Sunday, March 08, 2009


Compare & Contrast: WATCHMEN
by Mark Earl Yap

Radioactive Culture

Watchmen (Comics) | Watchmen (Film)
9.8 of 10 | 9.0 of 10
Writer: Alan Moore | Director: Zack Snyder
Artist: David Gibbons | Screenplay: David Hayter

4 years ago, when I started earning an income, the first things I spent my money on were graphic novels. At first, I just bought trade paperbacks of popular superhero comics. But I grew tired of the superheroes. So I started digging around for something different. During that time, Time magazine had just published their list of "Top 100 novels", and Watchmen was the only graphic novel on that list. The book made a lot of commotion back then. So I thought, even though its pages were still rife with costumed heroes, I'd give it shot. After reading it, my outlook on the mainstream comics industry has forever changed. It has matured.

Watchmen, the graphic novel, just blew my guts and mind away. I've never read a superhero book that displays plenty of realism. The setting, especially, an alternate reality that resembles much of the 80's, with all its political issues intact (mainly the Nuclear Arms Race), is very realistic. Only the existence of masked heroes and their technologies have altered real-world events, like the Vietnam War and the utilization of electric cars. The characters are also real and -with the exception of Dr. Manhattan- powerless. The superheroes have flaws and issues. They're not your typical role models for 10 year-old kids. Their morality are neither black nor white but different shades of gray. In short, their superhero image was deconstructed, and that's what I really love about the graphic novel.

For the most part, I'm happy to say that the things I like about the graphic novel was faithfully adapted into the film. The setting, the themes and the works I've mentioned came to life on the big screen. Almost every panel in the graphic novel (especially the sex scene) was put to motion in the film. Even the dialogue was pretty much lifted from the word bubbles and made audible. But what I really loved about the movie are the cast. All of them did an exemplary job of bringing each Watchman to life. Jackie Earle Harley, especially, did a bad-ass job playing Rorschach. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's performance also made me love The Comedian (he's my least favorite character in the graphic novel). As for Malin Akerman, I couldn't think of any actress that can play a much sexier Silk Spectre than her.

But changes and tweaks there were in the film, however. But most were necessary changes and insignificant enough (unless you're a purist amongst purists) to affect the main plot and theme of the film. The biggest tweak was probably the vehicle of doomsday in the plot (which I won't spoil). But I think it was a good move because it made the movie less pulpy by eliminating the mad science aspect that was present in the graphic novel. The book's histories, the advent of costumed heroes and political events, were also reduced and refitted into the opening scene. So the details that made the atmosphere so dense in the graphic novel is diluted in the movie. The Tales of the Black Freighter, a sub story in the comics, was also entirely removed from the film.

Overall, as a fan of the graphic novel, I was very pleased with the Watchmen. It is a good example of a comics-to-film adaptation because it stayed true to the comics. Even the cast worked hard to accurately portray the characters in the movie. So that means a lot to me. True, there were tweaks. But they were too minor to alter the film's main plot and theme -which is the deconstruction of the superhero image (a nice theme in the thick of superhero flicks). The only thing bad I can think about it is that the film was too loyal to the graphic novel. Which means that the film can become too convoluted to those who haven't read the comic version. Also, it probably won't draw crowds that don't like comics in the first place.

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