This week: Watchmen: originally written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons in 1986 and 1987, and directed by Zack Snyder in 2009. Alright, this may be cheating. But with the influx of superhero movies over the last ten years I thought it worth looking at one in detail. Will the films always be pale imitations of the originals, or the visual realisation of dreams? Watchmen looks at a group of superheroes as a potential nuclear attack threatens America. The graphic novel was extremely well received, and there aren’t many top ten lists of the genre that don't contain it. The film did not do amazing business, and received very mixed reviews. Watchmen has received such cult status as a graphic novel that it can be hard to clear the fog and look at it, essentially, as an extension of the comic book. Superheroes may have been more accepted by the adult media in recent years, but their key audience will always be children. To tackle adult themes with this vein of character may simply just trivialize any issues it tries to raise. Yet this is not the case. Where Moore’s genius lies is that he is able to look at any idea, and break it down to its base level. He then rebuilds it without a trace of cynicism or sneer. Thus Batman is looked at objectively - wouldn’t a man who dresses as a bat and spends his days beating people up be a total psychopath? With a few other good ideas, and great character design, a perfect satire of the vengeful superhero cliché is born in Rorschach. But the writing is so strong that he becomes an icon in himself. This is true of every single main character, an astonishing achievement in any form of storytelling. The art is clear, beautiful, has a wonderfully clean eighties to feel to every panel in its tones, but is timeless at the same time. It is a joy to read from start to finish, and it has my full recommendation. Zack Snyder however, is no doubt Joe Hollywood. His movies are loud, action packed, and absolutely soaked in CGI and digital effects. The film suffered much criticism for being visually similar to the source, but containing none of the depth. There is some weight to this, especially as there is so much more material in the original - for example, pages of Rorschach’s medical notes, revealing much more about the character than the film goes into.
However, he is a director I have a soft spot for. From Dawn of the Dead to 300 he adores his source material, and tries to keep the feel of the original alive. This is no different with Watchmen, and a drinking game could easily be made of following the book along with the movie. Across the board the actors become their characters, and the film maintains much of the emotion of the comic. His effort might be straight off the studio lot, but this isn't a cold CGI romp that the superhero genre so often descends to. Compared to something like Catwoman or Fantastic Four, I only wish Watchmen was the standard for Hollywood turning a piece of art bad. Verdict: I think that film gets an unfair rap, and is an extremely pleasurable way to spend two hours of your life. But the graphic novel is just a wonderful story that manages to fit in a lot of serious ideas into a classic format. Book.