My friend Kevin Kobasic, the insanely-talented illustrator and caricature poobah over at Kevie Metal, offers a fascinating perspective on Watchmen, reconciling his impression of the film with his love for the graphic novel. I bow to his greater wisdom.
How gratifying it is when someone else also responds so positively to this film. I’ve been warning friends that they’ll either love it or hate it, which is how it appears to be playing out among the rest of humanity.
I was utterly blown away by Watchmen. Director Zack Snyder has successfully created the first “American” Kurosawa movie.
This very dark fable was a masterpiece—both visually stunning and crushingly sad. And it was a welcome surprise, given the cautious pessimism I had prior to its release. (I manned up and endured the crowds at a local IMAX the second day.) As with Kurosawa’s samurai epics, the social order has been upended, chaos rules, and even the best efforts of the powerful to reestablish an artificial order only leads to more suffering.
The mixed reactions to the film have not been lost on me. For starters, I could have done without much of the blood and gore. The ferocity of the violence almost became cartoonish, particularly in scenes where a lighter touch was needed in order to underscore the moral revulsion. (A few in the theater actually laughed and cheered when Rorschach douses an inmate with boiling hot cooking grease; this apparently happened at other showings as well. What can you say? Some people are just demented.)
But to read that Watchmen has been panned for being either too faithful to this famously “unfilmable” graphic novel, or too much of a departure, confirms that this film, like its source, defies convention. It’s an art film, not a superhero movie. Episodic, lacking a clearly defined protagonist, with no dramatically satisfying resolution to the plot, heavy on theme, it’s more akin to Victorian-era Gothic fiction.
It was wonderful to be so moved by cinema again.