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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Who Watches the Watchmen?

    Film adaptations of comic books, with few exceptions, rarely come to par with their source material. When it comes to “Watchmen,” the only graphic novel to appear on Time magazine’s 100 greatest English-language novels list, the long awaited film adaptation doesn’t fail to please, although it may alienate fans of the widely acclaimed graphic novel.

    As a comic book fan, I have often felt metaphysically ostracized for my stance on the “Watchmen” graphic novel. I felt it is, although great in many regards, worthless as a valid piece of literature. Furthermore, it has garnered the reputation of being somehow more valuable than other mainstream comic books.

    The film is faithful to the plot and dialogue but not to the themes or moods of the book. It is the action movie adaptation of what was supposed to be a character study; it is the same story told from a different point of view. One of the main points of the “Watchmen” comic, and one of the reasons I liked it, was that it was made to work specifically as a comic book; a direct adaptation would have been impossible and frankly, quite pointless. The book is good enough on its own.

    And this is where the film succeeds; it is by no means a direct adaptation. It is explicitly an action movie, and while fans of the novel may be offended by this, it was ultimately refreshing to see a comic book movie that can adequately portray deep philosophical themes while maintaining a sense of humor.

    Overall the acting was top-notch. Patrick Wilson did a good job as the aging Batman-inspired Nite Owl, and Jackie Earle Hailey put on a Christian Bale-inspired growl for his role as Rorschach, a somewhat depraved version of DC Comics’ the Question. Billy Crudup played Billy Crudup and turned one of my favorite characters in the comic (Dr. Manhattan) into an unenjoyable whining mess.

    I have to take a moment to talk about the soundtrack. I am willing to overlook the participation of a My Chemical Romance song (albeit a cover) to say that this film would be worth watching by merit of the soundtrack alone. It helped a great deal to link a more or less alien world to our own, and while the ominous tones of “The Dark Knight” were all well and good, a campy movie should have a campy soundtrack. “Watchmen” had Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, and not the overused whiny version by the late Jeff Buckley. It was used perfectly.

    The film’s computer-generated imagery was reminiscent of director Zack Snyder’s earlier work, “300,” and fell short in many of the same places. There was a bioengineered cat that I found to be of particularly low quality, and there were many scenes in which the CGI simply did not mesh with the live action. If something cannot be properly rendered it should be left out of the film, and this shortcoming actually pulled me out of the movie.

    The film was probably incomprehensible to anyone not familiar with the source material, and although I cannot travel back in time and not read the graphic novel, I doubt the movie would have made much sense without at least a quick glance at the book on which it is based. That said, this is far and away the best film based on an Alan Moore graphic novel, (although with gems like “LXG” and “From Hell” in that roster, it is no wonder he removes his name from every movie they make based on one of his books) and by all means, it is worth seeing, especially if you’re just going to watch it for free online. Which I didn’t.

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