A very different comic book film.
I was not a reader of the Watchmen Graphic novels and must admit was very lukewarm on the trailers, but I was pleasantly surprised by the film. I thought it was a totally fascinating, thought-provoking and absorbing movie going event that had me hooked from the opening credits until the very end.
This feature film adaptation of the wildly popular graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons features a complex plot that’s set in an alternative 1985 when Richard Nixon (in exaggerated big nose makeup) is still President (thanks to the now god-like Dr. Manhattan helping America win the Vietnam war) and the United States and the USSR are on the verge on nuclear annihilation. Costumed Superheros are part of the fabric of everyday society but are about to be outlawed. After the murder of the morally repugnant Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who was a member of a disbanded secret club of these costume heroes known originally as the Minutemen, a former colleague named Rorschach (played by Jackie Earl Haley in a performance that should keep him working for many years to come) sets out to find out who’s behind it. This sets the story in motion and it kept me intrigued about who would turn out to be the story’s villain until the very end.
As the plot proceeds we are introduced to the other main characters like Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) who was, for me, the center of the film. I found him extremely likeable in the role of retired hero who gets to shine one more time. From the moment he comes on screen in sort of a Clark Kent persona I enjoyed everything about him. Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman, not the world’s best actress but quite appealing in her role) walks away from being Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend and teams up with Nite Owl in more ways than one. Their back alley brawl with a gang of nasty street thugs is well choreographed and exciting – definitely one of the film’s highlights. As for Billy Crudup, he’s terrific as the blue skinned Dr. Manhattan, the only character with genuine superpowers in the story. His scenes gave me a 2001 A Space Odyssey ‘Hal’ feeling. Jackie Earl Haley as the borderline psychotic, Rorschach, delivers a cult making performance, supplying the film with pure rage. His extended sequence in prison is classic. I was both laughing and horrified at the same time. This is just one of many violent or graphic scenes – be prepared and don’t bring young children.
At a running time of 2:40 minutes I never looked at my watch once and was totally engaged. Director Zach Snyder clearly had a love of the material and took great care in every aspect of the project. This is an original movie going experience and I came away quite fascinated by it. Having said that, I don’t think Watchmen will resonate with a majority of moviegoers simply because of this complexity. Walking out of the theater I heard more than a few people openly complain that they did not enjoy what they had just seen. I even heard one guy tell his wife that they should have seen “Paul Blart” instead. That’s certainly not a good sign for mainstream acceptance. Based on the reaction and wildly split reviews, I expect the film to have a sizeable fall off at the box-office in weekend number two. Watchmen grossed a solid but far from stupendous $55.6 million in its opening weekend. While I had many reservations going in Watchmen blew me away. From its great opening credit sequence (one of the best ever) to the very end, the movie worked big time. While I really like the director’s Dawn of the Dead (that’s what re-imagining is all about) and enjoyed his 300, Snyder has elevated his game here to another level. Thank goodness this level of imagination still exists. To the naysayers who claim the film isn’t creative enough because it follows the book too closely (yes, that’s you CNN critic) I can only say… really?!!!
I now look forward to the extended 3:20 minute cut on DVD. Overall 4.25 zombies out of 5.
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