Thursday, June 20, 2013

Watchmen (2009) Review.

Note: Since this review was written before I watched Man of Steel, it may refer to it in the future tense. Also please check back tomorrow for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Book Vs Film.

Thoughts: Watchmen, directed by Zack Sndyer and based on Alan Moore's legendary graphic novel of the same name. Watchmen is often considered to be one of, if not, the best graphic novel and was the only graphic novel to make Time Magazine's "100 Best Novels." It takes place during an alternate 1980s where Nixon is in a third term and masked vigilantes are either driven into retirement or work for the government, except for one vigilante named Rorschach. The Watchmen graphic novel is known for being a "deconstruction" of superheroes and how flawed heroes would most likely be in the real world and, Dr. Manhattan is the only character with actual powers. To me at least, the importance placed on the themes are a little overrated in that respect. However, the film does not portray those themes nearly as well as the novel. Unlike many comic books, Watchmen is a self-contained story with characters made solely for the story.
Watchmen the film received mixed reviews from critics resulting in a serviceable rating of 64% Rotten, which would seem fairly accurate to the quality of the film.
At the time of watching the movie, I had not read the graphic novel, recently I have and it was an excellent novel, definitely for mature readers only though. Reading the novel made the film better in retrospect. In terms of being an accurate adaptation, Watchmen is kind of mixed. While many of the comic panels were accurately translated to screen, some of the main characters came off as flat and not believably human enough, mostly due to the actor's who played the characters and writing of said characters. Laurie/Silk Spectre was the worst of the group, especially considering her significant amount of screen the character received. Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias was poorly written and acted, *Major Spoiler* the twist of him being the villain was barely a surprise due to his villainess performance. *End Spoiler* Jon/Dr. Manhattan was much better than the other two, but still could have been executed better. Conversely, Rorschach, Nite Owl, and The Comedian, were great characters, accurately transferred to the big screen. Rorschach in particular was the highlight of the film. Nearly all of his scenes were fantastic, it would be great to see an entire Rorschach film. Also there are multiple cuts of the film and I believe I have only seen the original cut (I happened to catch the movie on cable), however, after reading the novel I am more interested in seeing those alternate versions.

Normally I do not fact the content of a film into my review, but Watchmen does contain things that I consider completely unnecessary in terms of overt sexual content, even more so than the graphic novel. Also in scenes taken directly from the novel there were added profanity for no real reason, the dialogue of the novel did contain some profanity, but nearly as much as the movie.

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Genre: Comic Book,
Release Date: March 6, 2009
Running Time: 162 minutes
MMPA rating: R

The Good: Excellent visuals, Translates many panels perfectly to screen, A few cool actions scenes, Looks like the graphic novel, Some social commentary came through the adaptation, Rorschach was awesome, Attention to detail in the sets,

The Bad: More style than substance, Lacks depth of novel, Too much sexual content, Malin Åkerman and Matthew Goode were miscast, Pacing issues, Lacks a human element,

Extreme Warning: Due to the amount of sexual content, the film is only recommended to mature audiences (unless censored). Also the blue guy in the trailer, who is a completely computer generated, Dr. Manhattan is shown to be stark naked throughout most of the film.

Plot: The following plot summary is copied from
The 'Minutemen', a collection of costumed crime fighters, formed in 1938 in response to a rise in costumed gangs and criminals, and the 'Watchmen' similarly form decades later. Their existence in the U.S. has dramatically affected world events: the super powers of Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) help the United States win the Vietnam War, resulting in President Richard Nixon (Robert Wisden) being repeatedly reelected into the 1980s. The existence of Dr. Manhattan gives the West a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union, which by the 1980s threatens to escalate the Cold War into nuclear war. During that time, growing anti-vigilante sentiment in the country leads to masked crime fighters being outlawed. While many of the heroes retire, Doctor Manhattan and the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) operate as government-sanctioned agents, and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) continues to operate outside the law.
Watch the movie to see what happens next.

Plot: 7.3/10- As stated previously, some of what made the novel great does come through in the film, other aspects fall flat. Pacing is probably the biggest issue. It really dragged in a few areas, in retrospect however, the pacing was not a big problem if you have read the novel. The mystery was intriguing but it was not terribly difficult to figure out.

Action: 7.4/10- In typical Zack Sndyer fashion, the action is stylized, bloody and brutal, using a lot of slow-motion effect. My main criticism is that there could have been more action, because what is there is fantastic and even better than Sndyer's previous film 300.

Acting: 6.4/10- Jackie Earle Haley kills it as Rorschach. Easily the best performance and aspect of the film. Most of his scenes were the highlight of the film. Patrick Wilson as Daniel Dreiberg / Nite Owl was great in his role, the second best performance of the cast. In his limited role, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake / The Comedian did an excellent job at bring his character to life. Billy Crudup as Jon/ Dr. Manhattan was neither good nor bad in his role, he was decent. Matthew Goode as Adrian/ Ozymandias was miscast, his performance was far too over-the-top. Malin Åkerman as Silk Spectre was poorly miscast. Her performance was noticeably weak throughout the film. The other cast members were fine but nothing special.

Special effects: 8.2/10- As with any Zack Sndyer film, the special effects were spectacular! Even a few years since its release, the effects are still effective. The attention to detail in the set design is excellent, most sets appear to be taken directly from the page. In general the character's costume look fine, although some of them have a cheap, almost corny look to a few of them, which can be off-putting to some viewers.

Soundtrack: 7.0/10- Watchmen soundtrack consists of many licensed, most of which are from the 80s. Some viewers may fine this the choice of music odd, and I normally dislike songs during serious films, but it worked well within the context of the film.

Comedy: 4.9/10- Watchmen is certainly not a comedy, however Rorschach's remakes are great and humorous in a dark and twisted way, similar to Clint Eastwood in his earlier films.

Would I Watch This Again: After reading the graphic novel I do need to watch the "Ultimate Cut" of the film.

Before Reading Novel Rating: 6.2/10- Due to the slow pacing and other issues the film is decent but never reached its full potential.

After Reading Novel Rating: 7.7/10- Even though the novel is superior because it has so much more time to develop the story and characters, reading the novel makes me appreciate the attention to detail of adapting the film, particularly in the visual sense. Usually reading the book a film was based on makes said film worse, however it makes a subpar movie better than it would have been otherwise.

Closing comments: For those who enjoyed the movie and have never read the graphic novel, it is highly recommended that you do so, however both the film and novel are intended for mature audiences only.

Recommended for *Mature*: Comic Book fans, Zack Sndyer fans,

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  1. Great Review James, I will have to get around to it myself. I agree the movie was flat, its had no life, and I am starting to wonder if Zack Znyder has a fatal flaw in his direction. Still I think it was a groundbreaking movie in many respects and something every sci fi fan must see.

  2. Zack Snyder directed this movie that basically deconstructs the concept of superheroes and then goes on to make the latest movie about Superman, arguably the archetype of superheroes .

    Not sure what to make of the director's artistic sensibilities. I guess this fact itself should have been a warning about Man of Steel more than anything else.


  3. This looks interesting; but maybe I'll only read the novel. I like graphic novels and it sounds like it has less bad content then the movie. :)


  4. It's a flawed film for sure, mainly due to the performances like Malin Åkerman which you mentioned.

    The Ultimate Cut, which incorporates extra sequences and the animated comic like in the graphic novel, is much better.

    Even with it's flaws this is one of my favorite films from Snyder.

  5. @Steve: Thanks Steve, even if you do not usually read graphic novels, Watchmen is a must read.
    After watching his three "best" movies, they all have the same flaw: lifeless characters.
    Excellent point about being sci-fi, it is almost more sci-fi than superhero in terms of genre.

    @Buddy2Bogger: Apt observation B2B. It is an oxymoron isn't it?

    Agreed, Sndyer focuses too much on the visuals and not enough on the characters and story.

    @Jamie: While it is certainly less in the novel, there are still a lot of profanity, suggestive dialogue, and other content, however it is in print so it is not as bad in my opinion compared to live action. So just check out it out on your website. :)

    @Daniel: I heard that it included the "Black Freighter" comic and some other parts that where in the comics. I definitely want to watch it.
    I agree, after Man of Steel it is my favorite Sndyer film.



One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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