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October 07, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen Screening?

000watchmen

So last night, I attended a screening of various scenes from the upcoming "Watchmen" movie, including a talk with director Zack Snyder and the artist of the original comic book, Dave Gibbons.

I came to the Watchmen comic very late -- I read it for the first time only a couple of years ago -- but I of course loved it instantly.  So I was very interested in how they could turn that rich, complex, sophisticated, downbeat, political, epic comic book into a superhero movie.

And after seeing these scenes, I'm convinced the answer is:  very, very faithfully, and very, very well.  It seems that it was the success of director Snyder's "300" that gave him the clout to reject the studio's re-imagining of Watchmen as a War on Terror shoot-'em-up, and go back to the source material.  Based on what I saw, it's hard to imagine a fan of the comic book being angry or disappointed that the movie strayed from the comic.  It captures the tone and feel of the comic (often panel for panel) perfectly, yet translates it cinematically in a visually witty way.  (The fight scenes I saw -- The Comedian vs. Shadowy Assailant, and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre vs. Prison Rioters -- seem to have gone on longer than the comic would indicate, but come on... did you see "300"?  You've got to give Snyder that.)

To keep the film down to a watchable length, Snyder said he had to cut or modify certain sequences and characters, but he seems to have made up for that by making allusions to what there isn't time to explicitly include.  Every frame just about burst with references and snippets that even Gibbons said he catches only after multiple viewings.

After listening to Gibbons speak on stage, and talking to him afterwards, to say he's enthusiastic about this film is an understatement.  He made the excellent point that movie audiences may be ready for a deconstruction of the superhero genre in a way that they weren't only a few years ago, when they weren't quite as familiar with the conventions of the form.  I also think there are political connections that can be made between "Watchmen"'s mid-1980s world and our post-9/11, financial apocalyptic time that will be very interesting.

This movie looked beautiful, unbelievably well-crafted, and every bit as exciting and provocative as the comic.

And who knows -- maybe with the success of "Watchmen," Warner Bros. will make another movie adaptation of a comic that originally appeared in the mid-1980s.  (Stay tuned, folks!)

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Update:  Much more info about the screening here.

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