There is a press blackout on reviewing the Watchmen movie until March 6. However, I’ve seen the movie, and I’m not press. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a review of Watchmen. What I am going to write about is the emotional experience of seeing a piece of literature with which I have an intense personal connection LITERALLY COME TO LIFE. It’s a serious freak-out.
I’m not alone in having bonded with the Watchmen comic book back when it was first published. But in 1986, I sure felt like I was. Barely anyone in my high school even knew who Wolverine was, let alone Rorschach. Gradually, however, the awareness of the Watchmen graphic novel has spread from a small group of comic book readers to become a major cultural touchstone for an entire generation. It’s the common ground uniting almost everyone in my creative community. And now it EXISTS.
I’m not allowed to talk details, but let’s just say it is astounding how much of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel is in this movie. (Really, the absence of Alan Moore’s name on this is like Stan Lee’s being missing from Spider-Man, because 95 percent of the words and ideas in this movie are all Moore.) Has there ever been a movie adaptation of a comic book (or book book) this close to its source material? Probably the two Frank Miller movies, Sin City and 300. But, while awesome, Frank Miller’s comics didn’t solve my Rubik’s Cube of a 1980s teenage heart every single time I re-read them the way Moore’s and Gibbons’ did.
Sitting in that screening room and watching the visual world of the Watchmen movie unfold was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. Not film experiences. Just EXPERIENCES. I don’t think I realized how close I was to the original book until I saw such a loving, detail-rich, almost obsessive recreation of that universe. It had my heart pounding and head swimming. I barely slept that night. Someone took the most special personal thing of my adolescence and put it on a movie screen. That doesn’t happen every day.
What will people who’ve never read Watchmen even think of this film? What will it be like for them to sit through these crazy, violent, colorful three hours and not recognize almost every line – almost every image? Will they be utterly baffled, bored, or totally love it? Is Watchmen even a good or bad movie? I have no idea. I stand powerless before the Gods I once worshiped in my attic bedroom, now moving and talking and fighting and loving on a giant screen. And I find myself unable to judge them.
For me, and I suspect many others, the movie won’t provoke the feeling you get from seeing a great movie, (which Watchmen very well may be). For me, Watchmen isn’t a movie at all. It’s a surreal mind-trip the likes of which my 14-year-old self would never have believed. Now, the special thing that still feels like only I know about has been given to the whole world. I hope they like it.