Larry's Review of Watchmen
It's hard for me to be objective about comic-book movies. Comics played such a large part of my childhood and young adulthood that it places two hinderances on me when trying to review a film based on comic-related material: 1) I probably know the source material better than the average viewer, and 2) I'm probably too emotionally attached to the source material to be totally objective about the film in question.
So I sit here in front of my keyboard after seeing Watchmen earlier today and find myself dealing with this test of my intellectual honesty. This is starting to sound like a negative review, huh? No, that's not the case. We all know Zack Synder's new film is based upon what is widely regarded as the comic/graphic novel that finally brought "respectability" to the comics medium, and the tale has suffered numerous other aborted attempts to bring it to the screen over the last twenty years. Those of you reading this are familiar enough with the tale, and most likely have read the comic, so I won't bore you with an in-depth synopsis, but will try to just summarize my impressions.
Watchmen is a triumph. I say that as a self-professed fan-boy, and you can take that with whatever grain of salt you wish, but Snyder has brought this story to the screen in a manner that I don't believe could be surpassed. Snyder and screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse have maintained the story's original alternate-universe time and setting, a device without which I don't think the story could've survived, but one that I believed would be the first thing a major studio would've changed. The first generation of heroes and their importance to the story is effectively communicated to the audience by means of a very-impressive title sequence, and the origins of the second generation's heroes, the story's main characters, are all sufficiently covered by means of flashbacks that fit logically into the film's flow.
Casting? Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian is all but perfect, and Jackie Earle Haley will probably never find another role like Rorschach, one that most will come to see that only he could've played. I had my reservations about Malin Ackerman, an actress I'd always previously pretty much dismissed as just another hot chick model who could read a line or two and look great in scant costuming, but she impressed me as the second Silk Spectre, she who had the almost impossible task of keeping a god interested in humanity. For much the opposite reason, I was concerned about Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl, as I thought he was much too handsome a fellow to be able to step into the role of a slightly-overweight techno-geek, but I guess that's why they call it "acting," and my kudos to him. I have a few moments' hesitation about Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, and I suppose Billy Crudup, a fine actor, as Dr. Manhattan is a little irrelevant, as most of his performance was bathed in CGI, but his voice work was important, and convincing.
As Snyder was given the reins of this project on the merits of his success with 300, I was prepared to see what would pretty much be an animated feature with a few live-action elements, and while that is what I saw, I'm amazed at how subdued the artificial imagery was. My amazement with modern CGI continues to grow, but I admit that I totally forgot about the artificial imagery very early on in Watchmen, and I had to remind myself a couple of times that these actors were working against so much green-screen. This story could not have been told without CGI, but the story still rises above the imagery, which cannot be said about a lot of modern visual blockbusters.
Watchmen is an excellent film, donât get me wrong. Zack Snyder proves that 300 was no fluke, and I look forward to his future efforts. My conundrum here is that I wonder how much I'd appreciate this movie were I NOT a fan-boy. The film's two hour, forty-five minute run time was almost imperceptible to me, as I never felt the film to slow down at all, but I acknowledge that it will be a turnoff to a lot of "casual" moviegoers. I wonder if the emotional impact of the film's climax will resonate as strongly with an audience that did not spend a year reading about them, waiting from one month to the next to see what would next befall them, as I did all those years ago. I was surprised at just how much of those twelve issues actually made it onto the movie screen, but I left the theater still thinking about the few things that were missing. Again, that may not be anything of concern for the casual viewer, and it wasn't so much a problem for me, but I did find myself missing what I knew wasn't there. The story's climax was changed a bit, and while I understand the movie-making logic in making that change and find that the story is still touching even with the change, again, the fan-boy in me wonders how the original climax would've looked up there on the big screen.
While I hope this film is a huge hit, I don't expect it to be. That said, it won't be my fault if it isn't, because I'm glad I gave Warner Brothers my ten bucks, and I certainly won't rule out giving them another ten before the movie ends its theatrical run. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll even preorder the DVD from Amazon when the release date is set. I'm such a geek...