The event that comic book geeks and fanboys have been waiting for with equal amounts of dread and excitement has finally arrived: Watchmen, arguably one the most important and influential comic books of all time, has arrived on the silver screen.
It’s been an arduous journey, to be sure. Over the years, the film has passed from writer to writer, director to director, with nothing ever coming of the efforts but more frustration and doubt (Terry Gilliam once described Watchmen as unfilmable, which ought to tell you something). But that’s not really surprising: Watchmen is an incredibly complex work, full of deeply layered narratives and intricate visuals. That, combined with the cynicism, and even nihilism, that runs through its pages, as well as the alternate timeline setting, would be daunting for any filmmaker.
And so it was somewhat surprising when a relative newcomer—Zack Snyder—was eventually chosen to direct the film. Snyder burst onto the scene with the 2004 remake of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead and 2006’s 300, an adaptation of a Frank Miller comic. Given that he had just a few films (and music videos) under his belt, it was surprising that he, and not a more, shall we say, “experienced” director, had been selected.
With the hyper-stylish 300, Snyder proved that he had more than enough panache to pull off any of Watchmen‘s visuals. But 300 was all style, and little else, which just wouldn’t fly with Watchmen, with its convoluted plot-lines, philosophical ponderings, genre deconstructions, and moral dilemmas.
So how did Snyder do? From a technical standpoint, the film is a smash, full of dazzling visuals, impressive casting and production design, and plenty of Snyder’s trademark style.
But that doesn’t necessarily make Watchmen a good film.