Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Watchmen

Grade: A+

Unfilmable. That was the word that many movie studios used to describe Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen. They said the material wouldn’t translate to the big screen. Well, after 23 years and several false starts Watchmen has finally made it to the big screen. It has had many ups and downs on the long road, director changes, cast changes, rewrites and the famous legal battle. WB finally gave the project to Zack Snyder, and rightfully so. Zack Snyder knows how to make a graphic novel adaptation. The studio put enough faith in him they allowed him to keep the original time and setting, something that most studio execs wanted to change to a more modern setting. Snyder sticks true to the graphic novel. Most of this movie looks like it was taken straight off the pages of the novel. Yes, he left some minor parts out and made some other minor changes, this is to be expected and only helps the flow of the movie in some parts. Snyder makes a truly faithful movie. Now, I will highly recommend people read the graphic novel, it is a beautiful piece of work and this movie, while it can be enjoyed by anyone, you get a little more out of it if you’ve read the source material. I will also warn people, this is not an action movie, much like the novel, it is a drama based around these people who just so happen to be masked adventurers. It does have action in it but, again much like the novel, it’s not loaded with it.

The characters are very dynamic and beautifully written. It takes place after a piece of legislation has been passed, the Keene Act, that bans masked adventurers. A few revealed their identity and are trying to live a normal life, some are trying to cope with not being able to fight crime anymore and others still do fight crime illegally. Night Owl II is going through somewhat of an identity crisis, trying to figure out who he is if he can’t be Night Owl II anymore. Rorschach finds out that the man Edward Blake who was murdered in the first scene is actually the Comedian and becomes convinced that there is a “mask killer”. Silk Spectre II is trying to find herself as well after leaving Dr. Manhattan because he is becoming increasingly separated from humanity. Ozymandias has revealed his identity as Adrian Veidt years ago and now uses his image as his alter ego to help build his multi billion dollar empire. After Rorschach tells his old partner Night Owl II about his maks killer theory, they begin to slowly work together to find out why someone killed the Comedian and end up stumbling upon a larger conspiracy.

The scenery in this movie is beautiful, from the New York streets to Veidt’s Antarctic premises. The cinematography was amazingly colorful and vivid. The special effects were spectacular and dazzling at times. The editing was great. The kicker about this movie though is the soundtrack. From the fight sequence in the first scene being set to Nat “King” Cole’s “Unforgettable” to Night Owl and Rorschach flying to Antarctica set to Jimmy Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” but the best was the opening credits showing the history of masked adventurers starting in the 20’s and 30’s and leading up to the movie’s setting of 1985 all while Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changing”, this is probably the most beautiful opening credits I think I have ever seen.

The costume designs were amazing. From Silk Spectre II’s tight yellow and black latex costume to Night Owl II’s (yes, Batmanesque) brown outfit and goggles to the different Comedian costumes he wore throughout the decades. The most well done though was Rorschach’s simple yet mind boggling costume. Basically he wears an over coat with the collar up, gloves and a fedora. What’s so amazing is his mask. What looks like just a sock over his head actually has what looks like an inkblot test on it (hence the name), but that inkblot is ever changing and actually tends to shift with his own emotions. So, even though you can’t see his face you can tell exactly how he feels.

The movie, much like the novel, was so fantastically written. So many amazing lines throughout the movie, from Rorschach’s line of “the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘save us’ and I’ll whisper back ‘no’” to Dr. Manhattan talking about the accident when he gained his powers “I feel fear for the last time”. The writing of this movie and many of the characters will really make you think.

Now for my last warning, many people tend to ignore a movie’s rating and take their kids or basically go see something they are not prepared for. This movie is rated R, and for good reason. There is the usual strong language, but there is also strong and graphic nudity, there are two sex scenes and Dr. Manhattan is nude in many scenes. Also there is strong graphic violence, lots of blood and sometimes even seeing tearing flesh and bones being broken through the skin. So, just know what you are getting into.

As with most movies based on books I recommend reading them, and Watchmen is no exception. While you can still definitely enjoy this movie without ever reading the novel, I fell you could get more out of it if you have. I know many people are put off by the fact that it’s a graphic novel, so it’s like reading a comic book, but there is a reason that Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” is the only graphic novel to ever be on Time’s list of 100 greatest novels of all time. The writing is spectacular and really draws you in. It is easily one of my personal top 10 favorites, maybe even top 5.

Overall, this is a spectacular movie that must be seen. So, who watches the Watchmen? Well, hopefully everybody.

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