Review: Watchmen

Timeshredder’s Journal. March 7, 2009. Returned from watching the Watchmen. Brilliant adaptation. Several serious missteps. Alan Moore has complained of disturbed fans he meets at conventions. Person with bad hygiene, admires Rorschach. Claims to be like Rorschach. Moore says he wants to back away from that person, demanding they never approach him ever again.

That person sat behind us in theater. Most distracting. Wanted to hit him with metal lunch tray.

On to review. Expect spoilers.

Cast and Crew

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Alan Moore, David Hayter, Alex Tse, David Gibbons.

Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach
Malin Ackerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II
Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhatten/Jon Osterman
Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II
Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias
Jeffrey Dean Morgan The Comedian/Edward Blake
Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre
Robert Widen as Richard Nixon
Matt Frewer as Edgar Jacobi/Moloch
Stephen McHattie Hollis Mason/Nite Owl

Laura Mennell as Janey Slater
Frank Novak as Henry Kissinger
Clint Carlton as young Hollis Mason

Full Cast and Crew may be found at the imdb

Premise

Film takes place in an alternate 1980s. Superheroes have existed since late 30s. The world is a different place and Nixon remains president. While threat of nuclear annihilation looms and the world cries out for help, someone begins killing masked vigilantes.

High Point

Film has opening to make jaw drop, nerds and film fans drool. Faithful adaptation of Comedian’s death. Next sequence sweeps through history of costumed vigilantes and the changing times, true in spirit to Hugo-winning graphic novel but a piece of its own, true also to medium of cinema. Awe-inspiring. Wish film could have maintained this approach. Bulk of film tries to be too faithful to original, but cannot possible capture same depth. Characters lack room to breathe.

The movie at times does deliver us these characters. Dr. Manhatten’s origins retold to good affect. Not typo. Reread.

Jackie Earle Haley stunning as Rorschach. Character sociopathic but compelling. Understand his appeal while shocked by him. Haley gives perfect delivery. Even looks like Gibbons drawing. Has traveled great distance since Kelly Leak.

Observe everything. Even small points carry meaning. Film had to eliminate much of what gives the novel depth, deep as the pools of the blood shed in this film if accumulated in one place. Director tips hat in several ways. Design elements recall Gibbons’ art, and since room does not exist for the news vendor and the kid reading Tales of the Black Freighter we at least see both, pass them in the streets. Nice touches. Will watch again.

Low Point

Nerds mourn absence of squids. In fact, ending fine this way for motion picture. Enhanced fight scenes also driven by cinema. What does not work is execution of changed ending, the parry and riposte in Antarctica. Style and tone of dialogue reflects Hollywood superhero movies. Clash with original Moore tone and dialogue obvious.

When music works, it works well. When it does not, it is a disaster. Overdone, overplayed clichés that detract from scene, too over the top. Cannot be certain what director intended parodically. Funeral scene good example. Also, sex scene on board Archimedes.

Sex scene on Archie. With so much to cut, why does this remain? Excessive and off-tone. Accompanied by overdone music. Not offended by nudity and sexual content elsewhere in film. Aware same scene happens in graphic novel, but presented in a manner more suited to the story. Are we such whores that we must have this, even if another kind of scene might have better served the story and its characters? Hollywood is an extended gutter through which visceral thrills must flow.

Observe everything. Nits to pick. Nixon’s make-up looks phony and overdone. Resembles a cartoon character. In reality, Nixon did resemble a cartoon character, but here it looks wrong. Overdone. Better to just have actor who vaguely resembles Nixon. Imitates style, like Frank Langella. Frank Novak as Kissinger more convincing. Kissinger also resembled a cartoon character.

Miss the days when politicians resembled cartoon characters instead of aged underwear models.

The Scores

Originality: 3/5 Watchmen adapts existing work. Generally very faithful. Reminded of how groundbreaking original was. Deeper issues remain relevant. Twenty years of comics and adaptations made of superheroes by whoring corporations owe debt to Alan Moore.

Effects: 6/6.

Story 4/6. Story covered under High and Low Points. Pay attention.

Acting: 5/6. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach discussed under High Points. Other performances vary. Generally good. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets into Comedian’s skin. Matthew Goode miscast as Ozymandias. Don’t know what happened there. Performance mailed in from mainstream superhero movie.

Production 6/6. Alternate New York, plains of Mars, all convincing. Watchmen brings a world founded on the original to screen. Fans should be pleased.

Emotional Response: 5/6. Enjoyed film. It lacks the depth of the graphic novel, but it will appeal to fans. Wife has not read graphic novel. Unlike some reviewers, understood and enjoyed movie nevertheless. Understands “satire.” She found violence excessive. Violence by nature is excessive. Will read graphic novel. I will reread it.

Overall 5/6. If you liked Watchmen or you enjoy this kind of thing, if you are reading this site and not The Hollywood Reporter, you will like this film. You may not love it.

In total, Watchmen receives 34 out of 42.

18 replies on “Review: Watchmen”

  1. y42 says:

    : )
    Review done in most excellent style. Excessive homosexual tendencies of film due to blue male genitals toned down by images of whorish behavior in Archimedes. Violence not excessive, but necessary. Ozymandias badly cast.

    • vanyel says:

      Re: : )

      Excessive homosexual tendencies of film due to blue male genitals.

      Frontal nudity is enough to give it homosexual tendencies??? I was actually pleased that they treated it so naturally, and it *wasn’t* at all erotic. Clothes would be very difficult for him

      Ozymandias badly cast.

      I haven’t read the comics, but I thought he captured the cool arrogance well…

      • fiziko says:

        Re: : )

        I haven’t read the comics, but I thought he captured the cool arrogance well…

        I’ve been thinking about Ozymandias, and comparing notes with those who haven’t read the comics. It seems those of us who have read the comics are the only ones that are really bothered by the casting. It makes me wonder if that casting was really bad, if it just wasn’t as letter perfect as the rest of the casting. The rest of the cast play and look their parts so well that those who don’t know the history might look at a page of the comic and assume it was the comic that was adapted from the movie.

        • Timeshredder says:

          Re: : )

          It makes me wonder if that casting was really bad, if it just wasn’t as letter perfect as the rest of the casting. The rest of the cast play and look their parts so well that those who don’t know the history might look at a page of the comic and assume it was the comic that was adapted from the movie.

          It wasn’t an expectation; it’s been awhile since I’ve read the graphic novel. I just think he put in a mediocre performance. Checking Rotten Tomatoes, I do see that a few reviewers make the same observation. As always, YMMV.

          • fiziko says:

            Re: : )

            It wasn’t an expectation; it’s been awhile since I’ve read the graphic novel. I just think he put in a mediocre performance. Checking Rotten Tomatoes, I do see that a few reviewers make the same observation. As always, YMMV.

            I honestly wasn’t thrilled with him either, but I’ve met people who didn’t read the graphic novel who were, so I threw the idea out to try and reconcile the differences of opinion.

        • Tekzel says:

          Re: : )

          I haven’t read the comics, but I thought he captured the cool arrogance well…

          I’ve been thinking about Ozymandias, and comparing notes with those who haven’t read the comics. It seems those of us who have read the comics are the only ones that are really bothered by the casting. It makes me wonder if that casting was really bad, if it just wasn’t as letter perfect as the rest of the casting. The rest of the cast play and look their parts so well that those who don’t know the history might look at a page of the comic and assume it was the comic that was adapted from the movie.

          I am another person who never read the graphic novel, though I was aware of it and only very vaguely aware of what it was about, who thought the guy who played Ozy was outstanding in the role. I agree with the previous "cool arrogance" comment.

          I especially enjoyed Jackie Earle Haley, that guy really seemed to crawl into Rorschach’s skin. I am going to go a step further and closely compare it to Ledgers Joker. It was that good for me.

          All in all, I loved the film. I had no problem following it. I felt the pacing was great, the music didn’t bother me, and neither did the big blue dong. I am planning to go see it again soon, to see what I missed the first time.

  2. Eldhrin says:

    Good film
    Read graphic novel last week. Thought it thought-provoking. Watched film today. Did not understand reason for changing ending. Pleased that ending was not changed too much.

    Thought that Rorschach would never have removed his mask at the end.

    Better adaptation than world could justifiably expect. Was preceded by trailer for Transformers 2. Made me feel ill. Counting blessings.

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: Good film
      Forgot to mention. Liked original Macintosh in reverse video. Alternate universe, but still has important development in personal computing.

    • AceCaseOR says:

      Re: Good film

      Thought that Rorschach would never have removed his mask at the end.

      Well, Rorschach removed his mask in the book too.

      • y42 says:

        Re: Good film

        Thought that Rorschach would never have removed his mask at the end.

        Well, Rorschach removed his mask in the book too.

        I like that he ends up as symmetrical blotch, it’s a poetic death.

  3. octa says:

    Fantastic
    I had a nerdgasm. Loved every moment of it. The ending was really well done and I thought far superior to the original.

    I agree the sex scene was overdone. Reminded me of 300’s love scene actually…

    I’m looking forward to the DVD and its many cut scenes.

  4. rickyjames says:

    How The Hell Could Squids Fit ?
    I’ve never read the graphic novel (and never even heard of it until mentioned by Time a while back) but I enjoyed this movie. There is a lot of time-atmospherics in here that I think went totally over the head of young whippersnappers, at least the two sitting beside me who talked too much and and too loud and laughed at all the wrong places. Obviously they never heard of Kent State or realized just how serious and oppressive the threat of nukewar seemed decades ago. Made me want to go Rorschach on their asses, but I tried to be more Dr. M zen.

    Overall this was good-to-very good movie and seemed like an excellent attempt at an adaptation. I sure don’t see how they could have crammed anything else in. Squids? YOu’re kidding, right?

    At times I lost my sense of willing disbelief not becasue the characters were so over the top but becasue they were SO OBVIOUSLY nerd candy. SS II was SO a vixen and NO II was SO an Everynerd. Ridiculous love scene, obviously a wet dream.

    Gonna have to read the graphic novel. And as long as they’re spinning off alternate realities, I’m ready for a reboot sequel that’s Just Rorschach. That character and that actor was absolutely the best part of the movie by far.

    • y42 says:

      Re: How The Hell Could Squids Fit ?

      I’ve never read the graphic novel
      […]Gonna have to read the graphic novel.

      Then you should avoid spoilers about the squid.

      I like the original ending better, even if I can understand how a giant squid would have pushed the WTF too far for a Hollywood public, and your comment cements that understanding.

      • Tekzel says:

        Re: How The Hell Could Squids Fit ?

        I’ve never read the graphic novel
        […]Gonna have to read the graphic novel.

        Then you should avoid spoilers about the squid.

        I like the original ending better, even if I can understand how a giant squid would have pushed the WTF too far for a Hollywood public, and your comment cements that understanding.

        Uh, I haven’t read the graphic novel, and don’t intend to, can someone spoiler tag what the heck is the deal with the giant squid everyone is talking about for those of us in my position?

        • fiziko says:

          Re: How The Hell Could Squids Fit ?

          Uh, I haven’t read the graphic novel, and don’t intend to, can someone spoiler tag what the heck is the deal with the giant squid everyone is talking about for those of us in my position?

          I really recommend reading the source material, but if you won’t, here’s a quick summary: In the original, Ozymandias didn’t frame Dr. Manhattan for the murders. His oddball pet cat was actually a trial run of genetically engineered creatures. A subplot was about missing writers and artists. They all thought they’d been hired to make a monster movie, but were instead being used to design creatures that would then be custom made through genetics. Ozymandias then teleported these creatures into populated areas, killing millions to save billions, but doing so by making it look like there was an alien invasion. That’s the threat that banded the world together. Same ultimate result, with a different driving mechanism. I’m actually happy with the change, as I didn’t think the squids would work on screen. End spoiler.

  5. Ogre says:

    My wife liked it….
    She had never heard of Watchmen until the hype started to build around the movies release. I was worried she’d be bored or confused, but neither occurred. She said she thought it was a great movie and that we have to get it when it comes out on DVD.

    I liked it too. I think they attempted to be as faithful as possible to the original material while also constructing a story that the masses will enjoy.

  6. B5_geek says:

    Just watched it today with my GF.
    I have never read the book so I didn’t know what to expect.

    I thought the nudity was handled very well, I was not uncomfortable with it nor did I feel that it detracted from the film. I did hear several gasps from female audience members the first time they showed it though.

    I thought the story was was decent-to-good. Better then all of the Batman films (excluding Batman Begins & TDK), and The Hulk. The character of Rorschach had me captivated and makes me want to know more about this universe. Rorschach carried the story.

    The movie reminds me the music video called Kryptonite (by Three Doors Down). Goofy looking Heroes with little depth.

    The character of Ozzy felt a little too shallow, the ending was ‘smart’ but it didn’t feel like it matched with his character. The Egypt connection felt forced too, I suspect it was more a tribute to the book.

    My GF hated it. She told me after that she wanted to walk out after the first 30 minutes.

    In summary I’d give it a 60% approval rating. Is the book the best place to learn more about Rorschach?

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Just watched it today with my GF.

      In summary I’d give it a 60% approval rating. Is the book the best place to learn more about Rorschach?

      It’s really the only other source, and it provides additional background and backstory. It’s also a graphic novel that I would give the highest recommendation.

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