13th Mar2009

dijoo see WATCHMEN?!

by jerad.formby

I realized when I woke up today that I had a fantastic idea. I thought I just might push my blog outside of the lines of Star Trek and see what happened.

So it turns out that visionary director Zack Snyder has a visionary new film to illustrate his visionary take on a visionary graphic novel.

I hereby invite everyone to take the word ‘visionary’ and apply it to any and all aspects of your normal life. Compliment the bartender’s pour as visionary. When someone sneezes, bless him or her first and then compliment the visionary sneeze. I encourage all of you to use the word visionary while you clip your own toenails.

Because if the new Watchmen movie is to be seen as visionary, then obviously the most mundane, mediocre, and downright boring parts of our lives have got to be visionary as well.

In case you’re coming in out of the cold, I thought we’d meet the creator of Watchmen –for just a few minutes.

For people who don’t know Watchmen, it was a comic book that emerged in 1985 and was considered groundbreaking at the time. Today it is still heralded as one of the genre’s first legitimate works of art. It took comic books to a level they had never been before and I happen to love the book for what it is.

Its “heroes” are made up of crime-fighting vigilantes, none of whom have powers, who have been forced to retire in this alternate version of 1985. They went from famous to nothing in less then a decade. The story unfolds around this group of nobodies who eventually make a gigantic impact on the world at large.

Before anybody jumps on my proclamation that “none of them have powers” let me sneak in my nod to Dr. Manhattan. He does have super powers. In fact he has super powers that almost elevate him to the point of a god walking on Earth. He also happens to be one of my favorite parts of the story.

Making this remarkable form of art into a major motion picture has been discussed almost since its publication. In the early nineties, one of the directors interested was Terry Gilliam. I even remember a casting rumor that Rorschach might have been played by Robin Williams. That Watchmen project never saw the light of day because Gilliam declared the book “un-adaptable.” Psst. A way to spot a visionary director…? Seek out the ones that don’t call themselves such. People like Terry Gilliam.

And if extraordinary director Terry Gilliam said it couldn’t happen I’m inclined to agree with him. I don’t think he was talking about the giant squid that was cut out of the end of the movie either –which is an alright alteration, if not logical. I just don’t think Russia would buy Nixon’s sob story that our favorite boy had gone AWOL and couldn’t be trusted anymore… I’d be more disposed to think it was a trick.

Extraordinary’s not catching on, is it?

A lot of people think that the matter of adapting a comic book to the screen would be just like adapting a book. Those bunches of people are mostly right. However, Watchmen is a very, very different beast.

Mostly because of Dr. Manhattan. There is no way to really communicate who he is and how he experiences his life in any linear sense. Because movies, by their very nature, are linear you can already glimpse the problem. Since its an impossibility, given the limitations of the motion picture form, to show somebody’s life happening to them all at once an adaptation would be forced to dumb the idea down into nonsensical flashbacks and “flashforwards”. This is an approach I call “dumbed down” because it still assigns an order to the events and takes away one of the most poetic and beautiful things about Dr. Manhattan.


Boo-hoo, you might say. Sorry one of your favorite stories is un-adaptable. You might say, ‘oh Jerad, I liked it okay.’ I would argue that the movie you liked only misses a lot of the point of Watchmen. Now you just might be less inclined to read the book for yourself. I’m sure this is how Stephen King fans feel every year one of his books gets adapted, but this movie needed a better eye if it was going to be attempted at all. A better eye then, dare I say it, oh hell here it comes: visionary?!

On the one hand, it’s good that they tried it now with CGI at the level it is. They did animate a very convincing bluish wang for the front of Dr. Manhattan. That couldn’t have been achieved over a decade ago.

On the other hand, it’s horrible that they made this movie now because film language has changed so aggressively since The Matrix appeared back in 1999. These days, most major motion pictures have to rub some Matrix camera effects and Matrix-hyper violence in their action just to keep audiences in their seats . And Watchmen shouldn’t be told with this zany style. Actually, The Matrix is the only movie I can think of that should use that style. The cool camera is required to tell the story correctly… a very remarkable achievement.

Well, maybe the first Charlie’s Angels benefited from it, but I digress.

With the exception of Dr. Manhattan, all of the characters are ordinary and not endowed with any spectacular abilities. However, the way visionary Zack Snyder tells it, the Comedian can punch through walls. When visionary Zack Snyder stages a fight between Nite Owl, Laurie and some thugs the violence suggests that both of them are superhuman.

That isn’t the fault of the writer. It’s the director who decides how we view a movie. It was the director who went for laughs while Manhattan and the Comedian butchered people in Vietnam. His need to call back Apocalypse Now did nothing to illustrate the true horror of one of the books more powerful sequences.

It’s obvious that as a fan of the comic I would have several disagreements with the film, but this particular movie is gratuitous and sensationalistic garbage.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I beg you to watch it only for Malin Akerman’s bangs –which are better than any movie I’ve seen this year. Or, if you prefer, go just to check out the big naked blue man. But anybody going should be watching Jackie Earle Haley’s interpretation of Rorschach –which actually is off the chain.


But if any of you suspect there is something more to this whole Watchmen thing and you’re not inclined to pick up a giant graphic novel, there is another option. Warner Brothers produced a superior product called Watchmen: The Motion Comic Book. What they have done, while working with the original book’s artist, is film the comic book with a storyteller. He reads the book to you while you watch the frames with sparse animation. It’s superior to the movie. It’s also very elegant. It’s extraordinary (and that word still isn’t working to replace “visionary” even when placed near those bangs in the picture above. Hmm…)


You can find it at Itunes, Amazon, and they’re selling a DVD of it at your favorite store right now.

Watchmen is still one of my very favorite comic book stories even with its new visionary adaptation. I realized when I woke up today that I had a fantastic idea. I thought I just might push my blog outside of the lines of Star Trek and see what happened.

So that’s my take on something outside of Star Trek. I could end up doing this more often. I just hope each of you find that idea phenomenal and not visionary.

“Phenomenal.” That’s really not doing it either. Be seeing you.


As you contemplate leaving a comment, here’s some music from Zack’s visionary collection. He likes to show off his records while we watch his movies.


Follow Jerad Formby as super_spock on Twitter.


  • Damon

    The Motion comic will be included in the super deluxe dvd along with the black frieghter and under the hood spliced in to the film so I would hold off on buying any watchmen dvd until then.

  • VegasAndorian

    J-rad! I congratulate you on a visionary blog. (Saw that coming didn’t you?)

    Ok. Something we can disagree on. Well, kinda.

    First of all, spoiler alert. Everyone go see the movie. And when you get the idea that Jackie Earle Haley is ripping off Christian Bale’s bat-voice, realize that, one: his is better, and two: the word balloons in the comic SOUNDED just like that. Weird but true. Haley’s the bomb. I also liked Crudup’s Manhattan.

    I liked the movie. I like favorite comics coming to the screen. I even like movies that use the comics as storyboards. It’s a geeky awesomeness to see. So I didn’t quite have the problem you did.

    Oh yeah, the music was a bizarre choice. Snyder seemed inspired by Forrest Gump for his score. I could’ve handled it better if the volume hadn’t surged every time the music came up, as if to shout: Listen to this! And yeah, the Apocalypse Now reference was over the top and an inappropriate choice.

    Boy am I done with slo-mo moments in action movies. I think it can be a wonderful pay-attention-to-this tool, but it is now done just because; which is to say, every action movie needs fight scenes, every fight scene needs a COUPLE slo-moments. For me, the ONLY moment that should’ve been slo-mo’d was the Comedian flying through his apartment window. (The end of the fight scene that started with a thrown mug knocking the “1” off of the apartment number “3001”. I got it!)

    I guess Snyder was looking to lighten the mood occasionally with a little irony, a wink wink. When one reviewer of Watchmen(I don’t recall who) bemoaned the lack of laugh/fun in comic book movies today, another correctly asked, “Did you notice that the story starts with a character called The Comedian getting killed?” The point was to be heavy. But two and three quarter hours is a long time to be heavy; so I have mixed feelings regarding Snyder’s play-for-laughs.

    Visionary comics writer Neil Gaiman once commented on confusion-of-genre-with-medium, meaning when the mainstream expresses contempt for comics, it generally means the super-hero genre of comics. Great things were done narratively in the Watchmen ‘graphic novel’ but I believe it wasn’t visionary in its storytelling, it was visionary in it’s decontruction of super-heroes.

    So for me the ending was the biggest problem. By the end of Moore’s novel super-heroes are irrelevant. Dr. Manhattan is gone, Veidt tricks the world into thinking aliens are invading, everyone becomes friends, if only for a little while. And we realize super-heroes couldn’t do it for us. Dr. Manhattan overtly (and Rorschach and Comedian covertly) doing the job didn’t solve a thing. (Granted this all comes about through Veidt’s plotting, but having shed the guise of Ozymandias he’s no longer a super-hero, just a brilliant mind with a complicated plot.)

    And Snyder’s ending misses the whole point of the graphic novel. Notwithstanding your visionary observation that the Russians probably would not buy the Manhattan-gone-rogue story, the movie goes against everything leading up to that point by having the world adopt peace and cooperation out of fear of Manhattan. It doesn’t matter he’s off to another galaxy, or that he sacrificed his legacy for world peace. Moore was saying we can’t do it with ‘masks’ and Snyder ultimately says it’s the only way we can.

    I can see anxiety over the alien idea. But some other choice needed to be made.

    But the movie is gorgeous. Haley MUST be seen. There is still a good, entertaining story being told. And there will be people who will read the comic when they wouldn’t have before. That’s good enough for me.

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