And yes, this gets long. Very long. Appropriately so, for something so lengthy itself.
First off, yes. I've read the comics. I've owned a copy of the TPB since '95. So I kinda know what I'm talking about. At least as much as I ever do. ;) It has been awhile since I've reread it fully, but I have flipped through the book a LOT this past month or two. Which is almost more linear than the story itself.
Second of all, you need to keep in mind that this is not a perfect adaptation. It never would be. It never could be. It never should be. If for no other reason than the Black Freighter segments can, should, and were removed from any movie adaptation. But even the most slavish person making this into a movie, with all the money in the world, without corporate interests poking their noses in to change things, would never make a shot for shot, page for page remake of the story. And I think that's fair. When I see an adaptation, I want something that is true to the spirit of the story, and captures most of it, but is whomever is making it, I want to see the world through their eyes, their interpretation.
And that is very much what the theatrical version of Watchmen is, Zack Snyder's Watchmen. And I'm ok with that. This movie gets right more than I ever thought any adaptation could get right. For me, it hits about 95% of what a Watchmen movie should have been. Most of the complaints from the prerelease days fall under what I like to call 'yellow spandex' syndrome. Or I guess this time it should be yellow latex, but I digress. ;) Online fanboys like to take any and every piece of info given to them, and declare the movie is a piece of crap before ever seeing it. Usually once it's seen, in its entirety, people come around. A movie is a whole, not the pieces. It's not a shot of some slomo fighting. It's not Wolverine in black leather instead of yellow spandex. It's not a badly lit photo hastily snapped with bad flash making the actors look horrible that snuck out. It's not replacing a giant squid with...well. I don't wanna spoil those who don't know.
Almost all the characters are translated to the screen as they were seen on the page. Everyone is whom you expect them to be. They're all there, larger than life, and yet still human underneath the trappings. That is really one of the big strengths to the story. The characters and actors playing them, really nailed each part. The weakest of the bunch is probably Malin Ackerman's Silk Spectre. A lot of the emotion of her arc is lost in the film, and while I would never call her performance BAD, with everyone else in the movie giving such stellar performances, hers really stands out in the crowd. I don't think that's her fault, and I don't think any other actress would have given much of a better performance. Malin could only work with what she was given, and the editors did the rest. I have no problems with her performance, aside from a few weak lines, it just needed to be more there. The part that really came off the worst was her revelation of who her father was. It was well played for what there was, but with so much that had to be left out of the movie, the moment never quite clicked for me. It should have been this major revelation we built to, and the audience suddenly has this "Oh my god!" moment, but it just sort of happens.
That's actually my biggest complaint of the movie, stuff just sort of happens. Which isn't to say things happen without reason. The plot is very much the comicbook's plot, and there's a logic running through it all. While this movie is an amazing translation of the book, the characters are there, SO many of the scenes are there, so much of the dialogue is there...it all seems kinda flat. The movie rushes along, presenting us with scene after scene, but it's missing something. I really think the problem comes down to pacing. We're not given time to breathe, to process things, take in the spectacle, and live with these characters as much as we would in a longer film. The first 20, 30 minutes, maybe the first hour, are simply amazing. It's an almost perfect distillation of the first few chapters of the book, with scenes and dialogue taken whole cloth in some cases. Sometime after the Comedian's funeral though, things just start rocketing along, and stuff is cut, and it loses that something. I eagerly await the almost hour longer extended cut later this year, just to see how that all plays out. I hope and suspect it'll be considerably better paced, and an even better movie. The LotR movies were much improved in their unedited (You know what I mean...) states, for the most part. Longer, yet the pacing felt more natural, and because you were given the time to spend with the characters, they actually ended up feeling shorter to me.
The ending is probably always going to bother me. No, not the squid. I can actually live with out that. If sacrificing the squid for this new ending is what allowed Snyder to make this movie as damned close as it is? Then I say pass the calamari, man. Compromises must always be made. Zack could have fought for the squid, and maybe he should have, but the movie would have likely suffered elsewhere, possibly in even worse ways. Snyder deserves a whole ton of credit for getting this movie as close as it is, even if it's not perfect. Warts and all, he made an amazingly close adaptation.
The squid was, ultimately, replacable. I mean it. As long as something goes kerflooey in NYC 35 minutes ago and draws the world together, it really doesn't matter what it is, as long as the movie builds up to it. I will always miss the squid, and the cleverness of the plot behind it, but the option the movie takes works on its own merits. It is nowhere near as elegant or bizarre or awesome as the squid, but I can live with what we got, although I will always think of what we could have had. If there had been squid, and allusions to it throughout the movie, then this film may well rank even higher to me. However, I wonder which the GENERAL populace would embrace more?
The stuff afterwards is what really gets me. The change of Dan and Laurie still living as themselves, not in hiding, and apparently still plotting to fight crime just feels so *wrong* to me. The price of Adrian's new world order is the existence of heroes. They go away, we do for ourselves, and the world is a better place. It's the sacrifice of Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Rorscach, Doctor Manhattan, Comedian, etc, that makes some of them 'real heroes' and are saving the world by going away. But in the movie, it's implied that Dan and laurie are still Dan and Laurie, and Archie's being fixed up as we speak.
I guess in the post-attack world, there will still be crime, obviously. And they'll need heroes to stop the criminals, but it just feels wrong, missing the point. In the book, we've moved beyond superheroes, its about the people. Honestly, the movie version of events probably makes more sense that they stick around, but it feels somehow less. Dan and Laurie went into hiding in the book to protect themselves, as much the world. In the movie, them remaining open and free feels like too much of a tacit approval of Veidt's actions, and I just can't quite buy that. In my head, I'm going to assume they'll subvert Adrian's world, but I doubt that was the intention of the movie. ;)
When I watched clips of the movie, mostly action scenes to whet the appetites of viewers, there was quite the wealth of slow motion photography. Which comes with Zack Snyder directing, really. A lot of it was not sitting well with me. I had to step back, and realise it's only a few minutes out of a two and a half hour long experience. While there is still more slomo in the movie, once I got into the movie, I barely noticed it. It is the language of this film, and the means through which it expresses its story. It's like a musical; if you just see some people randomly singing in a short, out of context clip, then you kinda feel ill at ease, but once you sit down for the whole thing, you know what you're in for, and accept the language of the film. Whole, not parts, once again.
I'm sure there's more thoughts in my head. Matthew Goode's Ozy, JDM's Comedian, JEH's Rorschach was frigging awesome...
In short, what this movie gets right, it *really* gets right, and knocks a lot of stuff right out of the park, in ways I never thought any big budget Hollywood adaptation would ever pull off on the big screen. It has a few failings, and isn't perfect, and what's wrong are kinda big issues for me, yet... There's just too much good here, with a strong possibility that it will get even better when the movie is extended with more time to breathe, and some favourite scenes and lines and stuff are slipped back in.
This may not be the perfect treatment that the Watchmen comics deserve, but it is pretty godsdamned close. There is a lot of love and reverence this movie clearly shows for the books. It is oozing from every film cell. This was an act of love on so many parts. The actors got it, the writers got it, and the director got it, almost completely. I think they got it even more than what we can see now would imply, but compromises were made. Zack fought for quite a bit of stuff, but he couldn't win every battle. It's amazing he won this much.
My rating is bouncing wildly between 7 and 9 giant squid aliens, out of 10. The 9 was my instant out-of-theatre reaction. And I still lean heavily that way. But deep down, I acknowledge that there are problems, and this could have been better, so I lean back towards the lower score. Sitting back objectively, it's not worthy of the 9, but as a fan, who just had a very enjoyable 2:45 hours of his life taken, the fanboy in me, really wants to give it that 9, warts and all. However, I think I'll reserve any final judgement for the extended cut.
To sum up, this is a really very good comicbook action adventure movie, and even manages to have a few things to say, just like the comic. If you're a fan of the comic, and can put you're expectations outside the door for a bit, you should come away at the very least pleasently surprised, and you may even find you enjoy it.
And now you can tell me how horribly wrong I am, and what a fucking travesty the movie was, shitting all over Alan Moore's grand story. =D