Buntology columnist Will Cimino, and our movie guy, Matt Gosciminski, recently took turns reviewing Watchmen. Will took on the novel (apparently he hasn’t read a book since fourth grade), and Matt checked out the flick (I’m guessing he’s seen it about five times by now). Click below to read what these two dashing young men had to say.
Watchmen: Graphic Novel [by Will]
To say I was excited see Watchmen is an understatement. I first saw the trailer to this movie during the previews to another fantastic superhero movie back in July, “The Dark Knight.” To be honest I’m really not even a fan of the genre. Very few movies got it right. But this trailer mostly appealed to me because of the part that said Watchmen was, [the] “MOST CELEBRATED GRAPHIC NOVEL OF ALL TIME!” Of course, I had to do a little research myself. The results only further emphasized the claim. Other than the massive amounts of stellar ratings from people in the comic book/graphic novel world (a world I know virtually nothing about), TIME Magazine listed Watchmen in its list of “the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.” Alright, I’m sold. So I decided to put in a request at the library back in August to try and read it before the movie came out. Turns out I wasn’t alone.
The wait list was massive. I figured since my mom works part time at the Bedford Public Library I’d get the ill-library hookup. Not so much. Come February the novel, in hardcover, was finally ready for me. Much thicker than I anticipated… all my excitement vanished and I knew there was no way I’d ever finish it in time for the movie release. I was at the top of a proverbial roller coaster right before the first drop… realizing I’d made a mistake. I was overwhelmed at the sheer number of pages and decided that maybe, I shouldn’t even bother. The only book I’d ever read start to finish in my entire life was a Goosebumps book back in fourth grade. Determined to finish my first book in years (if you can even call a graphic novel a book) I decided to see how it went and try it one page at a time. After all, there were pictures.
Surprisingly, reading Watchmen wasn’t like a summer reading chore, and was more like the rush from said roller coaster. Rather than going into detail about the story and characters, both of which are phenomenal, I really think this story is best approached by discovering it for yourself. That’s something I wish I could do all over again– forget the story and re-read it. But in one sentence, Watchmen is about what it would be like if superheroes (not superheroes with super powers, but regular costumed people/vigilantes) existed in the real world at the height of the cold war. From there the plot develops around the murder of The Comedian, who is a famous superhero, in his apartment in New York City. Between the problems of the retired Watchmen, who are being killed off, and the problems of the rest of the world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, there is little time to catch your breath from chapter to chapter. The dialog is so well-written and the characters are so deep that after putting the book down it’s difficult not to reflect on your own morals and ethics. There are inescapable feelings of paranoia, fear, tension, suspense throughout, but mostly anticipation. This is why reading Watchmen is harder to stop reading than harder to start reading.
The further I got, the more I realized (for the first time ever) that it must be nearly impossible to turn print into film. Especially in a graphic novel. The amount of freedom an author has in this medium is unprecedented. In between the chapters, the author, Alan Moore, has created newspaper clippings to provide background story to the characters, and excerpts from books written by several main characters. There’s even a comic book that a kid reads in the story that we can read. That’s right, a comic book within a comic book. How can that possibly translate in a movie?
The good news is, it doesn’t have to. If you’re the type of person willing to put in the effort to read, or someone like me, who isn’t, you won’t be disappointed in your decision to read Watchmen. I picked it up for the sole purpose of wanting to get a head start on the movie and after seeing it, I can now for the first time in my life be a person that says “the book was better.” And yes, I really enjoyed the movie and cannot wait for the extended edition. Because that’s the whole movie’s problem. It’s a movie. It just can’t fit everything it needed to in nearly three hours of footage. Not to mention, the movie is heavily catered to be more relevant to the people who have read the book.
But I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I’m not saying that the book is for everyone. If you don’t care for: mystery, complex characters, realism, gratuitous violence, questions of morality, sex, politics, nostalgia, or plots that are interesting enough to keep you awake and reading until 3:30 a.m., then Watchmen could be a miss for you. If you do care for any of those qualities, or if you like roller coasters, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. And definitely finish it before you see the movie.