Sunday, March 08, 2009

Today we went to see the movie version of Watchmen. I liked it but my companion, who hadn't read the graphic novel, didn't.

It is remarkably faithful to the story, even though there is one major change to the ending done for fairly obvious reasons. It also captures the look of the comic very well, as well as the spirit. There are a few problems - in particular, the musical choices are either weak or obvious uses of classic rock, the non-super powered Watchmen seem to have near superhuman strength, speed and resilience that is lacking in the book and the cramming of almost all of the material into the movie give it a somewhat frantic, hard to grasp feel.

But the movies biggest problem is something well beyond the filmmakers control - the fading of the threat of nuclear war in the popular consciousness. Back when the book was written, and set, the fact that nuclear war was a possibility, and the possible resulting horrors was a part of popular culture and strongly felt in the psyche of most intelligent people. Today, that feeling is not only not present, but it is almost totally forgotten as part of popular culture. This makes the central issue of the film, the threat of nuclear war and what some characters do about it, feel strange and unfamiliar to the watcher and undermine the emotional center of the story, making the extreme actions taken seem more grotesque than they appeared at the time.

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