Watchmen

Cast:
Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II
Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman
Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias
Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs / Rorschach
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake / The Comedian
Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl II
Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre
Matt Frewer as Edgar Jacobi / Moloch the Mystic
Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason / Nite Owl

Directed by Zack Snyder

Summary:
Zack Snyder delivers a good adaptation of the revered graphic novel. The strong, relatively unknown cast really brings the characters to life. Beautiful production design, effects, and costumes also are impressive.

Story:
“Watchmen” is based in the acclaimed comic series by Dave Gibbons and He Who Shall Not Be Named.

In an alternate 1985 America, Richard Nixon is still President, the U.S. won the Vietnam War, and superheroes are real. Once celebrities and revered heroes, they are now outlawed. The premiere superhero team called “The Watchmen” have been disbanded for years. Nite Owl II is a regular schlub longing for his glory days. The Comedian is a washed up drunk. Rorschach is a psychopathic vigilante still meting out justice while dodging the law. The god-like Dr. Manhattan drifts further and further away from humanity and his love Silk Spectre II. However, the super-intelligent Ozymandias manages a financial empire aimed at bringing about world peace.

But when The Comedian is brutally killed, Rorschach suspects that a superhero killer is on the loose. He’ll stop at nothing to solve the case as the mystery drives the Watchmen back together one final time.

“Watchmen” is rated R for graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.

What Worked:
I’m a big comics fan and I have read “Watchmen,” but I wouldn’t say I put it up on a pedestal like a lot of other comics fans. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it’s the greatest comic evar. So it’s with that mindset that I went into “Watchmen.” I think since I’m not a “Watchmen” uber-fan, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn’t pick it apart and analyze all the similarities and differences between the movie and the comic. I took the movie for what it was and was happy with the result. I think Zack Snyder did a pretty good interpretation of the comic many called ‘unfilmable.’ He captured the core of the story and ended up with an adaptation that I think will satisfy a lot of the die-hard comic fans while still being accessible to audiences that have never stepped foot in a comic shop.

“Watchmen” is an absolutely beautiful film. The sets, costumes, lighting, and everything else are perfect. The creators matched the look of Dave Gibbons’ art while keeping it all relatively realistic. Things like Rorschach’s mask are perfectly realized. Alan Moore gripes that movies can’t capture everything that’s in comics, but that mask is a case where a movie can realize something better than the 2-D art.

Snyder made a good move in casting relatively unfamiliar actors and actresses because their ‘star power’ doesn’t overshadow the characters. Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach is a perfect example of this. His rage, mental imbalance, and drive are perfectly embodied by the actor and I think if there had been a familiar face under the mask it wouldn’t have been quite as effective. You buy the gruff voice as he barks out, “You’re locked in here with me!!” Patrick Wilson is also impressive as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II. He perfectly embodies the Everyday Joe and is probably the character audiences most identify with since he seems to be the most stable character of them all. He has surprisingly good chemistry with Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II. She forms a strange love triangle with Dan and Billy Crudup as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan. Crudup will be remembered more for his nakedness than his spot on performance as the spacey, god-like hero, but he plays the character perfectly. The rest of the cast is also good, but these four really stand out.

The music is a bit eclectic. Though the film is set in 1985, music from the ’60s and ’70s is also included. It’s a little strange to hear “99 Luftballoons” in one scene, but I had to laugh when “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” plays in the background of another scene. “All Along the Watchtower” has gotten a lot of play on “Battlestar Galactica,” but it was certainly appropriate here.

The running time on “Watchmen” is a butt-numbing 163 minutes. It would have been nice if it was shorter, but I can’t think of much that Snyder could have cut and remained true to the story. I think he generally made the right choices on what should stay and go. I know a lot of fans will say it wasn’t long enough (wait for the DVD).

What Didn’t Work:
Some things translate from comics to film better than others. One example is some of the dialogue from Rorschach’s journal. A few bits of it early on seem hokey and pompous, but elsewhere it works perfectly. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Another example is the weird alien tiger at the end of the film. It seemed particularly out of place from the rest of the film, especially considering they dropped the ‘alien squid’ ending from the comic. (I was amused to see fellow CS reviewer Joshua Starnes trying to explain the creature to a baffled “Watchmen” virgin at our screening.)

I’m going to be curious to see how general audiences will receive this film. I think a lot of them are going to go in expecting “The Dark Knight” and then get scenes of rape, child murder, and giant naked blue guys instead. I think “Watchmen” should be R-rated since the original comic had all this stuff, but I wonder what the reception will be from those not expecting it. My 7-year-old asked me if he could see “Watchmen” since he had been seeing so many commercials for it. (I told him no, of course.) I wonder how many people will make the stupid mistake of ignoring the rating. That didn’t stop some families from bringing a 4-year-old into our screening. Idiots.

The Bottom Line:
I enjoyed “Watchmen” a lot. I thought it was a solid adaptation that was entertaining. Alan Moore can put away his shotgun. Now the true test is to see if people beyond comic fans enjoy it.

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