The only thing the early trailers for the Watchmen movie made clear was that yes, this is a Zack Snyder film. See, I tend to keep a certain level of ironic detachment from anything that involves Zack Snyder. It’s no exaggeration to say that I find it personally embarrassing how popular 300 is among my generation, and those ads that characterize Snyder as a “visionary director” make me gag. It would be one thing if 300 had been the first of its kind, but Robert Rodriguez’s far superior Sin City predates Snyder’s splatterfest by a year.
After making snarky comments about Zack Snyder throughout the buildup to Watchmen’s release, after seeing previews that suggested at least three-quarters of this film would be played slow motion, I went to the theaters last week and saw the movie. And I loved it.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect by any means. Certain parts of the plot felt rushed, so the first act probably confused anyone who hadn’t read the graphic novel and the soundtrack was, shall we say, utterly bizarre. But the story was told coherently enough, and I thought Snyder did a very good job of trimming the graphic novel down to a film that played to his strengths.
The suggestion from many reviewers (including Bureau Editor Kevin) is that Snyder remained too faithful to the source material, but in response I have to ask, what exactly did you expect? Did anyone really want to see Zack Snyder’s “interpretation” of the graphic novel? No matter what they tell you, Zack Snyder is not a visionary; he’s not an auteur. He’s a midwife. In Dawn of the Dead, he took a great zombie flick and turned out a pretty good remake. In 300, he took a brainless, gratuitously violent graphic novel and turned it into a brainless, gratuitously violent movie.
Watchmen is no different. Snyder was doggedly faithful to his source material and did as well as he possibly could have to convert the whole beast to the big screen with considerable style. The visuals are fantastic, the action scenes are fluid and gut-wrenching, and I was surprised that the movie maintained all of the Cold War themes of the book—the overwhelming feel of fear and impending doom. Watchmen was a better movie than 300 only because it was a better graphic novel.
Zack Snyder is a skilled music video director who has caught some tremendous breaks, and I hope he knows how lucky he is. Personally, I think he’s bound to overextend and expose himself sooner or later, but he didn’t do it this time. It’s too bad that Alan Moore wants nothing to do with this project because it’s a good film, and it belongs to Moore at least as much as it does to Snyder.