Some of you fortunate souls already have your tickets for the midnight showings of Zack Snyder’s take on the Watchmen.  Some of us, won’t be able to see the film until later in the weekend, thanks to pregnant sisters who are demanding attention.  For others, they were able to view the movie weeks ago as part of the Warner Bros. press junkets that popped up around the country, and now that the embargo is lifted, the reviews are spilling out all over the Intarwebs.

Check out this review by Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times.

If you don’t want to watch the video, there’s a summary and my thoughts after the jump.

Alan Moore was right. There isn’t a movie in his landmark graphic novel “Watchmen” — at least not a really good one. What we get instead is something acceptable but pedestrian, an adaptation that is more a prisoner of its story than the master of it.  The difficulty is not with a lack of fidelity to this dark tale’s narrative about an apparent plot to eliminate costumed superheroes from the alternative reality America they’ve protected and defended. The changes to the story, including updating its 1985 situations to include a subplot about the energy crisis, are so nonessential that you might wonder why Moore has, in addition to taking his name off the project, vowed to “spit venom all over” the film version.

To quote Matthew, “Here’s the thing”; There has never been a perfect adaptation of a book into movie form, and there will probably never be.  Lord of the Rings didn’t include every passage or dialogue exchange from the books, Disney is notorious for changing the source material of the fairy tales to suit its needs, and regardless of how great the Iron Man or Dark Knight movies were, they were mere adaptations of the for better or worse.

Yes, Alan Moore is probably correct, there may be no way to bring HIS version of the Watchmen to the screen, because it would be a 12 hour movie.  The last time audiences viewed a piece of work that long was probably the first complete performance of the Ring of the Nibelung which rang in at 15 hours.  So to bring it in at a time that will make the theater owners, studios, and movie goers most happy, things will have to be trimmed.  While I doubt we’ll get to see the intricate interplay between the Barneys of New York City, and while I know we won’t get to see the giant squid, my main concern is the intent of the piece – does it due justice to the source material, and if it doesn’t, is it something that stands on its own legs?

Here’s my advice for those going to see the movie — detach.  Go in and forget everything you’ve ever read or heard about comic book.  View the movie as a stand alone flick, and enjoy (or don’t) for what it is. After the movie, take some time to reflect on what you’ve seen, and then later begin to compare it with the source material.  If you hate it (or love it) after that, then let your reviews fly, but if you go in with the preconceived notion  that the movie can’t meet your expectations of the comic book, then the movie has already failed.

Me?  I’m excited about the movie, not because I’ve enjoyed the source material, but because it looks visually amazing, there’s an interesting story to be told, plus there are leather clad hotties, and an 8-foot tall nekkid dudes (there is that three-way scene) running around and the MPAA isn’t balking with an NC-17 rating.  Will I like it?  You’ll find out on the next Major Spoilers Podcast.

If you are interested in reading all of Kenneth Turan review, you can find it here.

And as always, feel free to let your thoughts fly in the comments section below.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. hermit
    March 5, 2009 at 10:18 am — Reply

    i’m really excited to see this flick. i learned a long time ago to separate the original work from the adapted work. if the movie’s good, more power to it. of course, the comparison between the book and the movie are inevitable, but you can’t let it stop you to enjoy both. i personally loved the lord of the rings, but there’s a LOTR movie and a LOTR book. they share the same title, but they are not the same.

    i finally got my ticket for the IMAX showing tonight. i called off work tomorrow. i’ve filled my mp3 player with the motion comics so i can watch it while i wait in line (3 hours wait is a long time) and my backpack full of comics. i’m going alone so i won’t have to fight to find a place where i can enjoy it. i’ve waited for this thing for a long time and i want to enjoy it.

    the movie will not be perfect, and i won’t expect it to be, but i expect it to entertain me for 160 minutes.

  2. Turks
    March 5, 2009 at 11:22 am — Reply

    lol, well thats a pleasing review for having to stay up to 12am to see this tonight but atleast i wont have to wait 3 hours like hermit just 10 mins

  3. Propane
    March 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm — Reply

    I saw it last night and I was apprehensive. When it started though, and things started happening, I was so thrilled. The casting was genius and the comic-to-screen adaptations were amazing. Guy who played Rorschach got it spot on.

    No squid, but the replacement was less alien and still… worked. There was a little Barney going on, but not much at all. No Black Freighter and nothing after the credits.

    I loved it. As a personal non-star rating, it was better than Dark Knight twice over.

  4. hermit
    March 5, 2009 at 2:07 pm — Reply


    i saw the dark knight 4 times in theatre, so i can’t imagine how many times i’m gonna see this one. probably not though, wallet won’t let me. huge comic order next week.

  5. Josh P.
    March 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm — Reply

    The funny thing about the reviewer agreeing with Alan Moore, is that Alan Moore has spat on any exploitation of his source material. Alan Moore would never make an adaptation of his comics work.

  6. Dan Hunter
    March 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    I saw it last night on iMax (I’m living in New Zealand so we sometimes get things a day before you due to time constraints).
    It is an utterly faithful adaption of the book, and there in lies the problem. The book isn’t the most accessible piece of literature for the novice, the same for the film. Also what reads well on the page doesn’t necessarily transfer well into other mediums.
    The film, like the book contains a lot of monologues , but film is a visual medium and I feel that there is too much dialogue at times. There’s an effective opening credit sequence perfectly depicting the history of the minute men, the sequence is later described in a monolgue – we’ve already covered it vissualy – do we need it explaining?

    I like the alteration to the end, as it works a lot better then the squid would, but if they can make such changes because a certain scene wouldn’t work well on screen, surely they could follow the same theory with other sequences. ( on another point Galacticus as a big purple man wouldn’t have worked either)

    It is a gorgeous piece of work, art direction was superb and the comic panels are literally on the screen.

    The cast in general were good, hats off to Rorshach, Dan and John (although Lori felt wooden)and I look forward to seeing the directors cut with all the tales from the black freighter stuff. My feeling is an excellent adaption that will be destined to become a big cult hit and thus be ignored by the general populous due to its faithfulness of the source material.

  7. March 5, 2009 at 7:05 pm — Reply

    Couldn’t agree with Dan Hunter more, but the LA Times review is very right about the lack of concern there is for the characters. I’m a projectionist and manager of a cinema and I’ve got to admit that the past 24 hours has seen more people walk out on a session or leave for prolonged periods and then return, than any other film I’ve seen. Upon inquiry they confess the film is just too long and they have no idea what’s happening. I think this opinion is going to spread amongst the non-comic-literate and it won’t do that well commercially.

    Ultimately, Watchmen could only have worked if it went for at least 6 hours and covered all source material… reflecting the intricacies of Moore’s opus. That would never happen. Nor would it be possible to make it a trilogy of films… a TV series may have worked considering the success of elaborate shows like The Wire, Lost and Sopranos, but it would most likely be pidgeonholed as another Heroes. I think for the first time ever in my life, I see where Alan Moore is coming from. The film shouldn’t have been made, I’m now starting to realize. It is a good film, but nothing compared to the source material. I think the film’s existence now trivializes and marginalizes the graphic novel.

    -Hercules in NY

  8. hermit
    March 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm — Reply

    @Hercules in NY

    an employee of my comic book store said almost the same thing about the movie. this is not a necessary film. in a time when we’ve seen a lot of comic book movies (some good, some bad) it’s hard to bring something like that and trully give it justice. it is a bit late in the game and it suffers from that.

    still can’t wait to see the movie.

  9. March 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm — Reply

    I’m really not expecting this to be better or worse than the the book. I expect its own experience. An extension of the Watchmen experience, if you will. It won’t be necessary to enjoy the story if you’ve already read the book, but if you wan’t to be introduced to the story in a new way, here it is.

  10. Slappy
    March 5, 2009 at 10:25 pm — Reply

    I just wish Bea Arthur was playing Silk Specter II

  11. hermit
    March 6, 2009 at 2:07 am — Reply

    finally saw it, and it was awesome. as an adaptation, they cut corners. some needing to be cut, some i’d’ve wanted to stay there. but the 20 layers of the comic book are not there, and i didn’t expect to have it. as a movie, it is a good one, a damn good one. some music pieces feel a bit out of place.

    the only thing that bugged me, the sex scene, while done with a woman who has a truly beautiful body, actually feel out of place and is too long (not counting the awful choice of music).

    all in all, i’m going back tomorrow.

  12. Graciela
    March 6, 2009 at 3:40 am — Reply

    I agree with both the LA Times review and Dan Hunter. I saw it tonight as part of a special screening and it’s a mixed mess. The first half was really good. Just dead on and actually coherent and cohesive, even for the common folk. The second half, it gets really choppy and by this point I’m sure a lot of people unfamiliar with the source are wondering what’s happening, what was the plot again?, can’t remember who is who, and definitely looking at their clocks. For the fans, the second half is probably probing too much in their brains and the brilliant nature of the comic just has to come out in the face of such disregard for all essence and storytelling. And no, it’s not the squid. The substitution actually works and I didn’t mind it at all. It just felt so forced, sloppy, and overtly spelled out. I think you’ll understand when you see it. All that was said during your fabulous podcast for the week could not be ignored any longer when the ending was finally playing out.

    I really went into the movie not expecting a true adaptation and tried to see it on its own merits. Really. I am by no means a fangirl. But like I said, when it gets choppy and messy and proper film making takes a backseat, it’s almost an involuntary action to recall the comic and compare notes.

    The best for me was Doctor Manhattan on Mars. The bad, second half of the movie aside, was all the insanely gorey violence. There was just no need for it. It didn’t add anything and it was a distraction.

  13. Randallw
    March 6, 2009 at 8:07 am — Reply

    The bit that annoyed me most was the change to when Kovacs/Rorschach became just Rorschach. I can understand leaving out bits for time or if it’s too shocking but why take out something and then replace it with something different yet of the same level.

    For the first half I noticed that when they had nudity or sex they seemed to cover up stuff, say with a strategically placed arm or leg and I thought “well you get the idea of what happens but without being unecessarily graphic” then bang, second half. ‘lets make up for all the stuff we didn’t go with in the first half’. Full frontal Manhattan, which I didn’t mind, it’s graphic maybe but it’s characterful for him ie. he isn’t concerned with that sort of stuff, but ten minutes of porn? It’s like the censors allow ten minutes of graphic content per film so the makers cut it out for the rest of the film so they could have 10 full out minutes as graphically as possible. She get’s graphic like that but her uniform is changed to only hint at bare flesh.

    When Laurie presses the flame button I realised she wasn’t even looking for a light. I suddenly noticed no one was smoking cannabis (or whatever it was). We get one little scene about the Electric cars, and I understand that because the new threat revolves around discovering new energy, not having it since the ’60s. Fair enough I suppose they can’t have everything.

    The beginning was weird I thought. Seems they needed to make up a complete expose of recent history to let people know what’s going on. Fair enough again, not everyone is a comic fan. They sure did seem obsessed with ’60s music though.

    I decided that it was like they had to cut out half the pages to keep the time down and that I only understood what was happening because I’d read the novel.

    It was good enough, but I came out very confused. It may just be me but I couldn’t understand some of the things they went with. They introduce stuff eg. In the novel Night Owl wasn’t in the room when the Comedian tried to rape Silk Spectre, and Night Owl II didn’t see Rorschach get killed, plus why in the movie did he then have to go start beating up Ozymandius? They seem to cut out stuff that isn’t strictly necessary and yet they make up strictly unnecesary stuff. One of Big Boss’ cronies doesn’t get his throat cut, but he does have his arms cut off? why? I don’t even think he was really blocking the door. Comedian loses his gimp mask, presumably to avoid the fetish conenction, but then they actually got across well the whole costumed heroes are actually fetishists getting off on kinky fighting.

    I’m not complaining that ‘they changed it, now it’s ruined’, I understand that needs must that some things get changed, and it can’t be an exact adaption otherwise why try it in another medium, I just can’t undertsand why they did some things. Beforehand I thought Moore was entitled to his own opinion, but I didn’t plan for it to affect me. Now I can sort of see how angry he might be at the way they messed with it.

    Other observations:

    There was something about Ozymandius voice that seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite figure it out. It might just be how he looks but I was thinking of David Bowie. I don’t really know why. It’s like the voice is the same as some extremely important other character I know of but I can’t remember who.

    Manhattan struck me as a Blue Data. He just had the same expression and tone of voice. I wonder if Billy Crudup had been watching TNG footage.

    I was actually somewhat dissapointed that Rorschach didn’t quite look like the comics. In the comics it comes across as a sort of surprise that under the mask he looks like Archie. In the film he take off the mask and look exactly like you’d expect someone like him to look. Harsh face, the sort you’d expect the growls to be coming from. Right at the end just before he gets killed it finally hit me. Apart from the red hair he looks exactly like my Karate Teacher. So maybe I was subliminally affected. From the moment I saw his real face I believed he was someone who could beat people up. When he jumps out of the window why doesn’t he land in the garbage? Was it really necessary to create a small fight scene that didn’t seem to add anything. Also, no mention of his lifts, although he was consistently portrayed as small.

    It’s my nature to nitpick things, but I don’t get angry. I don’t hate it, I’m just perplexed at how it worked out.

  14. Damascus
    March 7, 2009 at 12:29 am — Reply

    Please for all those reading these before watching the movie, go see the movie for yourselves and make your own opinions up about the movie. Whether your opinions be positive or negative, doesn’t bother me, but we all need to support the genre. We all, I assume at this site, want more comic book movies, so we need the movies that are out to do well. I loved the movie and also understand why some may hate it.

  15. Randallw
    March 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm — Reply

    In my opinion it’s a good movie, and interesting. As I said I don’t hate it, I’m just taking the opportunity to compare opinions.

    I read something that had Billy Crudup saying he was contracted to appear in a sequel. I sure hope he’s joking. I don’t get jokes unless it’s clear it’s a joke.

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