Movie Review: Watchmen

Watchmen

Considering how tight money is for me at the moment, I neither bought new comics today nor the Director’s Cut of Watchmen last night. However, from the annuls of my LiveJournal, I’ve plucked the review of the film and am reposting it with a couple revisions to clear up some confusion. So, without further ado, read on.

Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, and Matt Frewer.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

  • Missing lines. “Oh shit. I’m on Mars,” being the one I wanted to hear, followed by Rorschach’s diatribe on the absence of God.
  • Flubbed lines. “I did it thirty-five minutes ago” fell flat because of a changed word and Matthew Goode’s delivery.
  • Missing scenes, including Hollis’ death and the newsstand bits, which I hope will crop up in the Director’s Cut.
  • The fact that in the book they never called themselves the Watchmen. I missed Captain Metropolis at their first meeting (it was the Crime-Busters) losing his shit when the Comedian torched the map. A decent scene, but it was missing something, and I suppose it was changed to avoid confusing the mainstream audience.
  • The mainstream audience. God, I was surrounded by morons at the cinema where I saw Watchmen the first time. One guy kept asking why Dr. Manhattan wasn’t wearing pants.

Stuff I Liked

  • The soundtrack. A lot of people don’t like the use of the contemporary music, preferring the orchestral score, but I’m going to defend these choices. “The Times Are A-Changin'” underscored the power and beauty of the opening sequence, “All Along The Watchtower” worked just as well as it did in the book, “Ride of the Valkyries” hit the Vietnamese nail on the head, “Hallelujah” made Dan & Laurie’s scene in Archie even more tender and intimate (I think I’m alone on that one, but I’m a nerd and I know what it’s like to get over impotence with a beautiful girl, so…) and the muzak version of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” in Adrian’s lobby made me laugh out loud because it was absolutely perfect.
  • Silk Spectre. While she didn’t have as much to say in the movie as she does in the book, she isn’t quite as whiny as she is in print. I also don’t recall her having a smoking habit in the film, as she did in the book. I like her, though, because she’s a strong character and holds her own in a very male genre. She’s no damsel in distress.
  • Ozymandias. Matthew Goode nailed Adrian’s look, demeanor and physicality. The shifting accent is odd at first, but when you realize he’s putting on airs for the benefit of Americans and is a different person in private, it fits. He’s convincing but not quite as compelling as the others.

Stuff I Loved

  • The Comedian. You can’t help but love a guy wearing a smiley-face button lighting his cigar with a flamethrower and shooting rioters with a grenade launcher and shotgun (tear gas and rubber bullets, honest). His big grin is infectious, and his delivery and poise let us in on the joke. Despite the grimdarkness of the story and setting, we find ourselves grinning right along with him.
  • Dr Manhattan. When I read the book, I imagined him having a deeper voice, but his soft, detached tones fit extremely well. He really is beyond human feeling for the most part, so far removed from the human experience, and his voice is cool and analytical, almost like a walking talking HAL-9000 without the malevolent reasoning. Towards the end I found myself looking into his eyes, and seeing what was there, a sort of infinite sight and understanding, something that was only hinted at in the book, had me appreciating him all the more.
  • Dan. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a character I’ve been able to sympathize and empathize with more than Dan. He’s every nerd, every dweeb, every hobbyist recluse you’ve ever met and he’s absolutely spot-on. Maybe this is why I didn’t mind and actually liked the music in his second scene with Laurie: I’ve been there. After Rorschach’s death when he screams, the idiot next to me (not my father, obviously) called it “bad acting.” I wanted to ask him, “Well, how would YOU react if your best friend had just been reduced to a human ink-blot? A shrug and a search for the nearest forty of Hennessey?” Dan’s an emotional and sensitive man, not a self-absorbed macho heroic archetype, and that’s why I root for him every single time he’s on the screen.
  • Rorschach. The linchpin of the movie. He gets the best lines, he absolutely inhabits the gritty skin of this barely human character, and he brings to life one of the seminal forces of Watchmen. He mentions that he feels he’s the only one without ‘personality disorders’ and we find ourselves wondering if he’s right. By the clinical standpoint, he’s sociopathic. It could be argued that he exists outside of normal moral constraints because of his belief in a higher moral standard, one free of compromise and sympathy. His inner world is one of absolutes, blacks and whites, with no extenuating circumstances or ethical boundaries. There is right, there is wrong, and Rorschach walks the line between them without flinching.
  • Mars.
  • The opening sequence.
  • Archie.
  • They preserved the poignancy and scope of the ending despite its changes. Flubbed line aside, Adrian still makes his point, and while his method differs severely from the book, the movie does not suffer from it, and it works within the established mythology and ties Dr Manhattan’s subsequent journey to another galaxy into Ozymandias’ master-stroke. I missed the squid, but this worked for me on a slightly different level.
  • The set pieces.
  • Gibbons said that Snyder “breathed life” into his panels, and I completely agree. Panel-for-panel, shot-for-shot in some places, Snyder lovingly and loyally brought Watchmen to us with a touch of his own style, without letting his voice get in the way of Moore’s too much.

All in all I rank it with ‘Iron Man’ as one of the best comic book movies ever made, and I’m sure that as I watch it more, it will become an overall favorite.

3 Comments

  1. I found the use of the song “Hallelujah” to be kinda humorous, in a twisted sort of way. I mean, c’mon… what else would he be thinking?

    I should probably mention that I LOATHE that song…..

  2. Thought you might appreciate knowing that Sam Raimi has just been confirmed to direct a World of Warcraft movie. 🙂

  3. I think changing the alien squid to a Dr Manhattan-created event was on of the best things in the film. I think it makes more sense that way, and is better than the book

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