Friday, May 7, 2010

Movie Review - Watchmen

Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Dawn of The Dead, decided to tackle one of the most complex and in depth  pieces of modern fiction ever penned, the graphic novel Watchmen. Translating this 12 volume work to the big screen was obviously something of a challenge, as the extremely complex ideas, psychologies, mythologies and many plots and subplots were all crucial to the story itself. In bringing Watchmen to film, Zack Snyder made not only a terrific adaption of the novel but also one of my favorite films of all time. 

This is not a normal superhero movie, and it is definitely not an action film. In fact, this is basically a long, slow, dialogue filled drama that happens to have a few action scenes in it. For those looking for cheap thrills and predictable heroes, look elsewhere . The "heroes", which I use loosely (since with the exception of one, none have any real powers) are from all different walks of life; one of the main ideas behind the novel was to create several radically different views of the world and let the reader decide which was best, and radical they are. From the brutal black and white moral absolutism of Rorshach (played by Jackie Earl Hayley) to the equally brutal and extreme amorality of The Comedian (played by Jeffery Dean Morgan) to the morally relative Nite Owl and Silk Spectre (played by Patrick Wilson and Malin Ackerman)  to the uncaring god-like Dr. Manhattan, played by Billy Crudup), the differences in world views and vast and thought provoking. The philosophizing and ethical dialogue here is worthy of very close study and honestly have given me hours and hours of thought and even debate as to some of their meanings and implications, but since this is a film review and not a philosophy class I'll leave that for another post.  

Watchmen is very, very stylized, and those who saw 300 will have a pretty good idea how this movie will look. While the stylization is frequent, it's all done very tastefully and never comes off as overdone, though it certainly is over the top. But there lies one of Zack Snyders strengths: making overdoing and overdone look really, really, cool. This is a dark, bleak, violent and sometimes disturbing movie though, make no mistake about it. The novel itself was all of those things, but the film takes it to another level. There's scenes of violence here that are genuinely hard to watch, simply because of the brutality of it all, and I have to say there's a few places where I disapproved of the way a scene was portrayed. Theres two in particular that I dislike, and both were dramatically altered from the novel in ways that leave me to think that Snyder was going more for shock value than artistic integrity. So as a warning to those faint of heart, this is a hard movie to watch.

However, despite the dark and in places film-noir feel of the movie, it does have it's lighter moments, and you'll know exactly when those are when the music cues. The soundtrack here is one of the best I've heard; while composed mostly of pop hits such as Bob Dylans The Times are a Changin, Simon and Garfunkels The Sounds of Silence and Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower every song fits absolutely perfectly with the scene at hand. Kudos to the man behind the music selection and editing for doing a brilliant job.

Watchmen, with it's cynical look at humanity and bleak outlook on life, is a very, very interesting film. While not the most true adaption to the book as it could have been, Snyder and Co. have done a fantastic job brining to the big screen one of the most well-written stories ever. Watchmen, in my mind, has also set the bar for superhero movies. Shying away from predictable plots and plot devices, Watchmen is a thought provoking, deep and interesting take on humanity, that also happens to be one of the most entertaining and satisfying movies I've seen in a long, long time. 


  1. great review here! u sound like someone who possibly has read a few Andre Bazin articles. I didn't like Watchmen though, loved the graphic novel but just never could get pulled in to the movie (don't have a great reason as to why).

  2. I've actually never even heard of Andre Bazin, but he sounds interesting. thanks for the kind words too