Adam Narkiewicz , 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?

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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?

Wow.

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.

jonny mugwump
Feb 27, 2009 11:35am

"Gwilym loved 300, incidentally - Watchmen director Zack Snyder's last comic book adaption, and intensely racist and magnificinelty dumb affair, that manged to be both homophobic AND homoerotic all at once."

This is my favorite sentence of the year so far. You should send Narkiewicz every day to watch a movie that he hates. It might not do him any emotional favours but it'll produce great writing.

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Anthony Chalmers
Feb 27, 2009 11:42am

Can't say I didn't see this one coming, think I'l definitely give this a miss like I didn't bother with the new Bond movie after the review here!

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d roads
Feb 27, 2009 12:22pm

ah man,
i hope that you're wrong, i really dont want this movie to be bad, i've been lookin forward to it for too long,
maybe your hopes were too high goin into the picture house?....mayube wegotta go see this andtry and forget 'bout the comic. i'm not lookin forward to the new ending though, the original was a freakin awesome way to end it,
i'm still gonna go see it...you're made me very nervous about it though

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Wile E. Coyote
Feb 27, 2009 5:25pm

In reply to Anthony Chalmers:

Christ, do you always do what people tell you? Ever thought that this reviewer person might perhaps be... wrong? Find out for yourself, don't behave according to ANYONE else's opinions on anything. Even if they are humourous.

This is by far the most over the top negative review for the film so far. Taking the word of one twat whose primary motivation is making funny similes is not wise.

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Liam Greenshaw
Feb 28, 2009 11:44am

Well I'm not going to actually read this review before seeing the film on Friday, but I got the gist from the last paragraph and dearly hope you're wrong. TotalFilm gave it 4 stars though

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hobbes the tiger
Mar 5, 2009 10:44pm

I'm stunned that you can get so angry over someone fucking up a film of a comic.
I mean, if it was the Iliad or Catch 22 or something but it's like tearing your hair out because someone got Dennis the Menace wrong.

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John Doran
Mar 6, 2009 10:52am

Come on Pip, it's nothing like that at all is it?

That's like saying, for example, well this album's only by a goth band, The Cure, so who cares if it's shit or not.

A lot of people feel very strongly about The Watchmen, and quite rightly: it's much better than the majority of novels that are printed.

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Liam Greenshaw
Mar 7, 2009 12:31pm

I've now seen Watchmen, and I can safely state that I completely disagree with you.

I loved the comic book when I read it recently, and I thought the film was a great adaptation of it, and very faithful.

And I actually thought the new ending was just as good as the previous one. I mean, they would have had to spend ages explaining the whole giant squid thing beforehand or people would have just been confused by it, so I think their decision was a good one.

Overall, it was good!

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Roger
Feb 27, 2010 3:38am

A clear example that emotions can ruin a great experience... Just give me 1 thing the novel did better than the movie that is not just connected to personal (musical) taste and i'll keep an open mind. I think the movie is better than the novel actually, that giant squid thing in the comic was really lame, I'm very glad Zack Snyder changed that awful ending for a more logical one!

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The Doctor
Mar 8, 2010 1:02am

This reviewer is a spewful jackass. There was nothing wrong with this movie, and the things that he holds up as poor were actually well done. You can't please everyone, but you certainly can't ever please a comic-nerd-fanboy.

I never understood why comic fans want a movie adaptation to be faithful, anyway - you've already seen THAT story... wouldn't you rather experience another, different one that uses the characterscape you love?

I had never heard of Watchmen the comic, but I enjoyed the story the film told and I thought it was well presented.

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Rhys
Sep 23, 2010 11:40am

When you're talking about the blood spattering in the Comedian's death scene and such like, I think you're overlooking the fact that (and I say this as someone who likes to think of themselves as a mature and informed reader of comic books and graphc novels) comic books are largely a visceral visual thrill. Even though they've been "dragged into the Modern World" and are now the stuff of true literature and read by adults, that's largely because they've carried them with them from their childhood. And that's where our key association with comic books is still anchored- childhood! The age where we were getting "cute little erections" and enjoying cartoon violence, bright colours and base thrills.

No it wasn't a great film. It probably is unfilmable. But don't kid yourself that a huge part of your enjoyment of comic books is based on bright colours, epic cartoon violence and blood effects. The medium is probably the key issue. It was mroe integrity on the page somehow, and the fact that its so unrealistic isn't an issue. When you transfer it to the screen and it attempts to become more real, it just looks ridiculous.

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Matthew
Jan 9, 2011 4:38am

I love you. My God, you've nailed this. And what about all this praise people have been heaping on it? Even criticisms are "it's too faithful" -- finally, someone else saw the EXACT same movie I saw. I don't know how it is that people have been applauding this film; my best guess is that most theatres are interdimensional wormholes that sucked viewers into an alernate universe and showed them a film entirely apart from the one you and I saw. There's really only that as an explanation. The only other thing I'd mention was that Doomsday clock. They put an ACTUAL FUCKING DOOMSDAY CLOCK into the movie! They wouldn't understand the meaning of the word subtlety if it were presented to them on the face of a fucking doomsday clock! And this is a film that is "too faithful"? What a world, eh?

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Matthew
Jan 10, 2011 1:08am

In reply to Rhys:

What a load of garbage. Where to start? So, if I read prose books as a kid, any prose book I read now is "anchored in childhood?" Films, too? Are there any mediums that can cast of the anchor in childhood, in your opinion?
I'm not kidding myself when I say that I don't agree with this statement: "a huge part of your enjoyment of comic books is based on bright colours, epic cartoon violence and blood effects." Anyone who read Watchmen and enjoyed it for these aspects, even just a little, completely missed the point. Nothing that was exciting in Watchmen had anything to do with the aspects you list. If you did, then I think you failry clearly undermine your claim that you are a "mature and informed reader of comic books and graphic novels." I hope that doesn't come across as too harsh; I just really, really, really disagree with you, and your bare assertions with no justification compelled me to respond bluntly.

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Matt
Jan 14, 2011 11:48am

In reply to Roger:

"they 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"/"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, [and] bad direction"/"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"/"They put an ACTUAL FUCKING DOOMSDAY CLOCK into the movie! They wouldn't understand the meaning of the word subtlety if it were presented to them on the face of a fucking doomsday clock!" ... for starters.

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Matt
Jan 14, 2011 11:49am

In reply to The Doctor:

Well that makes you a dumbass.

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Matt
Jan 14, 2011 11:51am

In reply to Wile E. Coyote:

True ... but he is right. But yes, no-one who hasn't seen the film should agree with him. But those who have should.

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Matt
Jan 14, 2011 11:58am

In reply to d roads:

Look, they did butcher the book, but that's not the point. The point is that this movie was godawful, whether or not one goes in dry and forgets the original comic. It just makes no sense. How did Comedian find out about Adrian's plot? Why is Rorschach initially so resistant to sharing his life-story with the psychiatrist, only to blab everything when the psychiatrist asks a second time? Why, if Dr Manhattan can tell the future, doesn’t he change it? Why the heck does Veidt live in Antarctica? Why was Hollis Mason giving a generic overview of the 1940s to a guy he’s been having a beer with every week for the past few years? And so on and so forth.

And let’s not get started on the Hercules/Xena puppets-on-string fight-scenes; nor the terrible acting (with the exception of Moloch and – unless he’s crying – the Comedian); nor the Hostel-like attempts at gore nor the barely relevant, subtlety-of-a-freight-train music; nor Nixon and his nose; nor the all-punches-sound-like-‘pfuh!’ foley; nor the flippant attempts at deepness; et al. That anyone could like these things, “That’s the real practical joke!”

To paraphrase the book, “The only real act of masochism in this film lies in watching it; the only real sadism is in recommending it to readers.”

People liked this film? What film with an actual doomsday clock were they watching?

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