The main problem with Watchmen is that no matter what anyone did, no matter who made this film, it would never live up to the graphic novel. Watchmen the novel is so dear to so many people and so solid a work in its own right that no cinematic treatment would leave people satisfied.
Let’s go with the good first: the triumverate of Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach and The Comedian is a very good thing. I think that Mr. Haley in particular should have film parts pouring through his door like a tidal wave after this. Out of all of them, the mask gives Haley the least to work with and he probably makes the biggest impression. (Rorschach’s attack on a prison inmate followed by the cry of “You all think I’m locked up in here with you…well, you’re all locked up in here with ME!” elicited a huge amount of cheers from the audience when I saw the film.) Crudup’s easy to look over because he runs his corner of the Watchmen very smoothly and in a very understated fashion. Morgan makes The Comedian a very believable, very frightening psychopathic persona with limited screentime.
The opening credits will probably stick in people’s minds for a very long time, as they’re very well done. The movie in general is entertaining, I’ll give it that. Is it perfect? Not really. It’s not a trainwreck, though.
Zach Snyder really needs to take some time off and put pen to paper. While he’s easily mocked for his liberal use of slow motion and other cinematic tricks, he’s not a bad director. The problem mainly is that he’s spent so much time adapting other people’s work that it seems that he’s very focused on making an extraordinarily faithful adaptation and his own movie suffers. I haven’t seen enough of Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre II) to know whether or not she’s a good actress but she really isn’t very good in this one . This particular film is a very high profile movie to be bad in. Matthew Goode and Patrick Wilson aren’t terrible, but they’re not fascinating or interesting.
I get Snyder’s liberal use of violence: these are violent, sometimes insane people who are not necessarily the “heroes” they’re portrayed in society. I get why Snyder chose to change the ending of the film, although I don’t think it worked as well as in the book. But I do think that Snyder stopped seeing the forest for the trees and as a result, Watchmen feels less like the masterpiece it was on paper and more like a really blurry copy, like a Xerox machine went wrong somewhere. Add in the fact that I think the world’s moved on from the Cold War, from the ’80’s, from the questions the film is intended to raise and you have a film that feels dated and cold.
Note: This should read also that “The film’s overall issues – the destruction of humanity by itself – is a universal, archetypal point, but the time period and absurdity of historical characters such as Nixon leave the film feeling slightly irrelevant.” This was missed in the initial posting and I feel it is necessary to the review to include it. — 06/08/09
A noble effort? Yes. An entertaining one? Pretty much. It falls short of the mark, though, and that’s a shame. Even for all the nitpicks, though, it would’ve fallen short no matter who it was or when it was made. Maybe Hollywood should learn from this and just stop making Alan Moore’s work into movies.