The Watchmen Trailer
Review by Jason Knize
It is currently 2:38 AM EST on Saturday, and I have just returned from a 10:25 PM showing of Watchmen in IMAX. Obviously, now that PoP! is up and running and firing on all cylinders, I couldn’t go to sleep without first regurgitating my thoughts of the film for all the loyal PoP!-Fans. Or should it be PoP!-ers? We’ll have to figure that one out.
For those that haven’t read it, please take a look at my review of the Watchmen Graphic Novel, in the inaugural installment of “PoP!’n My Cherry: The All-Noob Revue“. This will give you a clear insight into my opinion of the Watchmen story as a whole, as well as my hopes and dreams for the feature-film adaptation.
Before I begin my review of the flick, I should stress that there will be spoilers ahead, so please, read at your own risk.
Director Zack Snyder’s version of Watchmen is as faithful to the original Alan Moore graphic novel as no other failed adaptation of the property could have possibly been. Every important sequence in the original story has been transferred competently from page to screen. If this film were any more faithful to the original story structure, the final cut would’ve been 16 hours long. I cannot and will not take anyone seriously (even Alan Moore himself) that might claim that this movie isn’t painstakingly loyal to the source material.
Snyder’s version hits the mark on all of the legendary Watchmen sequences with style and ease. Rorschach’s origin, as told by the masked man himself to his prison psycho-analyst, is there in all of its disturbing and gory glory. Dan and Laurie’s sex scene on board Archimedes is roughly two-minutes of naked, tender intimacy, and viewing it gave me an overwhelming feeling that I was intruding on this private moment (not to mention the overwhelming feeling in my pants). The Prison Break was one of the greatest sequences in the film, and although loyal to the original, amped up the action and sense of urgency to a heady froth. The main change in Snyder’s version was the ending, or more specifically, the catastrophic event that brings the story to a climax. I truly believe that this route was the smartest way to go, and I would’ve been sincerely disappointed with an unexplained alien squid, and even further disappointed if Snyder did include Moore’s ridiculous squid explanation. The change is all really a means to an end, as all of the characters in the story end their respective arcs the same as they did in the novel.
Watchmen, after all is said and done, is an ensemble character piece. The characters and the actors cast to portray these iconic heroes were above and beyond what a fan of Watchmen could have hoped for. Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach was appropriately demented and deranged. Patrick Wilson is a perfectly schlubby and sad Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg, and Malin Akerman, looking fine in and out of clothes as Laurie/Silk Spectre II, played the note of “Daddy never loved me” like a concert pianist. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gave The Comedian his inherently murderous and morally corrupt nature throughout the decades, up to and including his bedside confession to Moloch (Matt Frewer), and his final curtain call out of his apartment window. Dr. Manhattan, as played by Billy Crudup, treats the human race and even his girl-friend, Laurie, with the same level of compassion one might receive from an ATM, all the while toting around 6+ inches of blue pipe. Finally, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias succeeds at meeting the appropriate amount of douche-baggotry without being nearly as boring as his graphic-novel counterpart.
As I iterated heavily in my “All-Noob Revue”, music plays a huge role in the Watchmen graphic novel, as it does in the feature film. The pairing of song and scene in the film rarely missed the mark. ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, which was featured in the ‘Under the Hood’ excerpt in the book, was instead used for the 50-ft tall Dr. Manhattan’s utter decimation of the Vietcong. ‘Pruit Igoe and Prophecies’ by The Philip Glass Ensemble is a haunting, disturbing instrumental piece that scores Dr. Manhattan’s first trip to Mars, a pairing of song and scene which I predicted correctly while listening to the Watchmen Original Soundtrack on the ride to the theater. The best use of music in the film, however, was Jimi Hendricks’s version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, as Nite Owl and Rorschach descend upon Ozymandias’s Antarctic lair, with the line (also prominently featured in the conclusion to Chapter X), “Outside in the distance, a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl,” originally written by Bob Dylan. That scene also has the distinction of featuring the absolutely ridiculous but oh-so-awesome “Snow Owl” version of the Nite Owl costume.
Watchmen, however loyal to the story and characters, is not without its problems. My first initial bad impression of the film was when the opening Comedian fight was not inter-cut with the examination of the crime scene as they did in the book. However, I was able to look past this issue when Snyder capably recreated the novel’s opening shot(s) involving the smiley-badge and the zoom-out to Blake’s busted window. The most glaring issues I need to address regarding the film are all in reference to the special effects. Firstly, the Richard Nixon makeup worn by Robert Wisden was rubbery and unrealistic, which wouldn’t have been such an issue, had it not been for Nixon’s expanded role in the film. Though not necessarily a special effect, Zack Snyder’s insistence on using slow-mo and fast-forward as a crutch was highly unnecessary, and stylistically contrary to the Watchmen tone. It served a purpose in 300, but after the 3rd or 4th time the “McG” style of directing was utilized in Watchmen, it was already 3 or 4 times too many.
Lastly, but definitely not the least, the CGI in Watchmen, is at times, crudely amateurish. Speilberg and ILM gave us realistic dinosaurs in 1993 with Jurassic Park., so how is it possible that computer-generated-imagery is still noticeable to the naked eye 16 years later? There was the soft-focus shot of the Doc meeting JFK. The CGI-ed bloody stumps of Big Figure’s henchman were god-awful, especially when you take into consideration Snyder first made it big with a movie all about lost limbs, Dawn of the Dead. Bubastis, Ozy’s faithful pet, was as realistic as the movie versions of Garfield or Alvin and the Chipmunks. Why they couldn’t dress up a tiger is beyond me.
The film’s greatest stumbling block, one that took me out of the film more than a few times, was the rendering of Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan. I guess I can’t understand why in some sequences, it’s obviously Crudup’s head and face, but in others, the entire face seems to have been computer-generated, most specifically, his mouth. The mouth movement and syncing with the dialogue in certain scenes was unnatural and clearly computer-rendered, which is not something befitting one of the main characters of the story that likes to do a lot of talking. CGI definitely has its uses, but I believe the widespread use of CGI in all realms of special effects has definitely hindered the realism. Considering the film is set in 1985, I would’ve been pleased to see more use of the “old school” of special effects, namely puppetry, makeup, and scale models.
I’d have to agree with many of the comments I have heard about this film over the past weeks and months. Those that are fans of (or at least have read) the graphic novel will appreciate Watchmen for its loyalty and translation of the much-lauded source material. The uninitiated may not quite “get it”, but just as long as they know this isn’t the typical “superhero” movie, they shouldn’t have too difficult a time enjoying the story and characters.
As far as Watchmen‘s place amongst the pantheon of super-hero movies, I cannot and will not rank it with the likes of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, arguably the two greatest comic book adaptations to date. I wouldn’t even necessarily rank Watchmen #3 behind those two. I would, however, place Watchmen parallel in ranking with an equally faithful and extraordinary adaptation, that of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City, probably my favorite film of 2005.
On a scale of 1 to 5 Blue Bananas, 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best, Watchmen receives:
4 out of 5 Blue Bananas!
I would definitely recommend this flick, despite my problems with it, as it is a landmark in Geek-cinema. If at all possibly, see it in IMAX.