Posted on: March 6th, 2009 REVIEW: Watchmen (Ryan)
I began this review with a typical recap of my passion for Watchmen, what to me is the greatest piece of fictional literature of all time, and a long-winded diatribe about how important the book is to society, pop-culture and its people. Then I realised how redundant that is. I did it two days ago. So…
This will be your first and last warning- this review contains mega epic gigantous spoilers. Also, this review will contain no mention of “the squid”; Fanboys, your point is moot.
I’m going to jump right in and get to it. Hard. Gritty. Sweaty. Violently. Much like the film does. Zach Snyder’s Watchmen is as close to perfection as you can get to a Watchmen film. Snyder proved that not only does he love the property, but he gets the property and the audience he’s selling it to. Not only that, but I firmly believe he’s solidified himself as a technically sound and unique director. A lot of people are onboard the Snyder hate-train and to them I say you’ve got no legs to stand on. Watchmen is visually stunning, full of atmosphere and substance and everything feels the way it should. The alternate timeline the film is situated in feels slightly hyper-real, like a photograph with the contrast up a couple points, but everything feels like home. Not one I’d like to live in, but this world serves as a seamless backdrop for its story and characters.
The amount of detail Snyder & Co. Paid attention to and included is simply awesome. The film starts out with the murder of the Comedian, followed by what I believe to be the finest crafted intro-title sequence put to film. Set fittingly to the entire track of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’, this sequence takes the audience through a visual timeline of the Minutemen and their fates and sets the rules, if you will, of this alternate reality up to the Keane Act of 1977. A truly tremendous way to start off the film and give the viewers a sense of the film’s tone. Yes, its cheesy and retro, but its packed full of so much heart and is meant to be taken seriously. There’s some really wonderful stuff here like Mothman getting dragged away to the looney bin and a younger Comedian entranced by a pregnant Sally Jupiter at her retirement dinner. During the intro, these clips are taken directly out of the book with a staggering sense of depth, and we’re even treated to an array of scenes not shown in the book or that are only alluded to, Edward Blake assassinating JFK being one of them. Getting back to the level of detail though, the film has everything. Every picture on a wall, every colored neon lit sign, a million little details for the die-hard like myself to binge on. Make no mistake, Watchmen is a movie made for its fans. That doesn’t mean its not accessible to those who aren’t, but the experience will change greatly for you if you’ve invested anything in the book. If anything, the film warrants multiple-viewings to truly appreciate every treasure to be found.
So Snyder has proven his faithfulness to the book… but is that entirely a good thing? You would think, and for the most part I would say absolutely. But there are a couple moments where a nerd red flag pops up, and dare I say that itself is a bi-product of his attention to detail and mostly consistent strict adaptivity. The film itself sets such a precident of flawless translation from the book, that in the very few moments where it strays or a liberty is taken, I found myself transported briefly out of the scene. One scene in particular, which honestly I felt didn’t work well, was Dr. Manhattans television appearance just before his exhile to Mars. For the majority of the scene, it was beat for beat right out of the book. Then the reporter begins to question Manhattan on his connection to multiple people now suffering from cancer. This was all fine and great until the reporter brings out Manhattan’s ex, Janey Slater, clearly riddled with cancer, who proceeds to remove her wig to reveal strands of sickly hair. Cue the lynch mob of screaming reporters, and the good Doc bamfs it up to Mars. I found the addition of a visibly ill Janey Slater to really cheapened the scene. It went from CNN to Sally Jesse Raphael in an instant, both on-screen and to me the viewer. A minor blip, but a blip nonetheless. Any and all of these beefs though are from the perspective of a fan who knows better. I’m curious as to how a non-fan would see this film, and how a mainstream audience will accept it
Next up on my praise list is the cast. I couldn’t have picked a better cast all around except for one. Carla Gugino, who is normally really good in her roles and has a fantastic screen presence, chewed more scenery than hungry hungry hippos. I felt she took her character way too far in the camp department, and even though her role was minimal, it was almost painful to watch her drawl through her scenes. Truly a shame. But on the other hand, everyone else was incredible. Even Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt), whom I had almost written off entirely since the casting of waifish Mathew Goode was announced. Maybe it was because my expectations were so low going in, but I found myself comfortable with his performance of the so-called smartest man alive. He did bring a slightly different approach to the character than in the book, subtle things like a quiet soft-spokeness and a German accent, but ultimately the character worked. I worry that perhaps the film paints Adrian Veidt with too heavy of villainous undertones, but really they only focus in on his industrialist tendencies and a borderline arrogant sense of self-righteousness. To hell with it, the man can catch a damn bullet.
Rorschach will no doubt be the fan favorite, and he should be. Jackie Earle Haley nailed it. Nailed it to the wall. He was perfect. The voice, the mannerisms, everything. There are two moments, major moments in the film where his performance gave me chills. First, when Rorschach is set-up and captured by the police and his “face” removed, and second, where he meets his demise at the hands of Dr. Manhattan. Nothing gets me going more than a really good scream, and you could tell the conviction and devotion that Jackie Earle Haley had to the role. Rounding out the cast are solid performances from Patrick Wilson as the second Nite Owl, Billy Crudup (w/ aid of CG) as the genital-bearing Dr. Manhattan, Jeffery Dean Morgan who was magnetic as the Comedian (also terribly underused, in my opinion) and Malin Akerman as the second Silk Spectre. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews of Akerman’s performance, but quite honestly I thought she did well. I believed her as the spacey girl with her heart on her sleeve. She’s needy. She’s completely inexperienced. And I totally got that. Again if anyone should be put through scrutiny, its Carla Gugino. Oof, what happened there…
The last thing I want to touch on, and this is all over the place in terms of its reception, is the film’s soundtrack. I really believe that the song choices made for Watchmen were incredibily important to the success of translating the story so well. The songs, like I’m Your Boogeyman, 99 Luftballoons and Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence perfectly accompany the era the film intends to exploit. Its not so much the songs themselves as it is the context in which we’re meant to hear them in, and that is what I think a lot of people are missing. Just like Watchmen uses superheroes to break down the hero archetype, it also does the same for the products of its time. Watchmen also contains what could be one of the finest examples of music selection in film history – a 50 foot tall Dr. Manhattan exploding Vietnamese soldiers to Ride of the Valkyries. Absolutely, shit-looseningly perfect. But perhaps its not too late to make light of one song that rubbed me against the grain, the cess of a tune that still rings through my ears today as it did when the credits rolled on Watchmen, My Chemical Romance’s atrocious cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row. I’m not even a Dylan fan and I hated it. What a way to end an otherwise special night for me.
I think I’ve said all I can about Watchmen that hasn’t been said before. I do think the film is crutched by the book, only because it could never have lived up to it. But it is with that you should watch the film; it can’t possibly compete, so get that unattainable goal out of your head. In saying that, the film is so successful. I truly felt like I was seeing a Watchmen film, and not something masquerading as a mere tribute or facsimile. For the two and a half plus hours, the film belongs with the mythos that I’ve grown to love so much. Bottom line is in my minds eye, the film could not have been any better, any more appropriate and any more sentimental. In a way this is bittersweet, as this marks the end of the dream, the fantasy that one day I would see these fascinating people brought to life. It happened.
5 Responses to “REVIEW: Watchmen (Ryan)”
March 6th, 2009 at 10:56 pm
Great review, I couldn’t agree with you more, fantastic movie. As someone who basically walked into the movie and story blind, I might have a few points to add from the mainstream audience.
But first, I’d like to say that this was my first midnight screening of a movie and I think that ultimately changed the experience pretty significantly. Really, the memories I have of the film are mostly emotions and quick moments, almost like I dreamed the whole thing.
I’m sure I was awake the whole movie, so I don’t know if it was exhaustion or the seemingly random sequence of time and events, but I had no clear idea at what the heck was going on throughout most of the film. And without knowing the source material, I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to be or I was only awake for half of it.
Relationships among the watchmen, the dooms day clock, the smartest guy in the world who I was waiting to spout ‘Turtle, turtle’ ala Dana Carvey in the Master of Disguise, the blue naked guy…
Even with that on my plate, the movie was so gorgeous to look at and fun to experience I won’t have any issues returning to figure out the story. But I have a feeling a lot of people are going to shrug and move onto the next thing.
But that’s the beauty of the movie. It hasn’t slowed down to let passer-by’s jump on. Like you said, it’s a total fan’s movie so be prepared.
Jon Stephens Says:
March 6th, 2009 at 11:42 pm
This movie was about the best adaptation we are ever going to get. I was in awe the first time I watched it, I was wrapping my head around it all in the second time, and by the third I completely understood just how fantastic this is. As a Watchmen fanatic myself, I couldn’t be more pleased.
I was even pleased with Snyder’s ending. Blaming it all on Manhattan. Giant Killer Squid’s wouldn’t have worked. That’s amazing.
Hey, since you guys are publishing multiple reviews of the same film, can I post mine? You could always go to the fantastic MovieGuys.org to check it out. I went out of my way to do a realistic review and curb the fanboy-ism.
I loved this movie almost as much as I love my wife. Almost. I saw a guy on Superherohype message boards that had a great analogy for this, I won’t repeat it just in case girls are reading, but I’ll say it had something to do with the film being better than recieving some, ummm… how do I put this… oral pleasure. Yeah, I’d say that’s about right. I friggin loved it!!!
Jon Stephens Says:
March 6th, 2009 at 11:48 pm
Oh, and I’ve got to say that I thought the scene that “went from CNN to Sally Jesse Raphael” was a great way to heighten the drama and humanize Manhattan. It’s damn near impossible for him to express emotions, and if they didn’t take a minor liberty like that to do it, then a lot more people would’ve just shrugged this movie off, and it’d never get it’s dues.
Zack Snyder is a fanboy GOD now.
Ryan Ferrier Says:
March 7th, 2009 at 11:22 pm
“Hey, since you guys are publishing multiple reviews of the same film, can I post mine? ”
You bet Jon!
And I agree with you (except for that Manhattan scene, I still really disliked it)… FAH… KING… EPIC.
Top 10 Films of 2009 « Giant Killer Squid - Film, Comics, News, Reviews and more Says:
December 20th, 2009 at 8:47 pm
[...] You know how people never forget where they were when Elvis died, or when they saw Star Wars for the first time? Going to the midnight screening of Watchmen will probably be that memory for me. This was, hands down, the most excited I’ve ever been for a film in my life. I bled the book for years, and lived through the marketing leading up to the release. It did not disappoint me, a scrutinous Watchmen fanboy. Though the debate rages on still, I stand firm when I say that director Zack Snyder did it. He filmed the un-filmable, and beautifully. Read my original review. [...]