Watchmen (Movie Review)

Before I get into the film review proper, I'd like to make a couple of statements:

1) I have not read the Watchmen graphic novel/comic book/literary masterpiece/whatever the hell you like to call it. Some might say this disqualifies me from reviewing the film adaptation. Let it be known that while the Watchmen is a piece of literature first, it currently dabbles in the cinematic medium. I will evaluate the film by its own merits and not according to the precedent set by its source material and pedigree.

2) My personal philosophy regarding film adaptations of novels or other source material (i.e. "adapted screenplays"): It is the creative responsibility of the director to interpret the original material in whatever fashion they see fit. It's their adaptation, and they are well within their right to make it their own work. If it weren't for directors taking creative liberties, we wouldn't have umpteenth dozens of Shakespeare film adaptations, a large portion of which (mainly the Kenneth Branagh ones) are actually pretty good.

Watchmen

Watchmen is a peculiar movie in that it has a large part of the film going community somewhat divided. There is the nerdy purist faction who hails the Watchmen as a sort of counter culture bible, the oblivious common film goers who are looking for a good time and see the Watchmen as being a viable source of entertainment, and then there are the people like me who only have a passing knowledge of the graphic novel and its raving fanbase and is mostly curious without any predilection or expectation one way or the other. The lack of any prior connection to the material coupled with the absence of any hope for the film only means that the film needs to work a bit harder at being engaging for me. But let it be known that once I was into it, I must say that I was quite impressed.

Even though I've never read the graphic novel, I can definitely tell that the film adheres to its source rather obstinately, for better or for worse. The narrative is so thick and cluttered that while fans will surely be satisfied by the film's fidelity, newcomers like me are for the most part left in the dust. Zack Snyder essentially anticipates two types of customers for the Watchmen: the diehards who want to see a cut for cut adaptation of their beloved comic, and the dullards who walk into the theatre expecting a boom-fest. Both are adequately catered to, unfortunately leaving the precious middle ground so precariously uncultivated. Luckily, you can still enjoy the film without ever managing to tap into the "members only" plot. The characters are well rounded enough that you might actually begin to feel sympathetic towards them, and the scope and panache is definitely appreciable for anyone.

The context of the film is so incomprehensible that a brief plot synopsis is either impossible or laughable. The year is 1985 in an alternate history where the possibility of nuclear war between the US and the USSR is ever looming, and the world has turned to Dr. Manhattan as either the stalemate's catalyst or deterrent. Dr. Manhattan is a superhero who is a god amongst men with nary a concern for any human, except for his girlfriend, Silk Spectre. The two of them used to belong to a clique of caped crusaders known as the Watchmen, a group that appears to be being dismantled mask by mask. When one of their own is thrown out of a window to his death, a chain of events is set in motion that might trigger the end of the world.

image
Best. Character. Ever.

As I mentioned earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the costumed characters, particularly The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who was absolutely spectacular. While this might reflect poorly on me, I must confess that I love sexist, misogynistic, and ultra-violent behaviour, and The Comedian has this in spades. It was around the time that he kicked a pregnant Vietnamese woman in the stomach before shooting her that I fully appreciated how awesome he was, a trait further enhanced when he jumps into a violent mob and starts picking of citizens like a mad sniper short of a clock tower. The charisma and conviction he brings to the table is so welcome that it's truly a shame his character is dead not ten minutes into the film (however there are flashbacks aplenty). He is not the only crass character teetering on the edge of tasteless though, as there are liberal amounts of reprehensible pleasure scattered between the frames. A notable example of which is when a character's mother yells, "I should've had that abortion!" before slapping her child and slamming the door. Unfortunately I was the only one in a particularly crowded theatre to laugh at this comic gem, which elicited many condescending looks.

It goes without saying then that the Watchmen earns its 18A rating with no apprehension whatsoever. There is coarse language, violence, and sex (not of the most gratuitous variety though) and by Jove is it glorious, largely because it's underscored so effectively by the character's attributes and ethics. The philosophy it plugs isn't ground breaking or particularly in depth, but it does match the overall atmosphere quite nicely, and keeps the whole film chugging along even if it pauses for a quandary more frequently than many would like it to.

Overall though, Watchmen does have one crippling defect: the pace. The film was substantially cropped in order to meet a reasonable running length, and the result is a movie that spends the first two thirds meandering about indulging itself and the folks who have spent over twenty years clamouring for this adaptation. The final third of the film beings a hasty and generally dissatisfying denouement, which while sufficiently wrapping things up, neglects to do so in a notably elegant fashion. Watchmen peculiarly overstays its welcome (by running too long) while at the same time ending too quickly (by rushing the final act). The director's cut will almost certainly remedy this, but the theatrical release is ultimately flawed. Regardless, it's still time well spent at the theatre and definitely worth a look. It certainly won me over, enough so that I might pick up the original text.

That was a really nice perspective on it. I haven't seen the adaptation as yet, but from a lot of the reviews I've seen, even the professional ones, have been from the Fanboy perspective. Now, I have read Watchmen, but I want it to be a good film first and foremost. It being a faithful interpretation is important in this ages of remakes and adaptations, but authenticity doesn't always mean quality.

I'm looking forward to the directors cut, because I see that as Zack Snyder's baby, and I'm pretty certain the pacing won't be messed up on that. May not help it overstaying its welcome though.

Damn fine job, I'll be seeing it on Saturday night I hope, over here in the UK, and as someone who really enjoyed the book, but isn't a raving fan, I'll be very interested to see how I rate it.

From what you've said, it sounds like they've done a very good job, realising that its not just a book full of fights and explosions and actually needing character depth and plot to evolve, but at the same time, not forgetting there's gotta be fun stuff for newcomers, too.

Also while I don't agree with violence IRL, its about time we stepped off the podium and quit idolising all children as special angels, sometimes they need a slap, and it's an 18, so why not. I felt in the book, stuff like that was character building, not to the particular character, but to the world.

We need to know this isn't Superman or Spiderman's world. Bad things happen to good people, and one guy in a cape can't fix everything.

I'm sure it'll amass a legion of critics, both fanboy and never heard of comic books types, but in a world of 'Legend of Chun Li' I think we need stuff like this!

Thanks for the review.

Good review, still won't go see it though, as I just don't care. Hell, I still didn't see this "Dark Knight" movie about this guy named "Teh Batzmen." Only movies that I want to see these days are comedies that don't involve Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen/The Rest of That Crew. Which are nearly impossible to find.

Mushroom 118i:
I'm looking forward to the directors cut, because I see that as Zack Snyder's baby, and I'm pretty certain the pacing won't be messed up on that. May not help it overstaying its welcome though.

I have a feeling I'll review the director's cut of the Watchmen when it comes out in a few months time. It's a fine movie on it's own, but a lot of it was either lost in adaptation or simply cut out. I'm tempted to see it again sometime soon, but I'll just wait until the Blu-Ray.

I don't mind a +3 hour running time provided the film remains engaging throughout. This cut of the Watchmen jerks the viewer around, but if an additional hour of material manages to smooth it out, I'm all for it.

Mushroom 118i:

I'm looking forward to the directors cut, because I see that as Zack Snyder's baby, and I'm pretty certain the pacing won't be messed up on that. May not help it overstaying its welcome though.

I heard the Director's Cut is a shot for shot remake, lasting 6 hours.

Anywho, nice review as always, Maet. Nothing is going to stop me from seeing this movie.

Spartan Bannana:

Mushroom 118i:

I'm looking forward to the directors cut, because I see that as Zack Snyder's baby, and I'm pretty certain the pacing won't be messed up on that. May not help it overstaying its welcome though.

I heard the Director's Cut is a shot for shot remake, lasting 6 hours.

Anywho, nice review as always, Maet. Nothing is going to stop me from seeing this movie.

Hope they get the Mariner in that 6 hours.

Nice review, going to see it tomorrow, and I can't wait to see Rorscharch.

Good review, as usual man. Here's my thought on the Watchmen text which I have read. It's a great comic book, but not the literary masterpiece a lot of fans make it out to be. Suffice to say I am a bigger fan of movies than I am of Watchmen, so I was hoping for a good movie not a good adaptation. What I got was faithful adaptation at the expense of a good movie. Mind you, the movie was still decent and worth seeing. The movie ran too long and had pacing issues, due mostly to the aforementioned faithfulness. Some of the lines lifted from the text were awkward, and the narrative structure could have been better. The whole thing was too glossy, and had too much slo-mo. Imagine what this film could have been if a talented director used the excellent source material as inspiration instead of a storyboard. Keep in mind that Darren Aronofsky(The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) was once attached to this project. That's the movie that I wanted.

Adequate. The constant use of 'bullet-time' didn't impress me, but it never does. I liked how Dr. Manhattan was portrayed; reminded me of a humanoid HAL 9000.

dcheppy:
Keep in mind that Darren Aronofsky(The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) was once attached to this project. That's the movie that I wanted.

A lot of people were attached to this movie at one point. I even recall hearing Paul Greengrass was on board to direct. Is a shaky-cam Watchmen even possible?

Though admittedly when the dust settles, I do think Snyder was the right man for the job. After seeing his faithful directorial style, I can't imagine the Watchmen working any other way. The graphic novel is (presumably) the ideal story board already good to go. Why mess with it?

Actually come to think of it, Martin Campbell would've probably done an excellent job if he can do for comic books what he did for James Bond. Kenneth Branagh would've been more than capable as well since he's got the excellent 4+ hour rendition of Hamlet under his belt.

Very good.

Nice review dude.

I also have never read the novel, although I've been told the story repeatedly by friends. I actually didn't enjoy the movie at all. I thought the characters could have been fleshed out a hell of a lot more, I know there's more story behind all of them that what I saw and they all struck me as being rather insubstantial. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of them, except the Comedian, who was the only person we really did manage to get a feel for throughout the film. I actually got bored.

i think the film could have been 10x better if they just implied the sex, and Jon atleast had the thong on during those scenes with his nakedness dangling about, i found it hard to take the film serious when there was a slut banging 3 times and a CGI glowing blue dude with his junk hanging out. Other than that it was amazing. I like the message of it. I like the sci-fi explosion ratio, and there were Matrix-esc fight scenes that could be better if the blood looked real.

I give it a C+ because there could have been a warning somewhere about the naked man, and i didn't get what was going on some of the time. Also i felt really embarrased because i went to see this with parents, and Watchmen was my idea.. (hopefully you can understand that)

I am prepared to wait for the extended version, but a week after it is released, there will a DVD of both "Tales of the Black Freighter" and "Under The Hood" and that will be cool

 

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