Monday, March 09, 2009

There are No Endings – A Watchmen Mini-Review

What else can be said about Watchmen (the film)? It is perhaps one of the most scrutinized films of its kind and anticipated adaptations in the last couple of decades. I initially read Watchmen in its single issue format and have re-read it numerous times in the past decade or so, having poured over the Absolute Edition a couple of times, including a re-read the week prior to the film’s release. With that in mind, I don’t think the film could have been translated from page to screen any better than it was by Snyder. The overall theme, character arcs (with some modifications) are in place. The feel of the film is very much a mirror of the comic, with a little more blood and broken bones. On to some more thoughts…

One of the most logical decisions Snyder made is perhaps the one that has given rise to the most outcry – the ending. Whereas the Giant Squid in the graphic novel is effective and built up rather well over the course of the 300+ pages of the novel, the re-written ending of the film is more organic to the story and is a more contextually logical ending for the film. It is a more tight and convincing ending to the story.

Even though Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as Rorshach is the one everyone’s talking about, I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan was superb as the Comedian. I’m surprised at how much I liked Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II and Crudup and CGI were terrific as Dr. Manhattan. Akerman works well in the physical scenes as Silk Specter but isn’t as convincing in the emotional scenes. Matthew Goode was more than OK as Ozymandius if a bit foppish, but I would like to see more of his character which I suspect will be the case for the extended cut of the DVD. In short, the cast is nearly perfect. Nearly.

A few other things, and they are minor, didn’t quite work for me. I liked some of the slow motion scenes that mirrored their exact counterpart in the comic, but felt many of the fight scenes were bloodier than the comic, particularly when Dreiberg and Laurie fight the Topknots in the alley. Their bated breath and exhilaration at getting back in the game upon the fight's conclusion; however, was displayed very well by Akerman and Wilson. This was perhaps Akerman at her most convincing in her role. I didn’t quite like Ozymandius’s costume and didn’t like that they called themselves Watchmen – in the comic the heroes are only referred to as this in a graffiti scene and never really refer to themselves in any kind of collective manner outside of the meeting where the Comedian burns the map. Granted, those are comic-geek quibbles that may not bother other folks and considering just how much detail from the comic Zack was able to put into the film, the minor quibbles really are negligible.

As for how the film worked for non-comic fans Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff, her brother, and his girlfriend didn’t read the comic and liked it. Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff even said it was better than she expected it would be. Their only real complaints was that there was too much blue penis; I can’t argue that one even if Manhattan was brought to life very well in the film

So, Zack Snyder has done it – he’s crafted an intelligent superhero mystery that is very true to the roots of its source material. At times some of the lingering shots lingered too long, but creating a film under three hours was an achievement in and of itself. The fact that the film was excellent and just under the greatness of the two new Batman films is an even greater achievement.

On a side note, our little group noticed a young boy, who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old leaving the film. Call me crazy but that is complete irresponsibility on the side of the parents of this child, who left more than 2/3 into the film so he got to see the rape scene, a lot of blue penis, and bones breaking the surface of the skin.

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