Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN. A successful adaptation of the famous comic book

I liked the film very much and immediately after the screening I knew that it was not a momentary impression.


28 July 2023

A British writer considered a genius and a work that has been considered impossible to film for years. An ambitious director with little experience who wants to cope with an overwhelming task and fans who put a cross on the production long before the premiere. As it turns out, the similarities between The Lord of the Rings and Watchmen don’t end here. Zack Snyder, like Peter Jackson, undertook to transfer a huge amount of material to the screen and also, like the New Zealander, invested heavily in special effects. Both also hired relatively obscure actors for their projects. Although the whole thing did not give such a great result as the adaptation of Tolkien’s prose, the film positively surprised me and definitely exceeded my expectations.

In the 1930s, comic books with superheroes appeared in the United States, which immediately won the sympathy of the masses of readers. But what would happen if heroes with superhuman abilities became an inspiration for ordinary people? It is in such an alternative reality that the action of Watchmen takes place. Masked heroes with no supernatural abilities fight dangerous criminals in the streets. However, this state of affairs does not last long, as their activities are outlawed. Some of them go into the shadows, some reveal their identities, and a few, choosing the life of an outcast, decide to continue roaming the streets under the cover of night.

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The first thing to pay attention to is the visual layer. It is impossible to deny the creators imagination and skills in giving comic frames a film form. Some shots look like they were taken straight from a comic book. Places, situations, colors – everything looks right, but there is one “but”… I would not like to start a tirade entitled “a movie is not a comic” but a few things should actually be changed. The real shock is caused by the first shot showing Richard Nixon and his rubber-cartoon face. Terrified, I look into the comic and see… the same caricatured, big nose and exaggerated profile. However, this is only one picture, and in addition it shows the president in the dark and slightly from the back, and in the film this figure is exposed even too much. In addition, a few dialogues, which in the original did not disturb, but in the film are at best average.

In the introduction, I have already mentioned that Snyder used a similar procedure as Jackson and focused on little-known faces when making his film. The idea is brilliant in its simplicity – so that the characters on the screen are still characters, not actors that we have seen before in many other films. The weakest link here turned out to be Malin Akerman, or Laurie Jupiter. She is not completely wooden, but rather unconvincing. You can also have doubts about the choice of the film Ozymandias, who, on the one hand, looks like a weakling and, when speaking, mumbles terribly. However, on the other hand, it seems to be thoughts completely elsewhere, somewhere in its own world. And I don’t mean the actor, but the character – thanks to this “Ozzy” becomes much more interesting. The best actor in the cast is Jackie Earle Haley, who played Rorschach – a masked, unpredictable and dangerous vigilante, without any brakes. Some suspect him of mental illness, not even supposing how close they are to the truth.

Slow motion everywhere

Now it’s time for the inevitable – the unfortunate slo-mo that Snyder is famous for using. Everything is shot in slow motion in Watchmen and I’m not exaggerating here – only the dialogue is normal, and that’s just because it’s easier to understand it that way. At this point, there should have been some snide remark and mockery of the creator of the 300, but honestly… I liked it. Of course, there were some exceptions that struck with artificiality, but you can easily count them on the fingers of one hand. In most cases, slo-mo not only does not interfere, but also helps to build the atmosphere. Snyder approaches this issue consistently – you can see that it is an indicator of his style, which he apparently does not want to change. Either you buy Snyder’s vision and enjoy it, or you are put off by it and don’t try to delve into it. There is nothing strange about it. In addition to some misguided uses of slo-mo, one more thing stings the eyes – you can’t always see that millions have been pumped into the special effects. The figure of Manhattan was created entirely by computer and presents itself in two ways – alternately sensational (mainly in close-ups) and clumsy (in further shots).

The paper original is made up of twelve chapters that present the events from different points of view, with alternate characters acting as narrators. It was quite a feat to pull this together to maintain consistency and clarity, but I think Snyder and the writers came out unscathed. You can write that he is a weak director (well, he certainly does not belong to the top), but you cannot deny his mastery of the short form – at this point I refer to the opening credits of Dawn of the Dead, which borders on genius. This is how Snyder approaches the subsequent scenes of Watchmen – the opening credits (excellent), the story of Sally Jupiter, the origins of Dr. Manhattan and the story of Rorschach. Each of these scenes fits perfectly into the whole, and when taken out of context, it loses little.

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Of course, there were (some significant) changes compared to the paper version of Watchmen  The most controversial is, of course, the change of the ending. In principle, it retains its overtones, but shortens the film by several minutes, which would undoubtedly be needed to add another thread. Snyder also added some scenes from himself. These are mostly action scenes that are missing from the source material. I won’t be surprised if many people find Watchmen simply boring – the first half of the action hardly moves forward at all, and the viewer watches flashbacks – one after the other. Despite the above changes, the film remains surprisingly faithful to the original and sticks to it with all its strength.

While at cinema, I witnessed a group of gentlemen in extremely baggy trousers leaving the cinema hall just after emptying the buckets of popcorn. Apparently, they expected something light and pleasant … Well, Watchmen is not like that. I thought for a long time what rating I could give it. I liked the film very much and immediately after the screening I knew that it was not a momentary impression. After some time, however, it occurred to me that I wanted to see Snyder’s work again. Yes, a work, because even the work of a craftsman can be called that. That’s why the rating went up one notch.



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