*(Who Watches The Watchmen?)
It's been over a week, and I've neglected to talk about "Watchmen," the latest comic book-based movie to hit the silver screen. Generally considered to be the most influential graphic novel of all-time, the 12-chapter series created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is the only book on Time Magazine's All-Time Top 100 Novels List and it won a Hugo Award, the top prize in science fiction writing (the only graphic novel to win one).
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As with any book adaptation, there's no way you can squeeze every page into a movie (even if it is nearly three hours), be it "Watchmen" or Harry Potter or "The Da Vinci Code."
I try to make a conscious choice never to compare a book and a movie, because the movie will always get short-shrifted rather than be judged on its own merits as a film.
And as a film, I found "Watchmen" enjoyable. It stays close to the theme of Moore's dark morality tale of a group of retired superheroes living in a world on the brink of nuclear war. The heroes are shown to have all the flaws of regular people; none are the pure boy scout of Superman.
Director Zack Snyder was in a damned-if-he-does, damned-if-he-doesn't, situation. Stay too close to the book and the audience has no surprise; try to stray too far from the book, and the audience cries "Blasphemy!" Snyder kept the substance of the book's memorable ending, changing the means of how the viewer gets there.
For me, the change works better. It makes more sense for me in the context of the film without altering the raison d'etre of the characters. (Yes, I bet they kick me out of the geek-boy fan club for liking the movie ending better). Visually, it's a stunning film with several great performances -- most notably Jackie Earle Haley, who absolutely nails the book's most popular character, the paranoid, violent Rorschach.
"Watchmen" the movie seems to be one of those movies that draws a pretty specific reaction -- you are going to love it or hate it, but not be indifferent about it. It was the No. 1 movie in America opening week, with over $55 million before slipping to No. 2 at $18 million.
For me, the oddest reactions have been the ones where people seem to take delight at the negative reactions to the film. The Chicago Tribune noted that people have been seen walking out during the middle (though many of the people walking out are people who idiotically brought younger kids to a very R-rated movie). Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times, a journalist I usually respect, seemed downright gleeful that the film dropped over 60 percent of its take between the two weeks. I'm not really sure why Goldstein has a vested in interest in seeing "Watchmen" fail, but he sure seems to in this week's article he wrote on it.
Inevitably, people compare "Watchmen" to recent successes like "Dark Knight" and "Iron Man," two of the best ever comic-based movies made. The difference is, those movies took characters established over many years and constructed plots that were loosely based on various adventures those characters had. "Watchmen" only exists in the single graphic novel, so Snyder was pretty much tied to a specific plot.
In the end, people can only draw upon their own reactions to any film, but I for one was glad to watch the "Watchmen."
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Carol Burnett makes a guest star appearance on "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 10 p.m.) Is she a killer or a witness? My money is on Tim Conway being the killer. It follows a new "Biggest Loser" at 8 p.m.
I read where Paula Abdul was in full kooky mode on last week's "American Idol." (Fox, 8 p.m.) Is her head back on straight this week? Tune in and find out. (Oh, and watch some people sing as well.)
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) gets blinded this week on "The Mentalist" (CBS, 9 p.m.), making it very difficult to do those clever observations only he can do and leap to the wild conclusions that somehow always turn out to be correct. It follows a new "NCIS" and precedes a new "Without A Trace."
ABC presents two hours of "Dancing With The Stars," presumably two different hours than those on Monday.
"Reaper" (CW, 8 p.m.) is brand new.
On cable, TNT airs two new episodes of "Trust Me" consecutively, beginning at 9 p.m. I have to say, this show has been pretty disappointing since a fairly decent start.