We're rapidly approaching Watchmen's five month birthday, so I felt it was fitting to discuss how the hardcore Watchmen fans, casual Watchmen fans, and those who never read the book have perceived the movie, as another topic is getting slowly derailed into this discussion. From what I've seen (and I visit a lot of forums on the Internet as well as knowing many people in that vast landscape we call "the real world") there appears to be a correlation between one's familiarity with the graphic novel and how much they liked the movie: hardcore fans, for the most part, loved it; casual fans were mixed; and the general public hated it.
Hardcore fans: I feel this forum is the best representation of hardcore fans out there. We know all the intricate details of the novel from cover to cover and followed the movie's production for months or years before release. Reception here was almost unanimously positive. There's not much else to say here other than that Watchmen is an enigma among movie adaptations: it's the fans who liked the movie, instead of the general public. This is an effect rarely ever seen elsewhere.
Casual fans: The fans who read the book once a few years back and mostly remember the details. As I said above, one's familiarity with the source material seems to directly correlate with how much they liked the movie. The guy who read the book once a decade ago hates the movie because of the ending; all he remembers was the squid but none of the buildup that would correspond to an extra half hour of screentime. But the guy who reads the book once every few years to keep it fresh tended to like it, being that perfect mix of casual (not caring what they changed) and hardcore (being appreciative of what they didn't change). In the end, I think it was these people who tipped the scale regarding the box office; when you're a guy who's never heard of this Watchdudes thingamabob and you overhear a fan of the series bashing the movie at the watercooler, you won't go see it. The casual fan complaints seem to echo the nonfan complants: too much penis, too long, too short, too long and too short at the same time, etc. This is because they don't remember why, for example, Manhattan's nudity is important, all they remember is "yeah he was naked in the book but he didn't have to be in the movie."
Nonfans: Hated it. I've still yet to meet more than two or three people who liked the movie without having read the book. As the aforementioned hardcore fans, we will never get to watch the movie through the perspective of a nonfan. However, some of the nonfan complaints still confuse me. Why was Manhattan's nudity, which is rarely even onscreen and never the focus of the shot, such an issue? Why was a movie only ten minutes longer than The Dark Knight considered "too long"? Was the marketing campaign really that deceptive, and did audiences really do no research whatsoever on what they were about to see?
Does Watchmen's reception among the general population represent what is wrong with moviegoers today, or was this reception intended and part of the plan? Do you think nonfans or outspoken casual fans contributed more to the poor word of mouth? And do you think Watchmen has a chance at becoming a big cult hit long after the frat boy crowd has forgotten about it and moved on?
I think it's a bit harsh to say that non fans in general wouldn't like this film, and I know quite a number of people who have never read the book but enjoyed the film (including one who claims it was the greatest comic book film he's ever seen). I personally believe that it's not whether they are a fan of the comic book series or not which determines whether they'll enjoy Watchmen it's what do they look for in a movie that determines whether they'll enjoy Watchmen.