A Review Of Watchmen: The Graphic Novel
The hottest new movie in America is “Watchmen,” which is based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel “of the same name.” Watchmen is often referred to as the best graphic novel of all time, but it doesn’t quite live up to hype.
The graphic novel is a bit disorganized, hard to follow at times, jumps around a lot, and most of the characters aren’t particularly appealing. There’s no Peter Parker “everyman” character to love. The heroes often aren’t particularly heroic. The most powerful character in the book, Dr. Manhattan, has the same problem as Superman: he’s essentially impossible to defeat, but he’s even harder to relate to as a character.
Still, the book has two tremendous strengths. First off, it does the same thing that The Incredibles did, albeit in a much darker fashion — it humanizes the super-heroes. One of the “good guys” is utterly immoral. Another is portrayed as a nerdy doofus. Dr. Manhattan’s behavioral patterns are reminiscent of a person with autism.
Also, the book covers something else that would surely happen if there really were super-heroes: the government gets involved. Eventually, being a masked vigilante is made illegal — unless you work for the government fighting in Vietnam, controlling riots, or taking on organized crime. That gritty sense of “realism” injected into the story is its greatest strength.
Scratch that. The greatest strength of the Watchmen is Rorschach. He’s a dark, violent, angry, deranged, paranoid, uncompromising, moral absolutist who sees the world in black and white terms. He sees himself as a lone warrior fighting an endless war for justice in a corrupt world gone wrong. Rorschach draws your attention to the page and wraps it around his fist in a way that few other comic book characters can manage. The closest thing to him that comes to mind is Wolverine or perhaps some of the darker, more obsessive versions of Batman that have been penned.
All that said, the Watchmen does not strike me as a graphic novel that will translate particularly well to film — even with 300‘s Zack Snyder directing. It’s just too disjointed and has too many weak plot threads that don’t have much of a payoff. The twist at the end is also, in my humble opinion, more than a little bit disappointing.
PS: The real best graphic novel of all-time? 300.
PS #2: I’m dubious about how good the Watchmen will be on film. But, know what would make for an incredible film? “Rorschach: The Movie.”
PS #3: Here’s a trailer for the film.