Who Watches the Watchmen?
by Shawn Lampron
To begin, let me admit that I’ve always desired to write an expansive article on Watchmen for this Website. When I type “expansive”, I hint at Biblical lengths of Microsoft Word, consumed cashews and sodas and numerous mp3s blasting from my study. With the upcoming movie treatment, it seemed like a perfect time to delve into this opus. However, I managed to maneuver through my own geeky self-importance and realize that a detailed look at this epic work would reveal nothing new to the diehard devotee, and do little more than spoil the movie for the casual fan. Thus, I was forced to find a new tact before realizing that a cancerous worry was something that I needed to voice: It may be better if this movie had never come out.
Now, let’s preface the situation first. The history of the Watchmen movie has taken numerous turns, as the image above indicates. As far back as the late-eighties, there has been a desire to film the most critically-acclaimed graphic novel of all time. Numerous versions have risen and fallen, with many industry vets in Hollywood throwing up their hands and declaring such a complex work unfilmable. Finally, in the hands of a giddy man-boy named Zack Snyder, the movie has been made. While I admit the trailer gives me shivers and I will be seeing it this weekend, I repeat my words of doom that this movie should have stayed dead, lost in Hollywood hell.
Watchmen has been called the Citizen Kane of comics. It represents, for the comic book geek like me, the great equalizer. While I possess a BA in English, am actively pursuing law school, and have read Chaucer, Swift, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc., I have the wit to realize that many comics, particularly the classics, suffer from tepid writing. However, Watchmen is the one work every geek can point towards with a steady hand and say, “Well, if you say comics are crap, read this!” In essence, it’s every comic geek’s last resort.
My wife, for example, has only a passing interest in the medium. At best, she explores it upon occasion only to understand me more. She would never pursue of it of her own volition, but only investigated because she loves me. However, Watchmen was the work that consumed her for a few days and she is now as interested in seeing the movie as I am. Watchmen is something that fills every comic fan with pride, a work in an echelon of its own creation.
Now, if this movie fails, we comic geeks will have lost our last great shot at Oscars and true redemption from the blue bloods who declare that despite the fact that many educated people enjoy the graphic medium, it’s watered-down tripe for dullards. Watchmen by Zack Snyder, though it may be entertaining, will have no The Dark Knight Oscar buzz. That Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger may be the highest a “comic movie” will ever achieve. In essence, our greatest shot is going to be a big swing and a miss. Thoughts?