I’ve held off on posting a review of Watchmen because I’d been hoping to see the movie first, which is available on HBO On Demand right now, but the Writer wants to see it too and our schedules have prevented us from finding the couple hours necessary.
The main reason I want to see the movie is to see how they handled some pretty unlikable characters – The Comedian is a US army shill who tried to rape a fellow hero, Rorschach has the morality of Scott Roeder – able to justify vicious crimes by his uncompromising sense of morality, Doctor Manhattan has all but lost his humanity. I appreciated the sensitivity with which Silk Spectre’s affair with Nite Owl II was handled – while not middle-aged myself, I enjoy seeing a love story between adults who have pasts. I’m not sure if I was supposed to see Nite Owl as slightly pathetic – he really did look owlish, and not particularly heroic, in costume.
The other element that would seem difficult to translate to the screen is the layering, not only of each character’s arcs and flashbacks to earlier days of glory, as well as faux documents interleaved into the books, but also the framing and commentary provided by the pirate comic books being read by a young man sitting at a news stall. It’s occasionally a bit too on the nose, using “voiceover” in the pirate story to comment quite directly on the moral quandaries facing would-be heroes.
Ultimately, I am glad I read Watchmen, but I’m not sure I was entertained by it. The lack of sympathetic characters, the unrelenting negativity (it’s a Cold War work, focusing on Russians, the bomb, the economy, gang violence) – I enjoyed looking for all the literary allusions (the Gordian Knot lock company and so on) and was repaid with them being significant to the plot, but I really just wanted a happy ending.