Friday, March 06, 2009

WATCHMEN: The Film Babble Blog Review

WATCHMEN (Dir. Zack Snyder, 2009) Darker than THE DARK KNIGHT and raunchier than any other Superhero movie ever, WATCHMEN busts out of development Hell into theaters today and it’s sure to be #1 this weekend. Knowing nothing of the source material, I sat transfixed and alternately baffled at what I saw at a late screening last night. Set in an alternate America in 1985 in which Nixon (played with a cartoon-ish prosthetic nose by Robert Wisden) is still president, a group of Superheroes has been disgraced and placed under governmental control. When The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a power player with a crusty charisma is murdered, Superhero turned vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) focuses on tracking down the killers. Among the not-ready-for-the-Justice-League heroes are Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and Billy Crudup as the completely CGI crafted Doctor Manhattan. Much of this film feels like a Frankenstein monster of a movie with pieces from pop culture classics stitched together – the rain drenched neon-lit dystopian cityscapes from BLADE RUNNER and the War Room set reproduced exactly from DR. STRANGELOVE for instance. For an over the top action movie it’s really exposition heavy at times which works better than expected especially the soft spoken Crudup, who somehow makes a giant naked blue man animation into a study in eloquence. As for the action, the fight scenes lack edge and urgency, but the overall thrust is engaging if not transcendent. As Rorschach, complete with a cool morphing ink blot mask, Haley is the stirring standout showing how far he’s come from pitching for the BAD NEWS BEARS. A sequence involving Rorschach in stir is absolutely gripping with Haley stealing the movie away from his co-stars and the scores of expensive bombast. As I mentioned above I have not read the original beloved graphic novel on which this is based so I can’t judge how faithful it is, but it certainly felt like a true comic book movie. It was almost as if bold panel edges and invisible establishing text were present while Crudup’s Doctor Manhattan looked like he had literally walked off the printed page. The soundtrack is quite unorthodox for a Superhero epic – an opening montage set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” sets the tone with odd choices like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds Of Silence”, and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” following suit. Unfortunately, despite all these eccentricities and that it's leaps and bounds better than Snyders 300, the film is way too long with a number of plodding parts that don’t gel. As a better than average popcorn flick it’s sure to have many fans, but it had ambitions way above that. Despite that WATCHMEN doesn’t soar to the heights it aims for, its intense intent and wicked sense of self is nearly intoxicating enough. More later...

9 comments:

Film School said...

This movie is awesome!

Film School said...

This movie is Awesome!

Randy said...

Man this was the graphic novel that changed my life. I've been interested to see what you thought of the filmed version of the story. My opinion: "A story to big for a single movie", but that has been an argument of mine since I was a pretentious 13 yr old exposed to the comic for the first time. It is beyond epic in scope and when I found out Dufus300 dude was directing.... my heart sank. (spoiler) My biggest problems with this film are the score(All Along the Watchtower!?!?) and underdeveloped Ozymandias evil plot, which when spread out through the comic makes sense, adds to the detective noir vibe and doesn't feel tagged on at the end. Kudos for some of the set pieces, costumes, and obvious shots lifted straight from the book, and I thought some of the acting was strong. I hate to say it Dan, but as a diehard watchmen comic fan I'm really going to have with hold final judgment till I see the 4hr directors cut on DVD later this year.... but I am a sucker for that. I wish you had read it before you saw the flick, cause 300 dude only gets in the way, and this was/is a fabulous story of our effed up "Human Condition".

Adam said...

Hi Daniel,

I've read and enjoyed the graphic novel, so I came into the film with a different set of expectations than you did. I thought it was probably the best adaptation possible, given the fact that the layers upon layers present within the source material made this difficult. That said, I don't think it's a perfect film. However, while there are definitely things that I think could have been stronger, I'm very pleased with the final result.

I completely agree about Haley's performance. With the mask off, he's riveting.

Interestingly, I didn't feel that the film was too long, although that's probably related to the fact that I love the source material and really dig the story. I spoke with a friend last night who thought, as you did, that it was too long.

At times, the profanity and violence were a bit surprising, as it's unusual for them to be in a superhero film, but I think it's about time that one was set in something closer to the "real-world."

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with the film. Now, no one better come along and think that a Watchmen sequel is anything more than a completely crackpot idea.

-Adam

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Film (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Randy said...

When I said it was too big for a single movie, I'm definitely not suggesting a sequel. I totally agree that would be lame! Rather, that a single movie wouldn't be able to cram all the layers of the story into one sitting. Just wanted to clarify.......

Randy said...

When I said it was too big for a single movie, I'm definitely not suggesting a sequel. I totally agree that would be lame! Rather, that a single movie wouldn't be able to cram all the layers of the story into one sitting. Just wanted to clarify.......

Adam said...

Oh, dude, I totally got what you meant. I certainly wasn't calling you out with my comment about a sequel being a crackpot idea. I completely knew where you were coming from about splitting up the story into 2 or 3 films. I was just saying that because I know the actors are under contract for a sequel and I really don't want the powers-that-be to do something that dumb.

-Adam

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Film (But Were Afraid To Ask)

coffee said...

i haven't read the Watchmen comic series, but i can't imagine them packing any more into one movie even if they wanted to, which is good for me, makes me feel like i got my money's worth

AoK said...

i read the graphic novel and was quite disappointed! check out my article on waltz with bashir: From real to subconscious to dreams to hallucinations at http://ambassadorofkool.blogspot.com