Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Watchmen (2009)

Note: This review was originally posted on a message board forum. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Watchmen: The Movie

Was it good? Yes, it was great. Was it as good as the graphic novel? Unsurprisingly no, but that's a compliment to the graphic novel, and not a complaint about the movie. In fact, considering the quality of the source material, the complexity and subtlety of its brilliance, and the differences between the media, creating a satisfactory movie adaptation of a story like Watchmen is quite an accomplishment. And I do consider it accomplished.

Casting was effective. I think the characters were portrayed quite well, Rorschach being no exception (totally bad-ass - he's got to be my favorite character). I think Patrick Wilson was a good match for the second Nite Owl - even though I couldn't shake off my interpretation of him as "the guy" from Hard Candy. Which is sort of an odd juxtaposition. But that's my problem, not the movie's problem.

Special effects were spared no expense, and though some of them seemed a little gratuitous, you have to admit this is the sort of thing a lot of people like to see. Besides, the action was great.

I think the one thing about the movie that I liked the most is that it was a hard R. Heavy violence, sexual themes, even some nudity. And considering the maturity of the source material, I wouldn't have been satisfied otherwise. I was pleased at the approach they took.

Some specific things:


The Comedian's death early on was drawn out into quite a battle. It was impressive, though I'm not entirely sure what it added to the story overall. Aside from another good action scene, of course.

When Doc Manhattan goes to Mars, and has his little soliloquy, explaining his past, while exposing us to his unique perception of time (or what humans experience as time), I thought it wasn't nearly as effective as it was in the graphic novel. It's a complex scene, though, so I'm not holding any grudges.

The ending was slightly different from the graphic novel, though not as much as one might have you believe. It's just that instead of an interdimensional alien invasion, it was a bunch of experimental reactors exploding, with the blame being placed on Doc Manhattan. Some people seem to say the movie ending makes more sense, but the alien invasion ending is so much cooler (plus, it makes for a better practical "joke"). Still, it didn't ruin the movie for me that there was no interdimensional alien at the end.

None of the female roles in this story really stand out for me, but I have to say, when the Silk Spectre (young generation) got back into her uniform and started kicking ass, she was pretty sweet. And the steamy scene in the "owl chopper", while she still had her boots on (but nothing else)...


When the movie opened, and went into the opening montage of history clips, I was a little concerned, because I was thinking about how complex the story is, seeing all the events flashing by, and I was wondering if the movie would be able to successfully get the depth of the story across. And, considering the limitations of the medium, I think they did a fine job.

Anyway, great movie, and I highly recommend it. As a superhero movie, and as a comic book movie, it's not anything like a superhero movie or a comic book movie, and that's one of its greatest strengths. It stands out from the pack. And in a good way. Considering all the hype around this project, and the acclaim the original story has gotten, I could see how this could easily have been a disaster, but I must say, I think it turned out well. So don't miss your chance to see it!

Some notes on the two Watchmen-related specials:

Under The Hood

In the graphic novel, we are treated to excerpts from Hollis Mason's (the original Nite Owl) autobiography, Under The Hood, which offers us insight into the earlier generation of Masked Heroes - the Minutemen - that preceded the current Watchmen in the story. This addendum to the movie plays out in the form of a television interview (complete with commercials, including one for Veidt's "Nostalgia") with Hollis Mason, as he discusses much of the stuff covered in the autobiography. Much of the earlier generation stuff seems to have been glossed over in the Watchmen movie, and this featurette makes up for it, adding that perspective back in. Some side characters get a little extra screen time, as well, including the newsstand owner, who gets to say his catch phrase, "in the final analysis". Under The Hood hardly stands on its own, but it's an amusing and informative addition to the Watchmen experience.

Tales of the Black Freighter

Tales of the Black Freighter, on the other hand, not only stands on its own, but in my opinion, is at least as good as Watchmen itself, if not even better (and it only clocks in at 25 minutes). In the graphic novel, there's a series of scenes around the street corner newsstand, where a hanger-on kid reads a pirate comic, that we get to experience in pieces here and there. The story is incredibly dark and poetic, and honestly, it was my favorite part of the whole Watchmen experience. It's kind of separate from the rest of Watchmen, though, so it's no surprise it wasn't included in the movie - yet, I'm really really happy that they decided to animate it as an extra. And I won't say much, since there's no point in describing the story when you can just read (well, watch) it for yourself, except this - the animated version is unquestionably a success. Four thumbs up (the other two borrowed from a dead shipmate).

No comments:

Post a Comment