Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Thoughts on Watchmen or What Kind of Fan Are You?

So Watchmen, if you're a fan of genre films is a definite must see. It is an ambitious piece of cinema that does not compromise what it wants to do for its entire running time. While it's not perfect, in terms of its recreation of the book there are some deviations, and there are flaws (the tone of the film jumps around a bit, and I still haven't decided if it worked for me) but it's a better viewing experience for it. It's one of the first, if not the first comic book adaptations that works because less because of slavish devotion to what's on the page (but to be clear, it's pretty damned tight to the page) and more because of another quality that it shares with the original book: it invites discussion. Within five minutes after leaving the theater, the friends I watched it with were already talking about the purpose behind the level of gore and the way the fight scenes were filmed (My take: Given the very adult themes examined, and the meta nature of the source material? All the exaggerated bits of violence are "grown-up" version of the campy onomatopoeia that was in the old Batman TV show, or in comics. It wasn't a cool way to show violence, but rather, an in film context way to remind the viewer that this is a comic book.). That barely cracks the surface of the sort of conversations we got into afterwards.

Now I said that this is a must see for genre film fans. I didn't say comic book fans, because there are two sorts of us. There's the fan that's excited at the prospect of comic book properties being treated with the respect they deserve. Then there's the sort that aren't happy with anything but complete carbon-copy translation, and even then they are prepared to hate it before they've seen one frame. In the weeks leading up to the film I heard plenty of comic book fans voice their displeasure with the film, from the fairly standard jabs at Zach Snyder's use of the speed-cranking slow-mo technique (which, while it shows up, is restrained and works for what it's there for) and the lack of a certain cephalopod. Then there was word from "fans" who had apparently gotten to see early screenings of the film, claiming that the principal cast couldn't act. Now that the movie is actually out I've heard plenty of intelligent discussion about it, both positive and negative, but there are still comic book fans who're bound and determined to hate on the flick just because it exists. These fans, even in the face of being able to discuss their fandom in an way that doesn't patronize or disrespect the material are unable to accept the idea of what is precious to them being delivered to people outside of their niche group.

Depending on what sort of comic book fan you are, you may not want to see Watchmen. As for myself, I'm glad that I saw it because even I didn't like it I would have had a lot to talk about. Regardless of where you fall in your opinion on the movie, you can't deny that a lot of care and thought went into it being made. If you're like me, I'm pretty sure you'll feel like that alone deserve at least a look. So, what kind of fan are you?

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