Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watching The Watchmen

So, I went out and saw the Watchmen movie in IMAX on opening night, but not before re-reading the graphic novel for the first time since probably around 1999 or 2000. I was fully prepared to exit the theater thinking, "the best thing about that movie was that it got me to read the comic again." As it turns out, I really enjoyed the film (though it was nice to sit down and read the comic again, too).

The movie and the comic book are so similar in so many ways and so different in so many others that trying to compare the two seemingly becomes a battle between the two sides of my brain. For that reason, I'm not going to do a direct comparison review between the book and the movie. I'm also not going to do a straight-up review of the movie with a plot synopsis, review, and re-cap like I've been known to do. Instead, I'm just going to scrape the surface of my brain and throw down a bulleted list of some of my overall thoughts on the film, both good and bad.


- I thought that Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earl Haley, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were perfect for their roles as Nite Owl, Rorschach, and The Comedian respectively.

- Malin Akerman was surprisingly better than I had expected her to be as Silk Spectre, but she still wasn't perfect for the role in my opinion. Sometimes she seemed much more phony than some of her cast-mates, and honestly I didn't think she looked old enough. The heroes in the movie are supposed to be retired and past their prime, but Malin Akerman looked like a hot college student.

- I was a bit disappointed in Dr. Manhattan. There are two main reasons for this. First and foremost, he just looked fake to me. His movements were stiff and he was just too obviously CG. I've felt this way ever since I first saw him in the trailers, but I assumed that the effects were unfinished at that point. I was disappointed to see that he didn't look any better in the actual movie. Second, though I like Billy Crudup, I didn't feel that his voice fit the character. This may just be me, but in my mind when I read Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan has a deeper, stronger voice. It didn't feel right to me that there was a glowing blue man floating around with the powers of a god who had such a soft, meek-sounding voice.

- I didn't mind Dr. Manhattan's penis at all and thought that it was done tastefully. I don't understand why some people have such a big problem with it. I don't recall hearing anyone complaining about Silk Spectre's nude scenes, so what's wrong with a glowing blue dick?

- My problems with Dr. Manhattan aside, I thought that all of the special effects looked great.

- I often found the film's soundtrack distracting. Existing songs are often used to great effect in film, but there was way too much licensed music in Watchmen for my taste. Essentially every time a new scene or an important moment began, I suddenly found myself thinking about the song that was playing rather than what was going on onscreen.

- I found most of the "superheroes" in the movie to be too super. In the comic the only two characters with actual superhuman abilities are Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias. In the movie the same may be true, but whenever The Comedian, Rorschach, Nite Owl, or Silk Spectre II were in a fight scene they seemed as though they had super strength and agility. I understand that having been trained to fight as heroes would make them more capable in a fight than the common street tough or prison inmate who they went up against, but they simply seemed to demolish everyone they fought too easily. Comedian punching through walls with ease and Nite Owl flipping his opponents through the air as though he were in a kung-fu film rang false to me. This is one aspect of the Watchmen movie that I think suffered from Zak Snyder's over-the-top directorial style.

- As far as the running time is concerned, I've always felt that a movie should be as long as the director thinks it should be. I didn't mind that the theatrical version of Watchmen flirted with the three hour mark because I was enthralled by the story the entire time, and when the extended director's cut comes out I'll gladly sit through it regardless of the length.


- I liked the ending of the film. Despite the comic's greatness, the giant squid is the one thing that I never really thought would translate properly to the screen. What they ended up doing not only made good sense, but didn't cause any unpleasant waves that greatly affected the rest of the story in a bad way.

- Matthew Goode seems like a capable enough actor, but I didn't really care for his portrayal of Ozymandias. I'm sure that this is the fault of the writers and director as much as anyone, but he didn't really seem like the Ozymandias from the comic at all. In the book Adrian Veidt is perhaps the nicest, most calm and collected of of all of the characters. Sure, he turns out to be the "villain", but even while he's fighting (and in some cases attempting to kill) the other characters he always seems level-headed and caring, which is one of the things about his personality that makes him so interesting. In the movie he always came off as a brooding bad guy in every scene he was in. Even during the trailers and clips released to promote the movie I couldn't help but feel that if I didn't already know that he was the Comedian's killer I would have been able to tell just by looking at his expressions and body language in those short scenes.

- While there are plenty of plot lines and side stories in the Watchmen comics which were left out of the film, there are only two which I really missed. First, I'd have liked to see more of the prison psychologist's story. In the comic his character is fully fleshed out with his own life and set of problems, but in the movie his role is essentially trimmed back to one scene. Likewise, I wish there had been a bit more in the film dealing with the news vendor and the kid reading the Tales of the Black Freighter comic book. I know that Tales of the Black Freighter has seen it's own animated DVD release and I've heard that Zak Snyder is planning to incorporate that film into a director's cut of Watchmen itself, which leads me to believe that there is indeed more footage out there of the vendor and the kid which will be seen eventually, but to merely put those characters in the film for a few moments before they die and rob us of the rest of their scenes (or indeed any other scenes with them) was pretty bad in my opinion. Also, cutting out so much of the news vendor's scenes made it feel like an afterthought that Rorschach decided to leave his journal to the New Frontiersman.

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