In 1987 I was a sophomore in high school and about to get my first real education in comic books. My boyfriend at the time was a huge fan of Iron Man and I would find myself with him on a Saturday morning at the local comic book shop. It just so happened that this comic book shop was next door to a Laundromat so I would do my laundry there once a week and hang out at the shop with the owner. Eventually he let me sit behind the counter and read comic books while my laundry went through its cycles next door.
I have a collection of comic books that fits neatly into one collector’s box. I limited myself to the cross-over series between DC Comics and Marvel and a couple of graphic novels including “The Dark Knight” and “Watchmen.”
I read “Watchmen” only once, but the story and images stayed with me for a long time afterward. I contemplated reading it again, but never got around to it. I remember thinking it would be a great movie, but thought the story would be impossible to replicate in a motion picture. Everything that’s been written about “Watchmen” is no exaggeration. For those who have read it, the graphic novel really did change the game.
In the months leading up to the release of the “Watchmen” movie, I contemplated pulling the graphic novel out of storage to re-immerse myself in the world so masterfully created by writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. I never got the chance, but I rationalized that it would give me the ability to watch the movie without any preconceived ideas or expectations.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the movie since seeing it on Monday. Director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse have done a superb job of creating a “Watchmen” movie. From where I stand, Snyder’s entire creative team has really pulled off a miracle. The movie is compelling, beautifully photographed and well-acted. It’s also loads of fun to watch.
Like the graphic novel, the movie version of “Watchmen” is more about story and character then action and special effects, although it’s got plenty of both. What’s most interesting about “Watchmen” is that it’s not a franchise. There were 12 comic books, which were bound into a graphic novel, and then that was it. It doesn’t have the same long history and deep story well to draw from as other comic book superheroes. The world that Moor and Gibbons were able to create in 12 comic books is as richly detailed as any long-running series.
I asked a friend if “Watchmen” would be able to pull in a half billion dollars like “The Dark Knight” and he quickly said no because the characters in “Watchmen” have not pervaded the popular conscience like a Spider-Man, Superman or Batman. It’s true; if you haven’t read “Watchmen,” chances are you aren’t familiar with the names Silk Spectre, Ozymandis, Dr. Manhattan, The Comedian, Night Owl, and Rorschach.
Snyder wisely chose actors who are also not as well known as the characters they play. While they are all familiar, there’s certainly a difference between, say, Tom Cruise playing Night Owl as opposed to Patrick Wilson who is actually in the movie. The actors were all well cast, especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.
At Wonder-Con—a comic book and sci-fi convention in San Francisco, where Snyder and the cast spoke to fans about the movie—a guest asked Malin Akerman, who plays Laurie Jupiter/ Silk Spectre II, if she was surprised to be cast since she had mainly been in comedies. Akerman said she was glad Snyder believed that she would be able to pull off the role. Snyder should be commended for casting the movie according to who would be the best actor for the role rather than who would be the best actor to draw in audiences.
I feel the same way about the movie as I did about the book when I read it in 1987. It exceeded my expectations and raised the bar of creative excellence in its field.