We’re now in the third phase of Watchmen reaction buzz — a turning of the karma that is now starting to point upwards with Devin Faraci‘s very lengthy praise review that went up today on CHUD and Drew McWeeny‘s Hitfix rave. Slight counter-boosts, temporary mood changers. But don’t be surprised if the naysayers rise again.

The first phase began eight days ago (on 2.16) with that rancid, embargo-ignoring, anal-ecstasy fanboy piece by Time blogger and Simpsons exec producer Matt Selman.

That prompted Phase 2 — a series of angry counter-reactions in this and other corners, and my posting of three negative (but agenda-free) responses to the film — “Staggering Failure” on 2.17, “That Whooshing Feeling” on 2.19 and “Watchmen Pan #3” on 2.23. (As well as that stirring review by music-industry fringe player Mike Rogogna!)

Now we’ve got Phase 3 underway with Faraci and McWeeny’s hitback raves and this reader comment from longtime reader “Will,” who saw Watchmen in Austin last night:

Watchmen dives into the serious social commentary that set The Dark Knight apart from previous comic book-based movies, but that’s part of the reason it’s been a classic in the comic book medium for so long. Is it too faithful to the book? I don’t think so. The film does the source material justice in every way possible outside of a frame-by-frame, panel-by-panel reenactment.

“The changes made from the source are all for the better in terms of plausibility except for the pseudo-superpowers the main characters (aside from Dr. Manhattan) have had added. That’s the only part where this comic fan came out going ‘whaah?’ The friend I went with didn’t care, I don’t think, so take that for what it’s worth. They don’t push you to feel as if you have to like any of the main characters (as in the book), which will turn off some general audience types. That is part of the whole point.

“The thing is that the cut we all saw last night won’t please everyone, but for the first time I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You chop more out, the movie doesn’t work. You make the fans happy and do the whole director’s cut, you limit your audience exponentially. The acting was good all around, the effects weren’t over-CGed, and the slo-mo wasn’t as crazy as it was in 300. Snyder did the material justice better than anyone has done Alan Moore’s work. Even non-fans will probably go back and see it in IMAX if able.

“I honestly expected to be let down in a big way, because I love the source book. Defying all my expectations, I had to tell my brain to stop thinking about the book because I liked the movie so much. I’ll have to see it again to really soak it all up. You shouldn’t read the graphic novel right before going to see it, and if you have and you’re insisting on it being JUST like it, you’re an idiot who should go back to directing from their sofa.

“The reason I felt I had to write in was that anything posted at Ain’t It Cool will look too much like the original Time blog rave to most readers, and the three pans HE has printed are too smug for their own good. They read like these three guys are reacting not to the movie, but to the first guy’s review and his type of person.

“I know there are people out there that want an adapted work to play like a radical auteur take on existing material. That works for Batman, but not these characters. They have their multi-issue miniseries and that’s it. No dark Frank Miller run in the 80’s, no rebirthing storyline or ultimate super-awesome reset of existing continuity exists for these characters.

“I’m not a slavish devotee of the comic, but I read it some years ago, respected it, and thought the movie did everything it needed to and then some in translating it. The only thing I’ll directly echo from the original Time blog reviewer is that I didn’t think it was possible to do it well or at all. Take the film for what it is, and don’t let the deterrent personality of some anonymous guy reviewing it change your mind.

“Ask yourself a question: do you like movies or do you like criticizing them to look smart with no repercussions to your credibility? The answer to that question determines whether or not I care what you think about this or any film.”

Final Wells comment: I say again that only non-vested straight-talkers who were never that into comic book geekdom can be trusted on this movie. It may be a great film, or a very good or deeply stirring one, but only the pure of heart and the culturally uncommitted can determine this. Trust no one with any kind of deep-rooted, strongly Catholic investment in geek fanboy culture.