The short version: I liked Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. It was by no means perfect and there are a couple of pretty bad flaws – mostly to do with the film’s interpretation of Adrian Veidt and the massive cuts in Laurie/Silk Spectre II’s backstory (to the point where there is almost nothing left of the crystalline glory of chapter IX, “The Darkness of Mere Being”) – but it’s the first film version of an Alan Moore comic that takes the source material seriously, even if it doesn’t always completely trust its audience.
One problem that Snyder seems to have, though, is that he’s too much in love with his talents and his cleverness. The use of music was one aspect of this, with too many jokes being used in a winking “Get it? We’re being clever as well as showing reverence to Moore’s original!” And whenever there was something semi-clever, Snyder had the tendency to linger on it for much too long, making these moments smug rather than witty and subtle. The cheesy soft porn scene on Archie? Prime example of that sort of smugness. Moore wasn’t above the occasional broad joke in the original, but they didn’t last for five minutes.
The other thing is Snyder’s propensity for over-the-top violence. Some fit okay, even though I didn’t particularly feel I needed to see a man’s arms being sawn off (not that the original scene with its throat-cutting was that much more harmless – I’ve got a thing about throat-slicing scenes…), but the first fight scene with Dan and Laurie didn’t make any sense story-wise. These two haven’t been wearing their costumes for years, they haven’t been out to beat up street ganes in a long, long time. Their first fight should be clumsy and exhilarating, not choreographed to a T.
My problems with the ending? No, they have nothing to do with Snyder’s re-interpreting the squid into S.Q.U.I.D. I agree that audiences wouldn’t have bought the comic’s finale – hell, I’m not sure I fully bought it, at least not the means by which Adrian executes his plans. What didn’t work was how clean everything was: in the original we’re treated to page after page of the apocalyptic, horrific results of Veidt’s plan. There’s nothing clean about it. Similarly, in the film Ozymandias more or less receives absolution from Dr. Manhattan – and in an utterly inexplicable move, the “Nothing ever ends” line that is so essential to the ending and to Adrian’s character ark is spoken, after her return from Antarctica, by Laurie in a conversation with Dan. As a wise man once said: Huh?!
Final quibble: why, oh why, did they feel the need to change the beautiful simplicity of “I did it 35 minutes ago”?
But still, as I said: I liked it… unlike a certain mustachioed madman.