Watchmen – A lucky break

Having been lucky enough to know a good friend who was able to sneak me into an early press screening of the long-awaited, much-hyped, and already close-to-tiresome Watchmen adaptation, I’m somewhat relieved to relate here that the title of today’s posting refers not only to the fact that I was lucky to catch the flick before the wave of anticipation crests, but also that it’s not remotely as bad as I had feared –indeed, assumed– it would be. My first sneaking suspicion that I may have been a bit over-zealous in my blanket condemnation of all things Zack Snyder-related came upon re-visiting his version of Dawn of the Deadrecently on DVD. Because let’s face it: that was another contemporary adaptation of a ‘classic’ text which throngs of devotees and other assorted naysayers had rejected in advance, only to make a quick about-face once it actually saw the light of day.

My own reluctance to embrace the hype came pretty much entirely from the total failure of the atrocious 300, followed by the first Watchmen trailer made up entirely of slow-motion shots that recreate famous panels from the book. Perhaps I should have taken into account the fact that Frank Miller’s 300comic book wasn’t perhaps the most compelling source text to start off with anyway, and that the film’s version attendant emphasis on macho violence and kitschy homo-erotica could hardly be deemed all that surprising.

But now that I’ve actually experienced the thing first-hand, I must admit that I can’t imagine a film version that is substantially better than the one that looks likely to become an international phenomenon as of next week: it’s extremely faithful to the book without entirely mummifying the source text; the casting is fiendishly clever, with Patrick Wilson a particular stand-out; there is plenty of delicious eye candy throughout; there are a few moments when the film’s editing comes close to resembling the book’s extraordinary use of symmetrical mirroring devices; and its depiction of Rorschach as the story’s ‘hero’ is neither more nor less problematic than it is in the book (although the one moment of applause in this screening occurred when that sociopathic loner deep-fried another inmate and let the others know that they’re locked up with him rather than the other way around).

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