Film Review : Watchmen

staffwriter

By Cian Rice

Where to begin? My interest in Watchmen came about when I heard the controversy over the decision to turn it into a film when it had been previously deemed ‘unfilmable’.   So I thought I’d read the source: Watchmen, the graphic novel.   Needless to say, I was blown away. Watchmen takes superhero comics in a completely different direction with an ending that really messes with the ‘saving the world’ mentality of most superheroes. So does Zack Snyder, who successfully brought300 to the silver screen, do the Watchmen justice?Kinda.

The movie’s story is quite complicated, and it may be too confusing for some. Essentially Watchmen takes place in an alternate version of the 1980’s where superheroes have been outlawed.The film follows ‘The Watchmen’ , a group of six superheroes who are the victims of a conspiracy to kill off masked heroes. The story is simpler than it’s graphic novel counterpart, with some elements left on the cutting room floor because they just didn’t fit the mold of a major motion picture. In fact, a key element of the novel – the pirate comic ‘Tales of the Black Freighter” that appears in the novel is being released as a standalone animated DVD.

The graphic novel tried to make superheroes more relatable by making them real people with real problems. However, this wasn’t as clear in the movie thanks to some poor acting.  Conversations between characters can be awkward, making it harder to take them seriously. The only people who come across as real are Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan. Patrick Wilson does a good job of portraying Dan as a frustrated individual who yearns for something more in his life. Billy Crudup does a very good job with Dr. Manhattan, who seems extremely distant and yet you can sympathize with his situation.  Then there’s Rorschach. He’s played by Jackie Earl Haley, and in my opinion he was perfect for the role.  Haley really becomes the character; it’s one of the best performances in the comic book movie genre, bested only by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Watchmen is a stylish film that really feels like the comic. Zack Snyder already proved that he can recreate the look of a comic with 300, and he also continues to recreate scenes perfectly in Watchmen. Rorschach, Doctor Manhattan, and The Comedian all look pretty much exactly like they do in the novel.  Night Owl, Silk Spectre, and Osymandias look like more modernized versions of their graphic novel counterparts, but they make the movie seem more modern. After all, the comic was written and illustrated in the 80’s.

The biggest concern most people had with the prospect of a Watchmen movie was whether or not it could actually work. For the most part I think it does. Naturally many of the subplots had to be cut out for it to work as a film, but it keeps the spirit of the novel intact while still remaining coherent. Die hard Watchmen fans were outraged when they heard the ending had been changed, but the new ending actually works pretty well.  It still has the same tone of the novel, it’s just simplified.

All in all, Watchmen serves as an admirable adaptation of an amazing graphic novel. It’s not going to be the Dark Knight for 2009 comic book adaptations, but it’s a pretty impressive film. It works for the mainstream audience, but probably better for the Watchmen diehard. And for those still not impressed, Snyder promises a director’s cut will be released on DVD that will bring the running time to a whopping 3 hours and 25 minutes, making room for the Black Freighter, and possibly other side stories from the novel.

Overall I give Watchmen a 8.3 out of 10.

Rated R (ages 17+) for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.

 

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