That being said, I’d like to talk about the two adaptations of Watchmen to the medium of film. That’s right, I said two. Most of us are familiar with the 2009 Zack Snyder-directed Watchmen movie, but did you know there was also a “motion comic” released nearly a year before the live action film? I didn’t. I have no idea how I completely missed out on the motion comic, especially considering I was getting back into the comic book scene at the time. As the old adage goes, “better late than never.”
I stumbled across the Watchmen motion comic on YouTube accidentally. I noticed there are quite a few unauthorized editions floating around in low resolution, though the entire 12-part series is available in high definition on an official Warner Bros. YouTube channel. I bookmarked the playlist and watched it whenever I had time. However, after a few chapters I realized I wasn’t giving this series the proper attention it deserves and ordered the Blu-ray from Amazon. It arrived a few days later and I watched it on my big screen HDTV at night in the dark.
Let’s just say it looks so much better this way.
Watchmen: The Motion Comic is exactly what it claims to be. It is not an animated film based on the book, it is literally the comic taken panel-by-panel with some animation effects added to give it a sense of motion. It even retains the word balloons. All the characters are voiced by Tom Stechschulte (including the women). He's a good voiceover artist, especially for the characters of Rorshach, Dr. Manhattan and Malcolm Long. Why he also voiced the female characters I do not understand. At times it feels like watching and episode of "South Park" where Trey Parker voices 99% of the characters.
Visually, it appears to be nearly identical to Gibbons’ original line art and John Higgins’ colors. In fact, Gibbons and Higgins’ names are the only two creators credited in the opening sequence of each episode (Alan Moore is uncredited, not surprisingly).
As great as high definition makes TV, movies, and sports look; it makes animation look even better. The brilliant resolution makes the line work sharp and crisp, which also enables small details and backgrounds to become part of the story and not just background clutter. Anyone who’s read the Watchmen comic knows it is loaded with intricate details, so their re-creation here gives the “motion comic” nearly the same weight as the original graphic novel.
At nearly five and a half hours, Watchmen: The Motion Comic is as close as you’ll come to “watching” the comic as possible. However, it is not a 100% verbatim adaptation as a few scenes and lines are omitted here and there. Only hardcore purists are likely to notice their absence, though.
As for the live action Watchmen movie, it seems to be a controversial work among the comic book community. Everyone seems to either love it or hate it. While it does a good job of staying true to the source material with most of the major plot points kept intact, it’s a perfect example of why film and comics are completely different mediums. In my opinion, it’s only an “okay” movie at best.
When it comes to adapting comic books into movies, there seems to be two major camps on why it’s a good or bad thing. The “Kevin Smith Camp” as I like to call it, seems to believe that as long as a movie is true to its source material it’s a good thing and works as a movie. This camp also seems to believe that if a comic book movie is great then the average person will think the comics are just as entertaining and start buying them and making them readers for life. The opposite viewpoint, or the “Alan Moore Camp”, sees movie adaptations as a bastardization of the original artwork, no matter how “good” the movie is.
I actually agree with Alan Moore that people in the Kevin Smith Camp are simply viewing comics as movies without motion or sound. I’d go even further and say their reasoning is a form of inferiority complex. Why isn’t it good enough to have a great comic? Why does it need to be made into a movie for it to be legitimate art? Also, seeing tights & fights in the context of a comic book is perfectly acceptable, but seeing it on the big screen with real people wearing costumes makes the very premise of superheroes implausible, ridiculous, and comical. The opening sequence of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie exemplifies this perfectly.
Speaking of which, what was up with that opening? Using a montage to establish several decades of back story in a few minutes is understandable, but the approach Snyder takes is dark and disturbing. It’s simultaneously the best and worst thing in the movie. “Best” because it’s quite artistic and creative and elicits an emotional response; but “worst” because it just doesn’t fit the tone of the movie and adds nothing to the story.
There are a lot of things to both praise and criticize the Watchmen movie for, but there are already a ton of reviews that have already done that years ago. It’s rather futile to re-hash them now. I was inspired to write this blog since I just watched both the motion comic and the movie in the last few days and I thought it would be fun to generate discussion about them.
- What did you think about either of these works? Did you enjoy one more than the other? Neither? Both?
- Do you feel either represents the original comic book well?
- Do the graphic novel, the movie, and the motion comic each work well in their own way or is one superior to the other?
- When it comes to comic book movies and their artistic worth (or lack thereof), do you identify more with Kevin Smith or Alan Moore camps?
- Do you know anyone that saw the Watchmen movie and then read the comic – what was their reaction to each?