Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, David Hayter, Alex Tse, and Zack Snyder, 2009

I saw the IMAX version of this movie when it was in theaters, and while I had various thoughts, I didn't really have an answer to the basic question, "How good is it?" Watchmen is, as I've noted from time to time, my favorite book, and this is an astonishingly faithful adaptation — all the more astonishing to me now that I've worked on a similar project and have seen firsthand the sorts of strictures studios tend to impose on this kind of material. But does that make it a good movie?

Having watched it again, I'm now willing to say that it's good — being this faithful to sublime source material, how could it not be — but I can't call it great. There's just not a compelling reason for it to exist. The elements that make this better than the average movie — arresting images, memorable lines, classic characters — are all in the comic already. Yes, it's amazing how much this looks like the comic come to life, how Dreiberg and Kovacs look exactly right, how this somehow made it to the screen without some suit vetoing Dr. Manhattan's dick... but, again, this is all just a matter of matching a work that already exists. The only way the movie actually improves upon the comic, as I noted before, is in giving Laurie a costume that makes her look like a superhero. All the other changes are either neutral or, more often, negative: the new dialogue, the interludes of the old ultraviolence, the lack of clear divisions between chapters, the the compression. The heavy-handed music cues are a particularly glaring misstep; Watchmen is, among many other things, a reflection on the half-century that superhero comics had been around at the time of its publication, so I understand the temptation to use the soundtrack to underscore the procession of eras, but the little music videos embedded in the movie do not work.

Speaking of music, it occurred to me that many of the line readings didn't really work for me because I've been hearing these lines in my head for twenty years and the intonations in the movie didn't always match. The voice in my head generally has a flatter affect. Which reminds me: someone on Youtube slammed Briana Galbraith, whose lovely cover of "Friday" I embedded in my last minutiae post, for her "hipster lack-of-affect singing style" — but my problem with cover songs runs the opposite way. So often cover artists think the way to justify their effort is to dress it up with a lot of flourishes and fake emotion and they really couldn't be more wrong. That doesn't mean that I want everyone do to the David Mamet thing with deliberately wooden acting, just... sometimes less is more.

(But sometimes, as in the case of the score this movie will get compared to the book, less is less.)

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