Despite London Transport deciding that both the Underground and Overground lines convenient for me should have their service suspended on the same day I am able to make the journey in to London to see Watchmen at the IMAX, as arranged by Limited Edition. After some reintroductions with people first met at Eurogamer Expo 2008 we enjoy a bracing walk in the freezing rain to a Wagamama's in more-or-less the opposite direction to, well, anything, drying out and warming up with some delicious noodles. After the late lunch we have time to browse around Gosh Comics and Forbidden Planet before the film.
We make it to the IMAX cinema in good time and find our seats. The screen is huge, the largest in Britain, and when the trailer for Star Trek is played I wonder how well I'll be able to follow the feature, as the trailer is full of quick cuts and chaotic action. I need not have worried, as watching Watchmen IMAX is like watching a film at a normal cineman, only bigger and with amazing detail.
I read the Watchmen graphic novel at least a decade ago and again when given the book as a gift for Christmas last year, so I am quite familiar with the material. It is a marvellous and complex story that would be difficult to translate completely to the big screen, so I am not surprised that there are omissions and changes, nor am I upset by them. The sub-plot of the pirate story was never likely to be included, despite its allegory to the times in the alternative 1980s as well as its link to the missing artists, which leads to a major change in the story that I can accept as necessary. The smaller changes that are also noticable probably don't suffer from not being explained as much as offer more depth to the viewer who was read the source material.
The casting is immaculate, every character apparently being genetically created for their rôle. Nite Owl, Rorschach, The Comedian, Dr Manhattan, Silk Spectre and Ozymandias all seem lifted straight from the pages of the book. Not only are the characters given voices but their actions are presented in wonderful sequences that are fluidly choreographed, not relying on a shaky camera to mask cuts or mediocre stunts but revelling in showing the superheroes' abilities.
The only narrative voice is that of Rorschach dictating his diary entries, so I never get the feeling that the graphic novel is being read to me as the panels are being flashed before my eyes, a problem I have had with other adaptations. Instead I am treated to the book being brought vividly alive, people and places becoming whole. With such a dense story, crammed with seamless flashbacks for character development, there is an awful lot to follow and having knowledge of the book must clearly help. But even with the amount of material and long running time the film doesn't seem long, always keeping a good pace and steady flow towards the conclusion.
Having only read the book recently it is difficult to gauge how well the story comes across in film, as I am sure I was filling in little pieces here and there as well as simply marvelling at the level of detail that has clearly gone in to creating the Watchmen world. I may need to see Watchmen again to be more objective, but I left the IMAX cinema positively thrilled by what has been accomplished, amazed at how far superhero films have come. The Watchmen film is a perfect companion to the graphic novel, showing just how capable and real the Watchmen are, hopefully encouraging reading of the the book to discover the greater depth of the whole story.