5 Comments Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
KING Watches The Watchmen
Entertainment editor Matt Barone gives an in-depth review of the much-anticipated flick.
***This is a long one thatâ€™ll test a readerâ€™s patience, so be warned. Especially since I just wrote without any true streamline. Again, youâ€™ve been disclaimed.
Thereâ€™s a tug-of-war going on inside me right now, that no geek-gasmic film is safe from, not even Zack Snyderâ€™s intricately-faithful take on Watchmen. You see, Iâ€™m merely one within the ever-growing droves who adores Alan Mooreâ€™s 1986-1987 comic book masterpiece, which means I was initially skeptical when Snyder (the man behind 300 who apparently gets off on slow motion sequences) was announced as the man brave enough to finally bring Watchmen to the big screen. â€œNot only is the source materialâ€™s beastly page-count futile to film at anything less than three hours,â€ I thought, a length better served as a cable miniseries, â€œbut the comic features a kid biting another kidâ€™s face off, the gunning down of a pregnant woman, and superhero rape. Hollywood will never let all of that fly.â€
Months later, however, The Dark Knight came out and pimp-slapped my preconceptions of what â€œsuperhero moviesâ€ can be, and suddenly I found myself more excited than ever about Watchmen. Iâ€™m still confused as to how The Dark Knight snuck by with a PG-13 rating, so the fact that the same studio (Warner Bros.) is behind Watchmen and gave Snyder his desired R-rating, it didnâ€™t seem foolish to think that heâ€™d get away with filming every single brutal detail from Mooreâ€™s â€œnerd Bible.â€ And then still-shots and teaser trailers for Watchmen started materializing, each looking/feeling cooler and more promising than the last, and my anticipatory anxiety began reaching a fever pitch.
Last night, that pitch was finally caught. I watched Watchmen, and Iâ€™m happy to report that Snyder and company have done a great, if not amazing, job at both doing the graphic novel justice and creating a movie like none other youâ€™ve ever seen. Iâ€™ll get into the filmâ€™s flaws later; for now, letâ€™s focus on the many positives. First off, and most importantly for fans of the comic, Snyder has executed the most faithful, reverential, Easter-egg-filled comic-to-film adaptation of all time. Honestly, I know I wasnâ€™t able to catch nearly half of the minor winks at Watchmen lovers throughout the 2-hour-and-40-minute flick, so Iâ€™ll have to wait until I see it again this weekend (you can bet your ass Iâ€™m seeing it againâ€”aside from the movie itself being the tits of entertainment, the new Terminator Salvation and Star Trek trailers attached to this are calling me) to run down the entire list, but I will say to fans in the know: keep an eye out for something known as S.Q.U.I.D.
Clueless as to what this Watchmen ish is even about? Hereâ€™s the quick skinny: In 1977, President Richard Nixon (in his fifth term) passed the Keene Act that banned all masked superheroes from doing their heroic duties. This leaves the six Watchmen, now in 1985, either to their mundane devices, vigilante ways, or celebrity fetishes. One of them, the cold-hearted, nihilistic government lackey Edward â€œThe Comedianâ€ Blake, is murdered, which causes the loveless Rorschach to conduct his own investigation into what he suspects is a â€œmasked-hero killer.â€ From there, the rest of his former comrades toss their costumes back on, onlt uncover a massive conspiracy that involves nuclear war, the Soviet Union, and superhero impotence. Quite the mashup, huh?
Visually, Snyder surpasses the â€œwhoaâ€ factors of 300 here. The beating of your senses starts in early with the filmâ€™s extended opening credits sequence, which explains the story of Watchmen predecessorâ€™s â€œThe Minutemenâ€ while showing glimpses of main character backstories. Itâ€™s quite possibly the coolest title sequence Iâ€™ve ever seen, with badass images of The Comedian assassinating John F. Kennedy to Andy Warhol using Nite Owl as painting inspiration. Take the Dr. Manhattan character, for instance. Heâ€™s a glowing-blue mass of nuclear energy in the form of a man previously named John Osterman (played with great restraint by Billy Crudup), with empty white vessels for eyes and the abilities to jump through the universe, split off into four clones at once, and become Godzilla-tall. Using all kinds of CGI and stop-motion trickery, Snyder and his team have turned Manhattan into a living, breathing specimenâ€”heâ€™s as life-like as you could ever make an atomic man appear to be, and itâ€™s pretty awesome. As a means of escapism, Manhattan frequently relocates himself onto Mars, and the scenes on the red planet are eye-candy-overload.
The acting, as a whole, is good, but not nearly as memorable as what Snyder pulls off on the technical sides. Sexy-ass Malin Akerman (as Silk Spectre) and the usually-dependable Carla Gugino (as Sally Jupiter) provide some nice treats to look at (especially Gugino in a disrobing-down-to-perfection moment), but theyâ€™re unnatural, forced-lines acting leaves little to desire. As The Comedian, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is serviceable, but I found myself forgetting about The Comedian halfway into the movie, which is bad, since heâ€™s one of the more effective characters in Alan Mooreâ€™s text. Patrick Wilson (as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl) and Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias) fair slightly better, fortunately.
The real star of the show here, though, is Jackie Earl Haley (Rorschach/Walter Kovacs). For me, a heavy load of this filmâ€™s success was riding on how Rorschachâ€”the storyâ€™s darkest character, a sociopathic, enigmatic detective of sorts who sees the world only through â€œright or wrongâ€â€”came across, and it gives me great pleasure to say Haley not only nailed it, he bent it over, dominated it, and left it begging for more. Whatever â€œitâ€ is. When Watchmen digs into Rorschachâ€™s background, after heâ€™s been sent to prison, the film takes this angry horror show tone, and itâ€™s something else (Remember this quote as the filmâ€™s nastiest scene commences: â€œMen get arrested; dogs get put downâ€). Says tons about Haleyâ€™s performance when I actually found myself preferring the maskless Kovacs to Rorschach.
Since this has all sounded slob-job in sentiment thus far, itâ€™s time to get into some of the flickâ€™s flaws. There certainly are some, but the biggest one I had came down to the many fight scenes. In the book, these characters are regular people who take on superhero lifestyles, but they werenâ€™t born superhuman. So why in Snyderâ€™s film must every fight scene feel like some shit out of The Matrix? His over-dependency on slo-mo isnâ€™t a surprise, but even as it was expected it still takes you out some otherwise-cool shots of fist-on-face, namely a brawl in a back alley that results in protruding elbow bones. Another issue with the film is something that I also found problematic in the source material, and thatâ€™s the climactic subplot involving Ozymandias and his seemingly boundless capabilities. Iâ€™ll avoid spoilers here, but see if youâ€™re able to follow just how Ozy is able to pull off everything he does near the end.
Thereâ€™s also the curious cases of scenes that work better in the film than in the book, and vice versa. In whatâ€™s most likely a further complaint about Morganâ€™s acting chops, two of The Comedianâ€™s key scenes (a near rape of another costumed hero, and his shooting a preggers Vietnamese gal) transpire without as much as a wince, yet both moments sent chills down my spine while reading. On the opposite hand, two of Rorschachâ€™s key expositions play out in grander, stronger fashion in Snyderâ€™s handsâ€”â€œthe birth of Rorschachâ€ gore-fest involving canine corpses and a meat clever, and his game-changing confrontation with Dr. Manhattan.
By carrying over damn-near all of the bookâ€™s themes and allegories, Snyderâ€™s film delivers a wallop close to that of Moore, and that alone should earn Snyder kudos upon props. Considering how fucked up our world is in reality, the â€œmankind in search of salvation from those they donâ€™t fully trustâ€ central thread of Watchmen is unavoidably pertinent. Some of the narrative connectors may be a bit loose or disjointed at times, but ultimately the film earns its emotional impact.
I fear that Iâ€™ve already lost whatever readers Iâ€™ve had here by now, so Iâ€™ll conclude. Not many thought heâ€™s succeed, but Snyder has almost proven everybody wrong. Watchmen isnâ€™t perfect, or even as life-changing as some fanboys may have hoped. Years from now, though, weâ€™ll look back at what Snyder has done and hail this flick alongside The Dark Knight for their mutual deconstruction of superhero cinema.
Now that Iâ€™ve seen the thing and discussed with a few of my fellow Watchmen loyalists, Iâ€™d love to pick the brains of viewers whoâ€™ve never read the comic, or even heard of it prior this filmâ€™s first teaser trailer. Those are the opinions that truly matter to yours truly.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at 2:53 pm and is filed under Columnists, Theater of Mine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.