Watchmen in IMAX

Trucked it out to Dublin (California, not Ireland) for a viewing of the movie adaptation of Watchmen.

I won’t spoil anything for you when I tell you it was a good movie, but I might disappoint when I I tell you I’m not sure if I can really review it.

Let me start by saying the storyline behind Watchmen is top notch. It’s epic in scope in depth of material and the sheer number of primary characters. Originally a 12-issue miniseries with both introductory and concluding stories published in 1986. It’s told over 400 pages and it was revolutionary then and some may argue it’s still one of the best comics ever. Character development, pacing, artistry, and storytelling are excellent throughout.

The movie looks great with respect to the comic book. I think they did a meticulous job of duplicating the scope and characters and… well everything. The director Zack Snyder did a fantastic job of pulling it all together. The characters look and act just like their comic counterparts. The actors they picked look dead-on. They compressed only a few characters. Almost every line of dialogue comes directly from the comic. The blocking and framing of scenes echoes the comic almost exactly. It’s a masterwork of cinema to translate something so well.

I’ll compare it to another masterful translation of a comic book to a movie by Zack Snyder. 300 was also a movie translation of a comic book. Just like Watchmen, the characters, the shot framing, the storytelling, and the dialogue are all an beautiful translation of the comic. The difference is 300 was all of 80 pages long. Even still, the movie adds maybe 15-20 minutes of story that was not in the book. Watchmen obviously was forced to cut and trim things to make it fit. Somehow Watchmen does not grossly rewrite characters, nor does the movie feel rushed like other movie adaptations (I’m looking at you Harry Potter and Narnia). The mood of the comic is maintained, and that’s really excellence of the movie.

I think watching the movie will get people to read the comic, and that’s a good thing. I think the comic is necessary read to add to the richness of the movie, but I’m not sure how the movie will do on its own. It tries so very hard to look like the movie. It might have even tried too hard. It’s difficult for me to really effectively review the movie because I can only think of it in terms of the comic. As an adaptation, it succeeded. As a movie on its own… I’ll probably have to watch it again….but I won’t watch it in IMAX.

Now, I saw The Dark Knight in IMAX and it was stunning. It’s not just seeing a movie really big. The deal with IMAX is it’s three stories high and it fills the screen. Top to bottom, side to side, and the film stock used to capture the movie was that aspect ratio and the appropriate size to have image fidelity that looks great projected large. Unfortunately, what we saw was essentially the equivalent of pulling the slide projector back an extra foot to make it bigger. Now, supposedly they do transfer the print to an IMAX film stock, but the movie aspect ratio is the 16:9 or more likely the 1.85:1 or 2.39:1… far more about image aspect ratios can be found on the internet (where else?). In short, this movie had no scenes filmed in IMAX, so the movie never filled the screen. Yah, so skip it in IMAX and watch it in a normal size nice theater. The money you’d save on tickets is well applied to the comic.

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