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Top 10 Things The Watchmen Movie Did Right

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Zack Snyder's version of Watchmen was so good that it's effects are still visible in today's DCEU movies like Batman v Superman (despite them being what they are). With how it portrayed Rorschach, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, as well as the feel and aesthetic of Alan Moore's work, The Watchmen movie got these 10 things right!
Transcript
Rorschach's journal... tonight a comedian died in New York. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things the Watchmen Movie Did Right.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most positive attributes from one of the most divisive graphic novel adaptations ever made.

#10: The Opening Credits


Where a lot of modern movies forgo opening credits, “Watchmen” reminded us how a stylish title sequence can immerse the audience in the story about to be told. Through a montage that practically feels like a living graphic novel, we’re given a summary of the film’s alternative history. Showing rather than telling, the sequence is full of clever moments, revealing that the Comedian shot JFK and a recreation of “The Last Supper” featuring the Minutemen. What’s more, the sequence is brilliantly accompanied by Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” which works on multiple levels. Not only does the music convey the passage of time, but it also signifies how the times are literally changing.

#9: The Action


Much like Dr. Manhattan, people either think that Zack Snyder is a god or a false profit. No matter where you stand, it’s hard to deny that Snyder is a visually interesting filmmaker and few can match his knack for action. Snyder carefully mapped out “Watchmen” with storyboards that didn’t deviate from Dave Gibbons’ original artwork. This shines through during the action set pieces, particularly the Comedian’s downfall and the prison riot. The fight choreography manages to be fast-paced while also burning certain shots into our memories as if the characters leaped out of the panels and into the third dimension. The result is like reading a comic book while still having a cinematic experience.

#8: The Balanced Plot


There was no way Snyder could cover 12 issues and over 400 pages of material in this film adaptation, even with the 215-minute “Ultimate Cut.” Given the constraints that come with adapting any book to film, however, Snyder and company do a respectable job at keeping the story balanced. The source material naturally goes into greater detail regarding each character’s backstory. David Hayter and Alex Tse’s screenplay keeps everyone’s origin story brief, but we essentially learn everything we need to know about these characters in that condensed time. This is no easy task, but the filmmakers ultimately demonstrate how sometimes less is more.

#7: Dr. Manhattan


Dr. Manhattan is a key example of why “Watchmen” was considered unfilmable for the longest time. Since the graphic novel came out in a pre-CGI era, the only alternative back then would’ve been to paint an actor blue. While computer-generated imagery plays an essential role in bringing Manhattan to life, he doesn’t feel like a special effect. The audience is convinced that he’s really there. This is largely because Billy Crudup was actually onset performing opposite his co-stars. The mix of motion-capture technology, Crudup’s commanding presence, an innovative use of LEDs, and state of the art CG amounts to a visual feat that gets Manhattan just right.

#6: Its Timeless Tone


A lot of comic book adaptations are clearly products of their time, but “Watchmen” feels like a hodgepodge of different eras. The story mainly takes place in the 1980s, but the setting comes off as both futuristic and retro. The film has the dark grit of an 80s action picture while also satirizing the camp you would’ve found in something like the 60s “Batman” show. This creates a look and tone that doesn’t belong to one time period, making the experience timeless. The film’s themes concerning war, identity, and the greater good can be applied to any generation as well. You could even argue that “Watchmen” predicted our current obsession with superheroes and nostalgia.

#5: Changing The Ending


Although Snyder strived to remain as true to the source material as possible, he did make several notable changes. The theatrical release notably excluded the “Tales of the Black Freighter” which was later added into the “Ultimate Cut.” The ending has the most apparent change, however. In the comic, Ozymandias plans to prevent nuclear war by having a giant, squid-like alien attack New York, thus uniting the world against a common enemy. In the film, the squid is replaced with a massive explosion and Dr. Manhattan becomes the common enemy. Whether or not you thought this change was an improvement, it’s certainly an easier pill to swallow for mainstream audiences than a giant squid alien that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

#4: The Ensemble


When an A-list actor plays a superhero, it can be difficult to look past the celebrity and see a character. “Watchmen” wisely enlisted actors who weren’t complete unknowns, but weren’t household names either. Jackie Earle Haley steals the show as Rorschach, getting so much personality across despite being masked most of the time. As Night Owl, Patrick Wilson balances out the colorful cast with a voice of reason. Jeffrey Dean Morgan also shines as The Comedian and would later bring the same charisma to Negan on “The Walking Dead.”

#3: It Went for an R Rating


Although R-rated superhero movies weren’t unheard of in 2009, it was still rare at the time to see a big-budget studio picture go beyond PG-13. Even “The Dark Knight,” as gritty as it was, didn’t enter restricted territory. Snyder stated in interviews that “Watchmen” was initially intended to be PG-13. In order to satisfy fans and remain true to Alan Moore’s vision, though, it quickly became clear that the film needed to be rated R. It might’ve been a risk, but the graphic violence, sexuality, and profanity proved integral in producing a more adult superhero movie.

#2: It Captures the Look of the Source Material


Just as Snyder did in “300,” “Watchmen” faithfully converts the print page to the silver screen with numerous shots that match the graphic novel to a T. This time around, though, Snyder didn’t rely as heavily on green screens, opting for a solid mix of CGI and practical effects. The world and characters of Alan Moore’s magnum opus are brought to life through the stunning sets and meticulously crafted costumes. Even audiences who weren’t fans of the film generally agree that Snyder did his homework in recreating the source material, turning in a visual feast for the eyes.

#1: It Remained True to the Story


With future DC films like “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman,” and “Justice League,” Snyder demonstrated that telling an original, coherent story isn’t his forte. With “Watchmen,” though, Snyder knew that he had one of the greatest literary works of all time gift wrapped to him. So, he didn’t veer too far away from the story’s roots with many moments and lines of dialog ripped right from the comic. Some people believe the film was too loyal to the graphic novel and that there’s no point in exactly replicating a work of art for another medium. Considering the liberties so many comic adaptations take, however, Snyder’s dedication to the source material was more than welcome here.
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