Monday, March 16, 2009

Watchmen (2009)

Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) was caught between two geeky, unrelenting worlds. The world of comic book fanboys and the world of his followers. The comic book fanboys wanted a perfect rendition of the novel, while Zack’s fans wanted slow motion pornography. Zack pretty much was able to please everyone. Diehard Watchmen fans got a faithful adaptation with a few changes and there was a ridiculous amount of slow motion.

A few quick notes: I’m not going to write about the plot/storyline of the film. It was already presented in a much better way in the graphic novel. There is a lot to talk about too: morality, the criticism of the superhero genre, etc. I will leave the discussion of the content to comic book snobs.

Watchmen is better than Iron Man (touted as the best superhero movie ever when released). Watchmen is better than The Dark Knight (touted as the best superhero movie ever when released), which is not a tough feat to accomplish. With that said, is its superiority mostly due to its challenging, engaging, and revolutionary content? Definitely.

Hollywood is notorious for putting a certain gloss over all of its films. With Watchmen, however, this simply goes too far. Everything in the film looks plasticky. While the novel was more of an anti-superhero realist work, the film tries to be exactly that which the novel is criticizing: the mainstream superhero genre. Zack really missed the point with this one. I realize that money has to be made, (and as of this writing, the film is still in the red), but this was one of the worst aspects of the film. I know that all films use computer generated effects nowadays, but in this case, the film was cheapened by all of the “slick” slow motion, interminable choreographed fight sequences, and absurd makeup (see Nixon, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre II, etc). In addition, very few of the actors gave good performances. The cast as a whole was very mediocre, emotionless, and altogether unconvincing, mirroring the film as a whole.

I’m not sure if Zack is aware what things in the real world sound like. He makes fisticuffs sound like the Saturday morning cartoons. I discussed this with a friend after seeing the film and we concluded that the sound effects were purposefully over exaggerated to create a more superhero-like feel. Once again, this is the exact opposite of what the novel was trying to achieve.

MINOR SPOILER ALERT | Click to read spoilers
The biggest difference between the novel and the film is the ending. In the graphic novel, Ozymandias orchestrates a fake alien invasion which results in a giant squid-like creature destroying New York. In the film, however, it is made to look as if Dr. Manhattan was behind the attack. My biggest problem with this is how boring (that’s right, boring) it was to watch New York get destroyed. Yes, I am aware that you are capable to render realistic particle physics. However, it just comes across as uninventive and unimaginative, an antithesis to the novel. The point is, we have seen this before. Any disaster movie (no, not Disaster Movie) features CG special effects just like those in Watchmen. For a novel that was so earth-shattering, revolutionary and now adored, this tiny detail is a huge injustice.

Watchmen is exactly what it is marketed as. It is fun to watch, and stays surprisingly faithful to the novel. True comic book fans will much rather reread the graphic novel than see the film, but it is definitely fun to see the characters come to life. Zack Snyder fans will enjoy this film immensely. It is “cool” and “slick” and uses just as much slo-mo as 300. What I guess I’m saying is that this film is a success. It achieved exactly what it set out to do. Now we just have to see if it makes any money.

Grade: C+

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