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Watchmen [Ultimate Cut]

United States, 06 March 2009, Raymond Santos Estrella

After nearly a quarter of the century, the book that was quoted as being “un-filmable” is finally hitting the big screen. So, did Zack Snyder (300) do the source material justice, or is this just one more butchered adaptation?

Warning! The following summary contains spoilers.

Story

Normally, I throw in a little spice, a little background, with my reviews. This time, I’m skipping that part. If you want to know how much trouble this film went through in the process of getting made, or if you don’t know and want to find out what the Watchmen is about, look it up on your own time. Otherwise, I’m going to assume those of you who are reading this want to know how the movie stacks up according to my own opinion.

First off: As a fan of the graphic novel, I thought the film was great. Is it perfect? No. Does it have its share of problems? Absolutely. Does that mean you should skip it? Absolutely NOT.

Watchmen is very dense. There are a number of characters, all with their own history, to keep track of; there are stories WITHIN the story. Basically, you’ve got an onion in your hands; layers upon layers upon layers. The depth is astounding. To try and put that into a 2 hour movie would be impossible. It was hard enough with a 2 hour and 45 minute time-frame. For me, this movie did what Lord of the Rings did nearly a decade ago, it condensed the heart of the source material into something digestible for the common audience. This is the fast food version of the graphic novel; you get the gist in short order, but it comes at the price of missing elements. Things were left out along the way, but by and large, they were secondary to the heart of the story.

That story is still there, but I still have to question: will a non-reader of the Watchmen novel understand what’s happening? I went with Tara, but since it was a midnight showing and she’s already in bed, I wasn’t able to ask what she got out of the film. Even as someone who has read the book, I feel like maybe the film feels a little too disjointed to be absorbed as easily as needed. Don’t get me wrong, it happens in much the same way the graphic novel, but it happens much quicker. The audience has all of these characters and their relationships and their history thrown at them. On top of that, they have all of this information about conspiracies and nuclear war with Russia to wrap their minds around. Like I said: an onion.

The acting was, for the most part, pretty good. Others have said it (and there’s a possibility that their opinions may have influenced my own, so take it with a grain of salt), but Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre) was a little wooden. Not horribly so, just not quite up to snuff.

On the other hand, Jackie Earle Haley was da bomb (oh yes, I went there) as Rorschach. Again, others have said it, but this opinion is my own. There is no other Rorschach. Tara said his voice bothered her because he sounded just like Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman. This is true, but it’s just the way it had to be. Seriously. Pick up the graphic novel and look at his jabber bubble. I’ll wait. Got a copy? Ok. Now find Rorschach in there. Good? Good. See, the bubble has jagged edges. When I saw that, I read it as a gravelly voice. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. It fits. Moving on. No, not from Rorschach, from his VOICE. I’m just getting started on Rorschach. JEH played the character with just the right nuances. He was crazy in the right ways. He was, for a man of his stature, one hell of a bad ass. “You don’t understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with ME!” He was the character I cheered for because he was the one kicking so much ass. Was he really crazy? Or did he just remove the filter that rest of us see the world through? You decide. Anyways, pure greatness.

Billy Crudup as Doc Manhatten. He’s blue, he teleports, he builds a weird, new-wave glass condo on Mars, it’s all there. I think the part was played pretty well. My only problem is his voice. I don’t know what I was expecting, but somehow, that wasn’t quite it. I think it’s that, for someone with so much power, well, his voice doesn’t convey that. Maybe it’s just me. Regardless, that “just me” comment is just a nitpick. Also, beware of a multitude of glowing blue penises in this film. They pop up quite often (no pun intended).

Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl. What to say. I loved it. To me, Nite Owl was the sensible one. He’s the Batman of the Watchmen universe, relying on his gadgets and intelligence to get shit done. He’s also human. He was once a superhero and now he’s an out-of-work superhero who put on a few pounds around the midsection. He missess the old job. It was his livelihood. So much his livelihood that he has problems getting it up. Yeah. If that doesn’t make you feel something for his character… for shame! Really though, Wilson gave Nite Owl a believability that I can’t quite put my finger on. He was the sense of reason. He was your voice in the movie. I found myself relating to him the most (sans the lack of a healthy blood flow, if you catch my drift— that was remedied later in the movie, BTW).

The Comedian. First “hero” seen in the book, first one seen in the film. Played by Jeffery Dean Morgan who has really been popping up on my radar in the “kick’s ass” category, which is hard for me to admit. Why? Because the only things I’ve seen him in are TV’s Grey’s Anatomy and P.S. I Love You. That’s right, entertainment primarily for the female audience. Tara watches ’em, I watch them with her. It happens. Still, every time I’ve seen JDM, his characters are just extremely likeable guys. Ironic, since the Comedian is the most despicable character in Watchmen. Still, there were those moments when, despite the baaaaad shit you’ve seen him do, you enjoyed seeing the Comedian. THAT is what JDM brought to the character.

Finally, Ozymandias, played by Matthew Goode. Can’t say the guy has ever blipped on the radar. Period. I don’t know if this movie will change that. Don’t get me wrong, he did alright here, but only alright. There were some nuances he brought—like giving Ozzy a slight touch of a German accent while among friends while keeping a strictly American accent while in the public eye— to the character, but nothing he did is going to make me jump out of my seat in excitement the next time I see the trailer for a Matthew Goode film. Passable.

Now, the story. Like I mentioned, things are missing. The biggest thing: the squid. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, no worries. I may actually say that this was… a… good… change. Maybe…? Let’s face it, a giant squid is hard to fathom. The change they made just works better for a mega motion picture like this. Maybe it’s blasphemy, maybe not. Either way, I said it. In some ways, I think it helps make things more cohesive.

I could go on about other small things I noticed were missing, but I’m not going to. For one, this is a 12 issues comic series condensed, like I said, into 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yet that’s not the full film. There is also a 3+ hour version with additional scenes, and a 3 hour and 20 minute ultimate version with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter to be spliced in on top of the additional scenes. The studios allow for a limited amount of time for theatrical movies. Once I see the FULL versions, then I’ll go through the missing bits.

The effects were well done. There was noticeable CGI, but I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. After all, it wasn’t Sci-Fi channel original movie CGI.

The music. Well, I liked most of the songs they chose, although occasionally they felt out of place. Another reviewer, probably on Ain’t It Cool, mentioned this as well. Tyler Bates’ score just fit. I didn’t feel like it was overly imposing. It added to scenes, but didn’t overpower them.

Conclusion

This isn’t a film for everyone. It can be pretty slow. It can be pretty dense. It, most likely, will require more than one viewing. But I do believe it to be a quality film. In all honesty, I don’t think anyone could have ever done it better. Like the Lord of the Rings, if you watch the Watchmen, you’ll be given the heart of the story they want you to know. Things will be changed, things will be missing, but by the time the credits role, the essence has remained, more-or-less, in tact.

I also want to add that tonight was only my first viewing of Watchmen. I hope to go again soon—as early as tomorrow night (Friday)— to view it in less of a “geeked-out” state of mind. So yeah, these are preliminary thoughts. I’m sure I’m missing things I wanted to comment on, I’m sure there are things badly worded, and I’m sure this is way too long for most people to still be reading, but I’m still typing.

Trailer

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