Watchmen, one of, if not the most highly regarded graphic novels of all time, has finally made its way to the big screen after 20 years of rigorous production and feuds. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t a film adaptation of the novel, this is theadaptation. I can’t see anyone hitting closer to the mark than Snyder has with this accomplishment. This isn’t a perfect movie or a perfect adaptation, but it is a groundbreaking, visually striking film that will change the way you look at comic book film. The movie revolves around the alternate America in 1985, where Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon is verging on 5 terms as President, the world is on the brink of a cold war, and a Comedian is dead in New York City. After exile from the US Government, superheroes are forced to come into the open or go into hiding. However, Rorshach, a current vigilante still carrying the mask, is determined to reunite his former colleagues and discover who’s behind the “mask theory”. That’s actually the simplified way of describing the plot.
As the movie started off, the first opening scene depicting Edward Blake/The Comedian’s murder, set to Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” was just that. The film continued to amaze with a phenomenal credits sequence (the best I’ve ever seen) accompanied by Bob Dylan’s “Times Are A Changin'”, and from there out, the movie took off. The first ½ of the movie provoked that true feeling of the comic, provided some beautiful imagery, and nearly exactly replicated some of the panes in the comic at times. However, the second half of the movie, initiated by the Nite Owl II/ Silk Spectre II romance, although still great, lost a little steam and the energy built up in the beginning. The entire movie, however, is a lovechild of Snyder’s apparent devotion to the novel. If you would, picture with me, if Dave Gibbons and Zack Snyder had a baby. That emotionally scarred baby would be this movie. Every nook, cranny, newspaper, snapshot, location, and weapon has some sort of perspective and purpose to it, even if you don’t see it on screen, you know it’s there. Snyder’s attention to detail in both the mind-shattering visual and art style combined with the attention to detail in props and sets as seen in Blake’s guns and Veidt’s base are commendable. The whole movie, let alone its cinematography, is true nerd paradise. It was amazing to see panels of my favorite comic come to life with vivid detail and intensity right before my eyes.
Also commendable are the performances by Snyder’s choices for the Watchmen. Jackie Earle Haley’s portrayal of Rorschach is from beginning to end mesmerizing, right on the dot from the comic and comparable to that of last year’s Joker. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s charismatic approach to the Comedian’s inner persona is perfectly recognized, and a blast to see on the screen. Goode, Wilson, and Akerman also carry their parts well. Billy Crudup’s portrayal of Dr. Manhattan however, was a little indifferent to me; his voice just didn’t carry Osterman’s power. Thanks to the excessive deals of violence present, this movie earns its R rating, in other words, this ain’t Spiderman. While totally dis-recommended for children, the brutal violence present is at times over-the-top, at other times just brutally fun. Brains fly out of heads, skin is ripped off, arms are cut in half, and pretty soon you’re out of the opening credits and onto the rest of the movie. Snyder also made great choices in his musical decisions. From Hendrix to Garfunkel, the musical style fits in perfectly for the era portrayed.
In ultimate, this movie’s biggest flaws won’t come from a fanboy’s mouth, but, based on what I’ve heard, from the mouth of the newbies. For those unfamiliar with the comic, you can and will get lost quickly in the tangled webs of Watchmen. The main point with the movie is that it doesn’t convey the opportunity to get caught up or even display certain plot points to the new fans, even in its 3 hour running time. Can you enjoy this movie as a new comer? Yes. Will you understand the entire thing? No. The movie can be a little slow at times, and does lose a little power in the 2nd act, but this is forgiven. For those that have read the novel though, this is a treat for the eyes and the ears, long over due, and will be a superhero epic to re-visit a few times, even if just to see all the little details you missed. This is just one of those movies you can’t take in one sitting. ½ the time my brain was thinking either “Holy crap it’s Watchmen!” or “Holy crap it’s Watchmen, it’s really Watchmen; I hope this doesn’t scar me for life!” Snyder has taken Alan Moore’s vision of a deconstructed superhero and turned it into a gritty, stylized super hero epic. Whether it’s Edward Blake’s violent death, Rorshach’s escapades from the police, or Nite Owl’s adventures in Archie, this is the Watchmen movie you’ve been waiting for.
5 out of 5