‘Watchmen’ a winner for rabid fans

By Tom VanBuren

Let’s say you spend the entire football season waiting for the Super Bowl, but when it arrives,… Let’s say you spend the entire football season waiting for the Super Bowl, but when it arrives, you aren’t familiar with either of the teams playing. You watch it anyway, because you like football, but the game just doesn’t engage you. You don’t recognize anyone. You don’t get the references to earlier in the season. You might even get a little bored. Every time the fans around you get excited over something seemingly insignificant, you can’t figure out why, and when it’s over and they’re all hotly debating the game’s missteps and triumphs, you can’t help feeling a little left out. If you’re familiar with ‘Watchmen,’ Alan Moore’s cerebral deconstruction of superheroes that revolutionized a genre and lent new credibility to an entire medium, your loins have likely quivered with anticipation of Zack Snyder’s film adaptation for months. If such is the case, get thee to a theater ‘mdash; this is the ‘Watchmen’ you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve never read Moore’s magnum opus, you might not be so lucky. Snyder defies the rules of adaptation, ignoring the why and how of the artistic license necessary to successfully capture the essence of a story in one medium and present it in another. Instead he replicates, he worships, he slavishly adheres to the source material in a way that pleases the indoctrinated and alienates the casual consumer. Rest assured that if you are the former, you won’t be disappointed. Without exception, fans familiar with the source material will go into this movie with a mental checklist ‘mdash; their personal collection of favorite dialogue bubbles and splash panels that they pray to a naked blue god have been included. Snyder packs in as many as his two-hour-and-40-minute run time allows, excising the insightful but superfluous secondary characters, subplots and supplemental materials that made Moore’s alternate, dystopian version of 1985 so eerily believable. What we’re left with are the bare bones of the plot, picked clean of anything less than absolutely necessary but with much of the book’s symbolisms and idiosyncrasies still intact. Such is Snyder’s devotion to the text ‘mdash; most fans will leave the theater with their mental checklists near-completely filled out. But what, then, will those without checklists see in ‘Watchmen’? Most likely, a lot of unanswered questions. A frustratingly dense first hour, characters with barely explained motivations, unapologetic violence and a glowing blue man inexplicably missing his pants. The nature of this as a lone film strips away one of the book’s most valuable assets ‘mdash; the opportunity to pause. Though it could be read in about five dedicated hours, the sheer headiness of the narrative, the themes and the abundant moral ambiguities are too heavy to digest so quickly. It’s akin to being force-fed a 10-course meal ‘mdash; if you aren’t starving for every last morsel, you’ll be sick of it all long before dessert.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ In terms of casting, special effects, soundtrack, camerawork and what-have-you, this has the makings of an extraordinary action film. On paper it looks great, and to those looking for a panel-by-panel recreation, it very well could be ‘mdash; but that audience could also prove to be a little too small for a project so ambitious. If there’s anything to learn from ‘Watchmen,’ it’s that some things will just always look better on paper.