As you may know, Zach Snyder released “first look” photographs of all the major characters from Watchmen but Dr. Manhattan. If you haven’t seen them, you can check them out here:
My first reaction to the photographs was that they are full of style. Zach Snyder, the man responsible for the theatric interpretation of 300, excels at style, and he is obviously bringing that panache to his adaptation of Watchmen.
However, mention the word “style,” and “substance” automatically follows. Some accuse Snyder of having no substance based upon his previous work, and some even state that he will utterly fail at bringing the substance of Moore’s seminal Watchmen to the silver screen.
My contention, though, is that movies based upon literature (and Watchmen is literature in every sense of the word) rarely capture the pure “substance” of the source material. Watchmen was a product of a political and commercial era that has come and gone. Even if Snyder were the most gifted of directors, I’m not certain he could convey the substance of the source material because it has become so much more than just a simple “comic book” to fans, creators, and the comic book industry as a whole.
Could anyone truly recreate such an iconic work? Could any moviemaker honestly take a twelve-issue maxi-series full of nuances and metaphor, and trim it down to a one hundred and twenty minute movie-a movie geared towards a mainstream audience?
Listen, I really, truly hope Snyder does Watchmen justice, but I think it’s naïve to ask the man to create a literal translation of everything the original series encapsulates. We are fortunate that we’ve read the original! We’ve experienced the magic and importance of it! For us, Snyder is simply bringing an interpretation, an adaptation. It doesn’t mean the original could disappear if Snyder doesn’t do well.
If anything, I hope Snyder brings the adrenaline and style of 300 to Watchmen and that inspires people who normally wouldn’t read comic books to seek out Moore’s brilliant creation and immerse themselves in the sublime substance of the source material. I would love to sit with my friends who don’t usually read comics and discover they’d read Watchmen because of the movie. That’s better than them never reading it at all, right?
Moore’s Watchmen deserves mainstream attention by society in general, and especially by the critics and scholars. It literally changed an industry and influenced today’s greatest creators in a multitude of genres. If Snyder can capture even a smidgeon of Watchmen and do it justice, if he can thrill people with the characters Moore made so utterly captivating, if he can dazzle us with visuals so incredible, perhaps people will feel compelled to read the real thing.
Snyder will not give us an exact replication of Moore’s Watchmen, but he will give us his translation of it, and I say we wait and see how it turns out. The worse that can happen is it flops and disappoints comic book fans. The alternative is that it wakes the world up to a book that deserves credit by all lovers of literature, not just the comic book fans.
It takes style to get people’s attention, and judging from Snyder’s photographs, whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit he’s on his way to capturing the world’s attention.