Saturday, March 14, 2009

[Movie Review] Watchmen

The Watchmen is based on the critically acclaimed 1986 comic book series, I will make some references to the “graphic novel”, but this review serves to state my opinion on the movie.

The story takes place in an alternate timeline wherein costumed vigilantism was commonplace in the forties. These “heroes” were ordinary humans and, were ultimately eclipsed when a nuclear accident births a true superman. Fast forward to the mid eighties, masked crime fighting is now illegal, and thanks to the work of former “mask” The Comedian and the radioactive Dr Manhattan, the US have one in Vietnam. However, the Soviet Union continues to stockpile weapons with each passing day, and the threat of Nuclear Holocaust seems omnipresent. Coupled with that, a single masked crime fighter still walks the streets, under the pseudonym of Rorschach.

Edward Blake, The Comedian, is found dead. Someone did it, was it one of his former archrivals, the Soviets, or the very government by which he was employed. Who ever it is Rorschach is compelled to find out who. What unfolds is a story of mystery, identity and meaningfulness.

For fans of the comic, many of the scenes are faithfully recreated, yet some plot points or chronologies are changed. For running time’s sake (the film still clocks up over two hours), many of the subplots are culled, but lots of key points remain. One of the appeals of watchmen was that it showed its heroes fornicating, committing acts of real violence and most importantly, it showed a nuclear powered superhuman’s penis. The penis was a big part of the movie for me, I was worried that they wouldn’t have the gonads (how fitting) to reveal it, but I think they even showed the appendage more times on screen than in the source.

On the source, many things, like the details of the ending were changed. The new ending, while arriving at the same conclusion though taking a little while longer to get there, is slightly more logical. However, I disapprove of many of the effects used. A bullet time affect was used in almost every fight. The effect gives the impression of superpowers, but that’s exactly what the original book was against. There is also a lot of blood, and heroes seem to have the strength to break bones in a single punch. The blood I can understand, it makes a statement. It says, “This movie breaks traditional molds but having heroes break the mold of enemy cartilage”. Yet many throws are enhanced by strings, not greatly, mind you, but altered to the point of unrealism no less.

The actors are all relatively unknown, a good move. They also do good jobs of their characters, though I think breathing more life into some than necessary. I find that Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks a bit too much like Robert Downey Junior, leading me to believe posters of him in costume were for a new Iron man movie.

The soundtrack is fantastic. Great songs of the pre-eighties era. If I didn’t own all of the songs anyway, I’d buy the soundtrack. It was only let down by a bad track of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I Honestly, I would see the movie for the music alone.

On a side note, while the movie lacks many of the subplots that really hooked me on the Watchmen universe, there are rumors of a four hour long director cut edition which includes many times more footage.

Whilst not having quite as much depth as the page original, the Watchmen movie still retains much of what makes the canon great.


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