Movie PReview

If you have been on a trip to the Showcase Cinemas recently, you have probably seen the life-sized cardboard cutouts of oddly dressed superheroes populating the lobby. These 2D people are advertisements for the new film “Watchmen,” scheduled for release today. The film has been running previews for months now in movie theaters, on regularly televised programs and during important television events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars. These commercials are spectacularly unrevealing however, generally consisting only of images overlaid with music, leaving the viewers to question the importance of the images and the film’s premise. As an avid reader of graphic novels, I thought I would help the community by shedding some light on the subject. “Watchmen” is based on the 1986 graphic novel of the same title by Alan Moore, author of “V For Vendetta” and “From Hell.” The plot centers around the US’s conflict with the Soviet Union during the 80’s. “Watchmen” is set in America, where two legions of masked superheroes roam the city streets. It begins with a former costumer, the Comedian, being violently thrown out of a twenty-story window. This event leads the main characters–Nite Owl, Rorshach and Silk Spectre–to investigate his murder, as well as other attacks on former superheroes. Their inquiry in turn leads to the uncovering of a massive conspiracy. “Watchmen” changed its industry forever. It brought the medium out of the graphic novel pulp stage it had been stuck in since the 40’s and 50’s and proved that a graphic novel could have just as much impact as a novel or play. It was even included in Time’s “100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to the Present.” It maintains a post-modern structure of abeyance through its entirety, linked together with intricate and mesmerizing storytelling. It deals with the theme of the justice of superheroes and their portrayal in comic books thus far. Instead of the typical supra-moral, Christ-like figures of most superheroes, the characters of “Watchmen” are brutally mortal and ethically fallible. Despite being aware of their flaws, they all continue to force their moral views upon others and find themselves unable to stop. This theme brings to light the meaning of the title, taken from Juvenal’s quote, “Who watches the watchmen?” The book then extrapolates that theme to governments in general, particularly focusing on the US during the Cold War. Needless to say, the film has a lot to live up to. The film, produced by Warner Bros. and Paramount, is directed by Zach Snyder, the director of “300” and “Dawn of the Dead.” Despite initial trepidation about this choice, I have come to realize that he is among the better choices for director. His style of videography is quite sensationalist and intensely surreal. While his surrealism was a problem in “300,” it will avail “Watchmen” well. The bizarre events of the book can only be filmed in a style as eccentric as they were in the book under Dave Gibbons’ artistic direction. All things considered, I expect the film to hold true to the original execution and importance of the book while maintaining its artistic value. After hours of meticulously watching trailers, exploring every link on the website and reading the film companion, I was pleased to see the screenshots of almost every part of the book, even down to the side plot. My only worry is that the finely-tuned execution of the book will be lost in its transition from the graphic novel medium to the screen that elements of Moore’s storytelling ability will be lost. Although I had read the book before, I picked it up one more time recently in anticipation of the film. I think it is important to read books before seeing their film adaptations in almost every case, but it is especially important in this one. The book is so intricate and long that some of its elements will inevitably be lost. I strongly recommend reading the book before seeing the film if you have not already done so.