Directed by Zack Snyder.
Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse. Based on the graphic
novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Patrick Wilson and Billy
Release Year: 2009
Review Date: 3/15/09
At the end of "Watchmen", a 162-minute opus
based on a graphic novel from many years ago, the net effect is that
the movie is big for its britches, but in inviting people to see it,
it should never have stressed its comic/superhero roots in its
trailer and just stuck to a sci-fi vision of its alternate past
That's a longer way of saying that
"Watchmen" has a lot of problems, and Gordon and I were forced to
sit through all of them.
In the mid-80s, the president is Richard
Nixon...still. Superheroes are not just a bit of the
imagination...no, they are real, and in this alternate reality,
superheroes are really crime fighters with regular lives, out to
take down bad guys when the legal system simply cannot. A
particular bunch of these superheroes have retired when we meet
them; in fact, one of them, The Comedian (Richard Dean Morgan) is
just sitting at home one night watching TV when he is thrown out of
his Manhattan apartment 30 stories to the cold pavement. A
crimefighter who knew and worked with The Comedian, Rorschach
(Jackie Earle Haley, from
Children"), sets out to determine whodunit...and, with the help
of past colleagues like Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin
Akerman) and Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Rorschach sets out to
find the truth.
Told in both the mid-80s present tense and a
ton of flashbacks, "Watchmen" takes its time to set up everyone's
backstory, even as it picks up mid-flow at the film's start and
tries to get us a resolution over the course of about two months
within the movie. That's a lot of ground to cover--the
backstory of six characters, the state-of-the-union in its other
reality, and the threat of nuclear war with the Russians, the main
undercurrent in present time. It wouldn't surprise me if Zack
Snyder (who also directed
"300") was told to
squeeze the entire graphic novel into one movie, which is cool but
generally a bad idea in terms of running time. As it turns
out, "Watchmen" attempts to be all things to all comic fans...it's a
sci-fi film, it's got historical context (what IF Nixon hadn't been
thrown out of office?), it's an action film, it's a
mystery/thriller. And, oh yeah, it has R-level violence, sex
scenes and sex talk, and very objectionable violence against women,
both visualized and implied.
Despite all of this, "Watchmen" is generally
watchable even as it feels long. It's kind of cool even if
superheroes are becoming a little played out for me; the soundtrack
pulls out all the stops for hard rock hits from the 80s. The
special effects are okay (especially if you like watching Dr.
Manhattan stroll around naked all film long...you will love blue
dong after watching this film), the Doomsday scenario is somewhat
interesting, the ending is above average.
For me, it was this mediocrity that was a
disappointment. For example, in The Comedian and Rorschach,
the film creates characters that are very interesting...and then,
turns them into what I call "The Boba Fett Effect." The
Comedian is a bastard, he is violent, he is a sociopath, he is
funny...in essence, he's THE BEST CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE. And,
after dying in the film's first scene (this gives nothing away,
since he dies in the film's trailer too), he is shown in another
half-dozen flashbacks but just enough to make you think, "Damn, it
would be cool to do a movie just about that bastard." Ditto
for Rorschach, who has the film's few laugh-out-loud scenes while
terrorizing inmates at a prison mid-film.
The film chooses to make Nite Owl, Dr.
Manhattan and Silk Spectre the film's main characters instead.
Uhh...boring. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre--along with The
Comedian and Rorschach, really--had me and Gordon asking the same
question after the film was over: what are the special powers
of these people? Like, is Silk particularly faster, or
stronger, or smarter, than other women? Or, does she just
choose to fight crime because she hates bad people? The
Comedian seems to be a bit stronger than other people, but usually,
superheroes don't fight evil with shotguns, flamethrowers and
silenced pistols. And, save for the cool mask that Rorschach
wears, why is he special? I was so baffled about this it has
taken me a week to even guess at why this is that. The film
tries to work it like "our players are not SUPER heroes, they are
masked crimefighters", but it rolls the crimefighters and those with
superhuman powers together as one unit.
But, the bigger question: does it even
matter? No. The only two superpowered people in the
movie, Dr. Manhattan and Adrian Veidt, are so much
crazy-stronger/smarter than everyone else that it makes the rest
look silly. And, why are the two most boring people in the
movie, Nite Owl and Silk, taking up so much screen time? Being
hot doesn't mean that you are interesting! Why do the action
scenes suck? Why are people falling in love with camera tricks
like fast-motion throw punch/slow-motion punch hits face/fast-motion
kick/slow-motion kick breaks kneecap? In "300", it was somehow
cool; in "Watchmen", it feels like a "Matrix"-style ripoff.
For all the time it took to set everyone up,
I felt strangely unconnected with the characters we were forced to
follow the most. If they make a sequel to this film called
"Watchmen: Comedian and Rorschach Fuck Shit Up", count me
in...otherwise, this film might be worth catching on DVD.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard