movie thoughts: Watchmen (2009)

Well, the wait is finally over.  The adaptation of Alan Moore & David Gibbon’s highly acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen has finally hit the big screens (and the REALLY big screens – I saw it at the IMAX).

So…is it even remotely possible this film will be anywhere near as good as the book?  Of course not.  I mean, how can it be?  Really, the movie is a total fanboy experience.  The writers almost seemed afraid to change too much, worried that they would upset someone by cutting their favorite moment.  Many scenes are word for word and shot for shot from the panels of the book.  Some things are cut (Black Freighter, the giant amount of backstory that would be impossible to cover) yet the movie still clocks in at almost 3 hours. 

The story of Watchmen of both simple and very complex.  What would the world be like if masked vigilantes and superheroes really existed?  How would this affect society, culture, and the outlook on life?  And, above all, who watches these “Watchmen”?

Like the comic book, this is not a superhero movie ala Dark Knight or Superman (and the weakest points in the film are where it acts like maybe it wanted be) but a murder mystery.  At it’s core, it’s about the one remaining vigilante – Rorschach – trying to solve the brutal murder of his old co-worker, the Comedian.

Rorschach steals the show, as he does in the book. (Jackie Earle Haley manages to even pronounce “HURM” correctly)  He is the Dark Knight of the series (even sounding a bit like Christian Bale’s Batman).    Billy Crudup plays Dr Manhattan in a certain grace (though this movie has a bit more blue butt and penis scenes than I expected!).  The Comedian (played by Jeffrey Morgan, best known in my circle of friends as the Dad on Supernatural) is probably one of the most interesting characters as he is both repulsive and attractive at the same time.  Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter does a very good job, as do Dan Drieberg as Night Owl and Matthew Goode as Ozymandius.

If you haven’t read the comic, you won’t be lost but you might be confused.  The only Superhero in this movie is Dr Manhattan, the rest of the characters are merely normal people that have taken the law into their own hands. Zack Snyder’s slo-mo fight sequences that were fine in 300 are distracting and out of character in this movie and may confuse viewers not familiar with the comic into thinking that they all have superpowers (at least, it confused a few in my group).  Otherwise, I didn’t feel the movie was too hard to follow.

Diehard fans might be upset that bits and pieces were changed or left out, but overall I think the film succeeds in doing what it was supposed to do.  It’s a 3 hour love letter to Watchmen (I believe Snyder called it “a trailer for the comic”).  The opening sequence, set to the music of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’Changin’ is very well done, setting up the entire alternate universe and taking you from the 1940s to the 1980s.  The actors look so much like their book counterparts at times that it is eerie. 

The movie is visually stunning and well acted, but very exhausting.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch it again in it’s entirety until the DVD release.  Not the best movie ever, but it could have been so much worse.  I’d say a solid 4 outta 5 stars. 

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