Is ‘Watchmen’ the ‘Fight Club’ of superhero films?

March 10, 2009 | 11:52 p.m.

Watchmen_premiere

Some films are "must-see," but "Watchmen" is more than that: Zack Snyder’s masked-man epic is  the "must-discuss" movie of 2009.

Like some spandex-cinema version of "Eyes Wide Shut," "The Passion of the Christ" or "Fight Club," the movie has divided not only the critics but also the paying audience and, in a curious way, stirred debate among people who haven’t even seen it.

"Watchmen" is the torrid topic on Twitter, an ongoing soapbox subject at YouTube, and the inspiration of a free-for-all on Facebook. One of my old friends has changed his Facebook photo to a frowning yellow face to mourn the movie’s failure; one of my other pals has changed his image to the pulsing blue face of Dr. Manhattan to celebrate the film’s triumph. For fans of the bestselling graphic novel of all time, it’s not enough to see the $150-million adaptation, they must weigh in whether it is Epic Film or Epic Fail.

One fan’s view, left on the comments page here at Hero Complex: "Stunning, ‘Watchmen Is a visceral assault on the in the senses. Go see it You’ll like it." Another respondent was less inspired: "Worst movie ever." Fans couldn’t even agree on what they saw on the screen. One Hero Complex reader wrote: "I came out astonished. The movie is a great adaptation of that novel staying as true to its roots as possible." Another moaned: "Why change the story from the book?"

There are quite a few predictions that the movie will drop off considerably after the opening-weekend surge by hard-core comics fans and the mainstream-media reviews (which were not especially kind; check out the critics roundup I posted or just read Kenneth Turan’s sharply executed review, which is about the best I’ve read and representative of the widely held view that in essence boils down to the statement "If you’re a passionate fan of the book you’ll enjoy the film, but otherwise…"). But even the money-making performance of the film is open to interpretation, as you can see in Patrick Goldstein’s Big Picture column today.

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Personally, I thought the film had outsized amibition, an obvious passion for the source material and some truly great moments (that staggeringly good early montage sequence, the sequence where Dr. Manhattan slides back-and-forth through time recounting his life journey and, well, pretty much any scene with Jackie Earle Haley) but long chunks where it feels somewhat hollow. I found myself wondering how anyone who hadn’t read the book could hang in for the loooong haul of the movie. I also winced whenever the actor playing Richard Nixon came on screen with his hambone imitation and rubber nose.

At the same time, I’m oddly proud of the film for even existing. It took a comic book series I adored since the day it came out and made it, with great reverence, into nothing less than the boldest popcorn movie ever made. Snyder somehow managed to get a major studio to make a movie with no stars, no "name" superheroes and a hard R-rating, thanks to all those broken bones, that oddly off-putting Owl Ship sex scene and, of course, the unforgettable glowing blue penis.

I think there’s a good chance that, like "Fight Club," this movie will echo in pop culture for quite a while and become a landmark moment that will take on different contours when viewed in hindsight. Not everyone agrees with me, of course …

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Here are some views from Hero Complex readers. (I’m not fixing up the grammar or spelling, just giving you raw feed):

Adrienne was upset that she didn’t see the massive alien squid…

The Watchmen movie killed the meaning of the comic.  By changing the ending to a drab, easy-to-digest Hollywood canned finale, the entire meaning of the story became convoluted.  I was so angry when I walked out of the theater!  Good for Moore, he must have known that they would ruin his masterpiece in typical generic Hollywood fashion.  I regret having seen it actually. I understand omitting some parts as was necessary, but changing the ending killed the depth found in the novel.

Dodger, however, was thrilled that Snyder left the tentacles out…

Yes, the ending was changed. Thank the gods. The one part of the original graphic novel that always bothered me was the absurd notion that a society — even one with Dr. Manhattan in/near it, would believe the silliness of "Giant mutant brain creature from another dimension destroyed Manhattan" or that that should somehow make the world unify. It was always stupid. Yes, I love the graphic novel — until they were stolen I had the original separate issue releases of the whole thing sitting right on the shelf next to my Cerebus phone books…

Mike would have been fine if the movie stuck to lower Manhattan…

The only thing worth seeing in this movie is the nude superhero. And 3 minutes rather than 3 hours would have been plenty.

Someone who calls themselves Me was offended by the movie…

would have never taken my daughter to see this if I had known. Super Hero Porn Movie is what this is and it should be rated RR

Carol was dazzled…

I went to the movie expecting disappointment.  I came out astonished.  I don’t believe Watchmen will only be appreciated by your typical "fanboy", it has general appeal for those that expect substance in a movie  Having said that I have come to the conclusion that those who walked out 2 hrs into the movie or who claim that it is boring obviously have not read the novel and were expecting something along the lines of Spiderman or the Hulk.  Watchmen is by no means a comic, it is an exceptional novel.  The movie is a great adaptation of that novel staying as true to its roots as possible.

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Meanwhile, RC stormed out of the movie lobby…

worst movie ever. the movie sucks i should of asked for my money back. what a waste of my time and money

K. Castro liked some things, disliked most…

What "Watchmen" grossed this past weekend doesn’t interest me; I’ll tell you why it WON’T be among the top grossing films next weekend: This is a very badly made movie. …"Watchmen" was flawed in a big way, because throughout the course of the movie, the characters were developed in such a way, that by the time the movie ended, the viewer didn’t care one way or another if they lived or died (exception being Jackie Earle Haley’s character, whom we needed to see more of; and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, who needed more interaction with the other characters in the movie to merit full interest).

Pat wants a do-over version…

If anything, I would love to see Watchmen done again in 10 years time as a 6-episode miniseries on HBO. This way, the serialization will give more impact to both the plot and characters, and severely improve the pace and structure of the story. While I will readily acknowledge that there are several scenes of brilliance, the general mediocrity and haphazardness of the rest of the film far outweighs those few moments of transcendence. Granted, I’d be curious to see the movie again, this time on Blu-ray, but if I had a choice between that and reading the over-sized Watchmen: Absolute Edition, I’d choose the latter any day of the week.

And, finally, Elizabeth Griffin sees a silver lining in a mess of a movie…

A positive thing happening because of the movie is that people previously uninterested are reading the graphic novel. I have a friend who is a comic store owner in the Midwest. He told me that they are selling all of the copies they can keep in stock because "nobody knew what the movie was about".
It’s something.

As you can, see the reaction is all over the place. The thing I wonder, will this debate push people to see the film in its second weekend or will it see a sharp decline? I know people want to talk about it, but do newcomers want to see it?

And what did YOU think of the movie?

– Geoff Boucher

RECENT AND RELATED

Rohrsach_2"Watchmen" screenwriter David Hayter on "moral certitude"

VIDEO: "Watchmen," Saturday morning safe!

The movie’s first weekend: $55 million

"Watchmen" review by Kenneth Turan

Alan Moore on "Watchmen" movie: "I will be spitting venom all over it"

"Watchmen" ski masks? Alan Moore won’t be pleased

WANT MORE? All "Watchmen" coverage at Hero Complex

Credits: Top photo by Chris Pizzello/Associated Press, shows (left to right) Jackie Earle Haley, Carla Gugino, Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, Monday, March 2. All images from the movie courtesy of Warner Bros

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