Watchmen v 300

Murder: check. Sex: check. Rape: check. Gore: check. Impromptu limb amputation: check. What are we talking about? Why, comics of course! Though not quite The Beano and The Dandy. Read the (SPOILER FREE) arguments and decide. THIS…IS…WATCHMEN V 300!!!

Ross McD: Watchmen



The world will look up and shout...AAUGH!!!

Ever since Hollywood copped on that there was a huge amount of money in ‘comic book’ films – and a huge amount of the writing work already done for them – every literary character to have gone through a freak-but-beneficial accident has been flung on to the big screen, from the fun and family-friendly Fantastic Four, to the brooding but not bad Blade, to the God-awful gunk that is Ghost Rider.

But a new breed of comic book film is coming to the fore. The likes of The Dark Knight, Sin City, and the two heavyweights now stepping into the ring have taken the superhero genre into far more sinister territory – they’re not called ‘graphic’ novels for nothing.

Watchmen and 300 are both based on graphic novels, both directed by Zack Snyder and both excellent films. But while Snyder proved with 300 that he could accurately adapt a comic to the big screen, with Watchmen he showed he could do the same with a masterpiece. In a way, because both adaptations are so faithful, this argument could almost boil down to which novel is better.

While Frank Miller’s 300 is an enjoyable read, it is heavily art based and you will flick through it in a matter of minutes, depending on how long you spend staring at the pictures. You never really finish reading Watchmen – I don’t know anybody who has read it just once. You revisit it over and over – and it seems to get better each time. Its place on the top 100 English language novels of all time (the only graphic novel on the list) is not unwarranted.

The respective films reflect this. 300 is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. Though I would normally argue that this does not a good film make, the satisfaction gained from watching so many limbs hacked off in glorious slo-mo is lip-smacking. But that really is all 300 has. The entire film is one long fight, and not much else happens.

There is no character development at all. Protagonist Leonidas is pretty much the only person you know enough about at the end of the film to string more than one descriptive sentence on, and even this would be as thin as, ‘He’s big, angry, has awesome pecs, had a rough upbringing, is somewhat territorial. Likes to shout.’ Sally Jupiter, aka the Silk Spectre, has in all about four scenes in Watchmen, and even her character is developed more than Gerard Butler’s cheese-grater abs.

Watchmen, for all its stunning visuals, fantastic action sequences, intricate plot and quotable dialogue (not forgetting the superb soundtrack and the greatest title sequence of all time bar none) is driven purely by its characters. And what a list of characters.

Any one of the Watchmen would warrant an entire film dedicated to them alone, yet none of them are left underdeveloped. Although he had a while in which to do it – over 2.5 hours – this is one of the greatest feats the director achieves.

Snyder’s tweaks are for the most part positive. Calling the group ‘Watchmen’ instead of ‘The Crimebusters’ was a good if obvious choice, while playing Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World during Adrian Veidt’s speech was perhaps too obvious. His alternate ending was inspired though, and completely necessary (for those ‘reviewers’ who claim Watchmen is too hard to follow, you should see what Snyder took out).

Otherwise Snyder’s faithfulness is unwavering. Scarily, one earlier director connected to the project wanted to set the film in modern times, while another inspired this chilling mock-up cast poster. Perhaps the only criticism is that Snyder’s Watchmen is almost ‘too faithful’ to the source material, giving viewers who are familiar with the novel the sense that they have seen it all before. But Snyder has made the best possible adaptation and managed to film what even its creator called ‘unfilmable’.


Ross McG: 300

There’s no reason we can’t be civil, is there?

You there, Watchmen, what is your profession? Um, I’m a comedian who isn’t funny… I’m a guy who spilt some paint on my face… I’m the female love interest, except I’m not in the least bit interesting… I’m an owl… I’m a big blue man… And I’m the smartest man in the world, yet I still hang out with these losers. Spartans, what is your profession? HA-OOH!! HA-OOH!! HA-OOH!!

Not much happens in 300. A bunch of buff mates on their way to a bodybuilding convention get sidetracked and have a massive fight. A lot happens in Watchmen. The unfunny Comedian (why wasn’t Martin Lawrence cast?) is thrown out of a window. His mate who has dipped his face in a pot of Dulux investigates the killing, talking to himself in a voice so gravelly he borrows Lockets from Christian Bale’s Batman. Meanwhile, their friend Blue Man is feeling blue – being able to turn himself into a threesome just isn’t enough to keep him satisfied. Probably because his girlfriend is kitted out like a giant bumblebee. Appropriately enough, she buzzes off to sleep with the guy who dresses up as an owl. And who says comic book movies aren’t serious enough…

Watchmen is a little like a giant Dr Manhattan striding through Vietnam. It is big. It is impressive. It is pointless. The first hour-and-a-half of its mammoth running time is blistering, the kind of bravado filmmaking that just puts a huge smile on your face. But then something goes wrong. Like a bunch of Ark-chasing Nazis, you suddenly realise the beautiful thing that captivated you has transformed into an evil ghost witch capable of melting your face off at any second.

Dhalsim helps Zangief relax after a hard day at the office

Dhalsim helped Zangief relax after a tough day

You immediately forget all about the spine-tingling opening credits, a sequence so good you momentarily thought you liked the sound of Bob Dylan’s voice. You even forget the fine humanity in Patrick Wilson’s winning portrayal of Dan Dreiberg, the Chevy Chase of superheroes. Instead, what you are left with is a series of amazingly uninspired set-pieces, terrifically predictable reveals, an ending so bad the Fantastic Four would have dismissed it as lightweight and Malin ‘Oh my God, I’m on Mars!’ Akerman. And this is meant to be the Citizen Kane of graphic novels.

Over in ancient Greece, 300 has no such pretensions. It is the Tom and Jerry of comic book movies: simple, fun and very, very bloody. It is a film that revels in its ridiculousness and every moment is all the more enjoyable for it. As a historical artefact, it makes Braveheart look like a documentary. As an action-packed, spear-throwing, wolf-slaying, blood-spilling, torso-rippling, slogan-shouting piece of pure popcorn, it is a treat without equals.

Its story is as lean and tightly coiled as its 300 heroes (although, in fairness, you only ever see about eight of them). Director Zack Snyder is unburdened with the labyrinth plot that would ultimately undo him in Watchmen – here he is free to concentrate on providing entertainment and little else.

As King Leonidas, Gerard Butler gives the towering performance he will always be remembered for. He is lumbered with some pretty lame dialogue, but his decision to shout it out as loud as possible is a masterstroke, and the inspiration for sports teams of all levels around the world. Who wouldn’t be spurred on by a captain yelling, ‘Give them nothing! But take from them everything!’ and ‘This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die!’

At times, Watchmen feels a lot like 300. 300 minutes long. While its tepid denouement draws on for an eternity, 300 has the good sense to wrap things up while its intensity is still high. There can, of course, be only one ending for Leonidas and his brave companions, yet it remains immensely satisfying, as the Spartans’ defiance shines through despite an endless flock of arrows blotting out the sun. This is heroic, stirring stuff. It is also great fun, which is what these kinds of movies should be all about. As they say in Sparta, HA-OOH!! HA-OOH!! HA-OOH!!



Watchmen: 59 %, 300: 41 % 


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14 Responses to “Watchmen v 300”

  1. The comic book has a very different ending, including some seriously trippy tentacles:


  2. Antonius Maximus Says:

    McD, i havent yet seen Watchmen so cannot comment on it, but i will in time do both!
    And as for you McG, i thought you had some taste in music, at least a shred of it! When i see you i shall have to detroy you like the Persian you must be! Then i shall happily listen to Bob Dylan, in the shade!
    P.S. 300 = great movie!

  3. Louloubelle Says:

    Watchmen hands down wins this for me! Maybe it was all the Blue Willy knocking around in the movie… Go Dr Manhattan!! I kid..
    Seriously dark, clever film, well shot and way more interesting than 300!! Silk Septre rocks!

  4. Winwoozle Says:

    300 wins for me!


  5. EasyTargetCf Says:

    I much prefer 300 it was more violent, you knew exactly what was going on and didn’t have an up itself message regarding humans and how bad we are and it wasn’t 160 minutes of talking and 3 minutes fighting!! And at the end of 300 you werent walking out of the cinema asking 2 questions:1. Wat was that guy talking about for so long and 2. wat was the need for all the blue dong

  6. If Butler and his 299 mates had brought Roy Keane on at half time they probably would have won…..and put us out of our misery a hell of a lot earlier.

  7. Loulou and EasyTarget, the Blue Willy test is much like the real Rorschach Test – you see what you want to see. And you long to see the dong.

  8. General Griervous Says:

    Watchmen is a better movie dan 300 hands down.

    But if were talking about arguements (and we are) McG just nudges ahead. Though u wana talk about easy targets “A comedian dat isnt funny” HMM, U thread a fine line McG, bt just enuf wit to win dis day!

    One mite call u a young Oscar Wilde

  9. To be honest, Im sad. From reading both your reviews, it looks like neither one of you was impresses. I ADORED Watchmen. It was fabulous! Perfect casting, great soundtrack, did perfect justice to the comic and then did one better by changing the very weird drug inspired (im sure) ending from the novel. Fight scenes were magic, best opening scene of all time. All the corny lines from the novel made their way into the movie, I loved that. Its like, I know you’re about to say it, will he say it… ah, yes he said it. The audience laughs and claps, everyone is happy!!

    ps going to see it again tonight!

  10. Oh yea and that comedian that isn’t funny line??? Duh, did you read the book!!!!

  11. Watchmen was a perfect 10 out-of 10 movie and it made 300 look like a big steaming pile of horse manure everything was perfect the cast=perfect, the story line is exactly the same as the book, the soundtrack=perfect, it’s the most original story line for a super-hero movie whats perfect some people ask me and I would say they have no powers but their mad strong they can’t fly but no-one can. Theres only one person with powers but it shows you how he got the powers and its perfect how they detail everything especially how he got trap in the machine that changed him and the way that he came back as a super-hero.

  12. Antonius Maximus Says:

    ….and who would have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalkers Father….wow!

    Cheers Lee M for telling me the whole feckin movie before ive seen it!!!!
    Why i outta!

  13. Probably 300. Watchmen didn’t do the book justice. F**k you Zack Snyder.

  14. I don’t leave many remarks, but i did a few searching and
    wound up here Watchmen v 300 | Ross v Ross. And I do have 2
    questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it simply me or
    does it look as if like some of these comments look as if they are left by brain dead
    folks? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I would like to follow anything new you have
    to post. Would you make a list of every one of all
    your social sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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