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Patton Oswalt's Big Problem With Watchmen

For many fans of the comic book movie genre, the word "Watchmen" tends to evoke a rather confused, frustrating, bittersweet set of opinions. For actor, comedian and geek auteur Patton Oswalt, it was apparently no different. At a recent event at the WORD Bookstore Cafe in Jersey City, N.J., Oswalt got a chance in front of a sold out audience to express those opinions straight to the horse’s mouth while sitting next to Watchmen star Patrick Wilson. The result is a rather poignant analysis.

Possibly one of the most surreal wish list movie adaptations, maybe ever, 2009’s Watchmen drew inspiration from the groundbreaking 1985 graphic novel of the same name. However, according to Oswalt, director Zack Snyder may have been a bit too "inspired" from that source material.

"I think that the one thing he [Snyder] did wrong in that movie was when any work, comic book, any book, [inaudible], you have to adapt it. And there were some scenes where he shot it so slavishly to the comic that it didn't work on film."

That is not to say that he thought the film was without redemption. He points to gems like the film’s amazing opening montage, which sets the atmosphere of the Watchmen universe quite perfectly. He also saw positives with the prison break sequence as an action highlight of the film, since it uses the graphic novel sequence "as a skeleton" around which to build something new. This was the method which he wished the film had been made in the first place. Additionally, Oswalt even manages to "go there" on something that was a controversial move at the time and applauds the omission and alteration of the graphic novel’s "giant squid" ending sequence. Oswalt would add:

It's a 50-50 film for me. I really appreciate the effort, but I wish he had did more stuff like the prison break sequence or the way that he filmed the ending."

I tend to agree with that analysis. Yet, it’s difficult to blame director Zack Snyder. The release of Watchmen was an extremely interesting moment in comic book movie history. For years, there has been an ongoing struggle in comic-to-movie adaptations between what purist fanboys wanted and what they could feasibly get. 99% of the time, what they feasibly could get was a watered-down, pale imitation of the original. Watchmen was that rare moment when the source material, beloved even by the most snobbish of enthusiasts, was reproduced frame-by-frame with almost religious verisimilitude. In essence, the Watchmen film that we got was the living embodiment of what fanboys had been screaming to get. Unfortunately, it served as a demonstration on why the purist approach is not necessarily the most effective.

Look as Patton Oswalt dances uncomfortably around his opinion.

In the sit-down, Patrick Wilson doesn’t seem to offer much of a defense to Oswalt’s critique. However, he points to the positive aspect of the film’s frame-by-frame reproduction and how those shots manage to convey his character’s bleak state of mind. While he does have a point, the style also manages to take away a critical organic aspect to the storytelling process that was desperately needed for a complex comic like Watchmen.