The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Watchmen’ fails to meet source material

Szymon Ryzner | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Originally released in 1986, the “Watchmen” comic was almost instantaneously greeted with unanimous praise. Covering topics from warmongering to the deification of human scientists, it quickly gained popularity and ultimately achieved a spot on The Times 100 greatest novels. The film is a justification of the novel’s relevance, yet it fails as an influence within current media.For a movie that attempts to Xerox its source material, “Watchmen” introduces flaws that detract from its quality. Instead of creating and establishing the uneasiness of a terrorist-like attack on one of America’s heroes, the film chooses to mimic Nixon and commercials from the 80s. Despite consistent copying of the time period and characters from the comic for the film, “Watchmen” chooses to pursue topics that were insignificant to the viewers and destructive to the building tension. Important dialogues and soliloquies present in the comic were often rushed or avoided, most likely due to the philosophical subject matter that would not appeal to general audiences. An overlong sex scene detracts from the film by breaking momentum only to satisfy the director’s apparent longing for R-rated material. The film often loses sight of its goal, its philosophy and its attempt to appeal to the masses.Despite the lack of blockbuster actors, all of the characters are well received.  Jackie Earle Haley takes on the role of Rorschach with perfect execution, providing both an image and a voice for a character that has fascinated fans for years. He plays the part as though he has lived the character and steals every scene in which he partakes. Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan is also memorable as he provides a foil to the mortal heroes.For the most part, “Watchmen” manages to surround itself with a high quality soundtrack to provide a sort of back-story into the very different world of Watchmen, starting with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Other tracks, such as “All Along The Watchtower” by Hendrix, and “99 Luftballons” by Nena help solidify the films meaning through musical and imagery-oriented allusions. Other original tracks by Tyler Bates contribute and create a feel for the film. Unfortunately these high quality moments are intermittent and often tracks, seemingly provided by the director, detract from the overall soundtrack.The film has moments of brilliance, but succumbs to mediocrity with extreme frequency and this becomes frustrating for the audience. It entangles the viewers with strong characters but fails to deliver a strong conclusion. The development of the heroes seems wasted on the ending, which fails to dignify any characters other than Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach.A common failure of many adaptations, “Watchmen” fails to establish itself as a film of significance by relying too heavily on the source material. It never quite becomes its own work, riding on the coattails of its predecessor. Through flashbacks it builds characters but never quite establishes a soul of its own. The film endlessly relies on the graphic novel for guidance, sacrificing its own identity. As pleasant as it is to witness a simulacrum of the beloved novel, “Watchmen” never comes to life on its own