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March 10, 2009

3

Watchmen

by Franz Patrick


Watchmen (2009)
★★★★ / ★★★★

We all know the fact that people complain whenever a film doesn’t stick closely to its source material. Well, “Watchmen” remains very loyal to its graphic novel–with a few tweaks here and there so the audiences will be able to relate more with the politics it tries to tackle. I never thought I would ever read a review (like the one from Entertainment Weekly) that complains about a picture sticking too closely to its source. It seems like some critics just find a way to complain about something (no matter how ridiculous it sounds) to sound insightful so it’s hard for me to take that specific review seriously.

“Watchmen” may be about two hours and forty minutes long but Zack Snyder (who directed the 2004 version of the cult classic “Dawn of the Dead” and the highly overrated “300”) directs the movie so astutely, it doesn’t feel like it’s that long. I was particularly impressed with the way the film started: it goes over the Minutemen of the 1940’s in about ten minutes during the opening credits and then it takes us to its current setting which tells the audiences how different their successors have become. The death of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the hands of an unknown murderer sets up a series of events that results upon the reunion of five other superheroes: Rorschach (played brilliantly and hilariously by Jackie Earle Haley), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman). Unlike most superhero movies, the six of them are atypical in such a way that they are nihilistic, not afraid to hurt or kill, and each of them can be placed in various areas of the moral spectrum. They do not necessarily have a common goal initially but their beliefs and methods of acquiring information are often at odds with each other. A typical villain is not necessary because their own selves are ultimately their worst enemies. Though some can argue that there is a “big bad” in the film, to me, nuclear weapons and politicians’ hunger for power are the driving forces that force the characters to choose the morally gray path.

Each superhero is featured in one way or another so the audiences get an idea on what makes the characters tick (pun intended). In a way, we eventually learn to see them as regular human beings with real problems instead of gods that can jump in at any time and save the world. In fact, I can only remember one or two scenes when the characters decided to do a good dead just because they are superheroes. Although at times, the dialogue may sound a bit cheesy, especially the romantic scenes between Wilson and Akerman, the film provides a great balance between seriousness and humor. I also liked the fact that the sex scenes look realistic (as opposed to other superhero flicks) and the filmmakers weren’t afraid to show certain body parts from both genders. Usually, films like this tend to objectify women’s bodies but I didn’t get that feeling here. In my opinion, this is lightyears better than “300” because of its rich moral ambiguity and ability to genuinely entertain. Those who expect a typical superhero film may be disappointed but those who want to see something different should be impressed. “Watchmen” is a breath of fresh air from the likes of “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Spider-man.” Along with “Coraline” and “The International,” this is one of those few movies of early 2009 that is worth watching in the cinema; it also should be remembered as the year progresses.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 11 2009

    We found the squid from the comic book hidden in the movie!

    Check it out:

    http://fullbodytransplant.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/watchmen-easter-egg/

    Easter eggs for the win.

    Reply
  2. Mar 24 2009

    1) Usually, neither graphic novels nor superhero movies are exactly my cup of tea, so that might help explain why much of my initial skepticism lingered after I saw ‘Watchmen’. The movie had its fair share of silliness (there was something about the quasi-philosophical Mars conversations between Laurie and Doctor Manhattan that sounded stilted to me, and I also think the plot was a little messy), but when it still comes out in the positive, it has to do with its willingness to pursue a quite interesting counter-factual historical narrative, and to at least partially deal with the questions that derive from it. Nixon as four-term president? Now there’s dystopia for you!

    2) Also, it’s kinda nice to see that Zack is capable of conceiving some character that are a little more morally and mentally complex than in ‘300’, a film I hated intensely. Where ‘300’ came dangerously close to Neo-Fascist warmongering (I don’t for a second by the excuse that it was to be seem as satirical in all its gory detail), I’m glad to see that the Fascist elements of ‘Watchmen’ (The Comedian) are carefully contextualized and condemned, all while none of the other superheroes resort to black/white self-righteousness.

    Reply
  3. Mar 26 2009

    “300” looks great on screen, I must admit, but I pretty much agree with what you’ve said about it. Story-wise, there’s nothing much there. To me, it’s a bunch of men acting like gorillas on steroids. I’ll pass. lol

    Reply

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