Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen Review (no spoilers, I promise)

In a move that should surprise none of you I saw the film adaptation of Watchmen last Friday. Amber and I strolled down to the Broadway Theater, a regal outlet across the street from the Schnitz known for its independent theater Mondays, low attendance and shoe box shaped auditoriums. Its been some time since I've seen a movie on opening day so the fact that we had to wait in line gave the whole experience an exciting lift.

There were things about the movie that were really strong. Visually Snyder nailed the comic panel by panel. Jackie Earle Haley brought Rorschach to the screen more authentically than any other actor in any other comic book movie. Heath Ledger was great as the Joker, but his Joker wasn't really patterned after a specific Joker in the Batman oeuvre, the way Rorschach on screen is a lifelike representation of Rorschach on page. Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan was also strong, especially in his origin scene (a high point of the film).

That being said, there are many areas in which this film failed. Really bad casting hurt it quite a bit. Malin Ackerman as Laurie Jupiter = epic fail. Lifetime movie quality. She brought down nearly every scene that she was featured in. Many other actresses could have nailed Laurie and still looked the part (Jennifer Connelly in particular would have been awesome). I won't go into it in depth in order to avoid spoilers but there was another poorly made casting decision that totally telegraphed the climax of he stort. Zack Snyder shouldn't be allowed to direct another movie, period. Hes great at visuals but, lets say less than great at everything else a director needs to do to make his film successful (not to mention his complete lack of subtlety). Patrick Wilson was great in "Little Children" and "Angels in America" but was really inconsistent in this film, a sign that Snyder isn't very good at interacting with talent. I know they had a lot to fit in a relatively short amount of time but the pacing of this film was way off. Specifically the scene in Vietnam (again, no spoilers) was cut in a way that robbed it of the emotional impact it should have had. The soundtrack choices were trite and obvious, the score wasn't particularly memorable and was too prominent in the mix.

There were several things in this movie that were significantly changed from the comic. None of the changes made were improvements, especially the ending. Everything that was altered was done in a way that made things more blunt and banal which betrayed the multi-layered nature of the source material What do I know though? I guess Slumdog Millionaire proved that people are still attracted to the most pedestrian narratives and need to have their hand held through things.

Snyder's Watchmen is still faithful enough to the material to be a worthwhile experience its just that whereas the comic is a deconstruction of the superhero genre that touches on fatalism, objectivism and cold war paranoia, the film is simply a meditation on the super hero genre and a pretty entertaining comic book movie with a downer ending.

So watch the movie - but please read the comic as well.

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