Much the way I don’t see how the general viewing public is going to put up with the ridiculous and needlessly complicated world of Lost as it reveals itself, I can’t imagine the casual Watchmen watcher is going to be OK with the hypothetical tangent timeline in which the story exists. Clearly, this is fine, even uncompromisingly expected by the legions of devotees the graphic novel possesses. But a movie obviously needs to appeal to more than even the “most acclaimed” comic book ever could. And it’s not an issue of them getting it, it’s will they want to bother? And should they? The answer has to be no, of course. But not just because it’s so bizarre and outdated. I’m not sure those things can necessarily be overcome, but I’m certain they can’t be overcome by monotonous line readings, monotonous action and monotonous sex scenes.
Watchmen is 75% backstory to begin with. Which is the same problem most first installment comic book movies run into. Difference here is that there isn’t anywhere else to go. There will be no follow up where all this minutiae will be assumed as common knowledge, leaving more time to do the other things a movie, comic-related or not, is supposed to do. At the root, the problem with Watchmen comes from the devotion to the book. Harry Potter fans got over it. Twilight fans got over it. You know who didn’t? Psycho fans. That’s what strict adherence gets you. Because Roarshack’s relentless monologuing might read pretty good, but when it’s growled voice over, it becomes background noise. At best. At worst, it’s the equivalent of Mohinder’s pretentious babbling on Heroes. It also might look neat when he fends off a SWAT team with an aerosol can and some matches, but even in stop-start slow motion you’re left wondering why one of eight cops can’t manage to get a shot off, never mind can’t just knock the stupid thing out of his hand. And unless you do something different with them, costumes that were intentionally generic send ups of comic book hero costumes are going to look like terrible costumes. Because you aren’t making a movie satirizing comic book movies, you’re making a movie based on a comic book satirizing other comic books. There is no direct translation.
Sure, the ending is different, and in theory, better than the book’s, especially considering the groundwork necessary for making a giant squid menace make sense. But why would the world unite to fight a thing they have no hope of defeating and have been shown to worship? And why is this the only thing that was necessary to change? It’s as if they just gave up on a pledge to stay true to the source material when it got too tough. Which shows that strict adherence, while it might feel like the tricky road, with all the invented pressure, is the easiest one there is. Coming up with a way to make an Orwellian story relevant today is a lot more difficult than replica casting and copying a color scheme.