I’ve largely avoided what seems like a thousand clips, interviews, reviews and rants on the film, mostly because it just seems like noise generated by the Warner Bros. marketing and hype machine. The proof always is in the final film, and I’d prefer not to have my expectations raised, lowered or otherwise messed with by that sort of thing.
What I have done is reread the graphic novel, just finishing the final chapter earlier today. This is the first time I’ve read the book all the way through in at least 10 years and possibly as long as 15. I first read the book in 1988, when I bought the trade at All About Books and Comics on a hot summer day. The clerk commented on my choice as he rung up my purchase, saying something along the lines of wishing he could read it again himself for the first time.
Rereading the graphic novel drives home the truth that no film will be able to replicate the experience of the book. I don’t care if it’s a 12-part HBO series, or if Orson Welles or Stanley Kubrick rose from the grave to direct it, or if Alan Moore himself pronounced it perfection. No film can truly capture this experience because it’s designed to be a comic book through and through.
So that leaves me hoping for the next best thing — a good adaptation that does as much justice as you can possibly do to a book like that. I’m hopeful that this will be the case, even as critics veer wildly between pans and praise. That they’re producing the separate animated DVD with the Tales of the Black Freighter segment is, to me, a good sign that Zack Snyder and co. took this film very seriously and have tried their best to be true to both its stories and its underlying themes.
But I don’t expect this to be hailed as a great film that will take a place in the movie canon similar to the one the graphic novel has in its medium. That it’s different doesn’t bother me. And having just reread the book, it bothers me even less because Watchmen is a book that has retained its power — perhaps even increased it — in the 20-plus years since it was first published and will remain a powerful and unique experience no matter what I think after the lights come up at the Grove sometime around 11 p.m. this evening.