As Ted notes, the first Watchmen trailer went online today, and it looks fantastic. Every scene looks faithful to the original graphic novel, which is a relief… for now. Pretty much all the major heroes were seen in the trailer, from Rorshach to Ozymandias to Dr. Manhattan to everyone’s favourite, the Comedian.
But will the movie stay true to the graphic novel entirely? Watchmen is an exemplar graphic novel: it showcases all the qualities of a perfect graphic novel. It is a multi-layered, deep narrative that you can read over and over again without ever getting especially tired of it.
The way the rich art blends with the dialogue and narrative is probably what makes the novel so unique. Watchmen is a story that can only be told completely and fulfillingly in the form of a graphic novel. As Alan Moore himself noted, you read a reference in the novel and flip back a few pages to find that reference and you find out something new. You observe the artwork, the backgrounds, the symbolism, and you always learn something new about the complex and beautifully-built world of Watchmen.
The graphic novel is filled with witty juxtapositions, metaphors, hints and other clues. It expertly blends character exploration with a running story that you’ll never guess. Will the movie be able to capture all of this? Can you really make a decent movie while holding all the subliminal qualities of the novel?
Snyder already proved his mettle with 300, but 300 and Watchmen are two completely different ball games. While 300 wasn’t a bad graphic novel, it was a much easier conversion to the film format. And while the movie did introduce a side-plot I do not agree with, the mild change in style only did good. I’d wager to say that for once, in 300‘s case, the movie was more likeable than the original.
But you’d need at least 6 hours of screentime to convey all the raw information Watchmen bombards you with. There are several layers here, each conveying a deeper sense, a greater gravity to the story and its characters. To fully express them as they were in the novel would be a truly epic task to do in some two and a half hours of film. Snyder is going to have to outdo his previous work.
Also, like the comic, will the movie have hidden hints in the background? Will the movie encourage viewers to see it again and again? Most importantly of all, will it be in the same spirit? Already, I can make out that very minor shift in style from the trailer. It’s definitely good and I love the 300-style flashback scenes from Vietnam. But it is also definitely different.
Watchmen has a reputation in the world of graphic novels. The problem is, since movies are a much bigger world, will Watchmen achieve a similar status of recognition? The Dark Knight appears to have made its mark with the critics, giving comic book movies a lot of hope, but not everyone is a Christopher Nolan. Well, maybe Zack Snyder is.
While 300 magnified the original and became a success, the comic had been received similarly. Will the Watchmen movie be received with all the appreciation of the graphic novel? If it is, then it will get ratings and reviews no less than what The Dark Knight is bathing in right now. We definitely hope it does, because with better and better comic book movies (Iron Man included), the entire comic book movie industry might be in for a facelift.
This will result in higher bars for Marvel’s upcoming plethora of movies. Perhaps DC’s empty lineup will also receive some entries, such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Justice League, or of course, the Superman franchise that seems to have gone dead after Brandon Routh donned the red cape.
We shall wait and we shall see. Watchmen comes out on the 6th of March next year. Kick ass, Snyder.