Zack Snyder’s Watchmen: an appreciation

Charles Evans
24 min readNov 18, 2019

In spring of 2009, the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of Watchmen, a seminal and medium-changing graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, was finally released in theaters.

That this film even happened was a minor thermodynamic miracle: after years of development hell and could-have-been’s, and then a last minute legal dispute between Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures just weeks before its premiere, the Zack Snyder-directed opus hit pop culture like a mutant squid suddenly dropped into downtown Manhattan.

Reactions fell all over the board. The general consensus, measured in terms of box office, seemed to be indifference, as a large portion of the mainstream audience (expecting something akin to the recently introduced MCU) stayed away, unfamiliar with the source material and turned off by a perceived inaccessibility.

In fan circles, Watchmen proved far more divisive, with many disappointed in the movie to a level which provoked rabid hostility towards both the film itself and Zack Snyder. A common complaint among both fans and critics was that Snyder had completely misread the comic book on which his film is based. Instead of understanding the graphic novel’s critical dissection of the superhero genre and the pitfalls inherent in the notion of a masked avenger, he had produced the opposite, creating a movie which celebrates superheroes and the borderline fascist inclination towards abusive power they represent.

According to this reading, the comic was a subversive deconstruction of tropes; the film, a clueless and juvenile affirmation of those same impulses, slavishly attempting to recreate every beat from the graphic novel but missing its spirit.

To this day, I have absolutely no idea what movie those people are talking about.

When I first saw Watchmen, I knew very little about the book. I had some awareness of the basic premise, but superhero stories have never been my bread and butter. I expected very little, mostly a series of endless action sequences recreating moments from a comic I’ve never read, an inside reference lost on me. After all, this was from the director of 300, which can be politely described as gorgeous but troubling jingoistic garbage.