Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been lauded as cinematic achievements. The task of putting a series to film that was long considered unable to be adapted was daunting and if the first film failed, there was no hope for the following two. However, through a labor of love truly deserving of the cliché, Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) set the standard for film adaptations of epic fantasy.
Like many of his films, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) has a polarizing effect. While I can appreciate the aesthetic choices and faithfulness to Alan Moore’s 1986 comic of the same name, I am in the camp that doesn’t care for the adaptation. While one can nitpick the acting and presentation, it is the trepidation to take much artistic license on Snyder’s behalf (except for the lackluster ending and strange mid-air sex scene, which we will get into in a moment) that causes my dislike of the adaptation.
“The book is better than the movie.”
According to many in the reading community, truer words have never been said. I admit that this phrase has found its way past my lips on more than one occasion, though with building apprehension as I have grown older. The situation of adapting a story from the written word to the silver screen is a precarious one at best and a horrid affair at worst. I have seen comments on Facebook and YouTube expressing the sentiment in the image above and feel obligated to make a case for adaptations.
Are there bad adaptations? Of course; but there are also film adaptations that are successful in their storytelling despite how they wander from the source material. In fact, I would argue that if a film adaptation were as described in the above image, it would not be enjoyable. A successful adaptation takes what is good about the original story and puts its own spin on the material; there should be a reason to watch the movie besides wanting to see rather than read.