March 8, 2009

watchmen1Not being a fan of Zack Snyder’s last movie, 300, I went into his adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s highly esteemed graphic novel, Watchmen, with some trepidation. Two hours and forty-three minutes later, I was pretty bowled over. The epic story of a group of superheroes called the Watchmen, who have been forced into retirement by federal law in an alternate 1985, where Richard Nixon is still president and the U.S. won the Vietnam War, is carefully and cleverly set up in an opening credits sequence. The rest of the story, which unfolds as a hybrid of film noir, special effects driven fantasy and sociopolitical satire, is framed around the mysterious death of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). As the United States drifts towards a nuclear conflict with Russia, another member of the Watchmen, the violent, paranoid Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley, whose performance is mesmerizing), comes to believe there is a conspiracy to kill the rest of them. Though it’s not without its flaws, Snyder’s adaptation, from a screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, is as good as any that could have been made from its supposedly “unfilmable” source material, faithful but not slavishly so, wisely deviating from it when it serves the movie best. Snyder amps up the violence and gore considerably in some scenes, but also tones it down in other places, particularly in the movie’s climactic scenes. He also toned down a lot of the visual excesses I found annoying and distracting in 300, and he further resisted giving Watchmen a breakneck, jump cut happy pace. Instead, the movie unfolds at a reasonable, adult pace that allows its audience to absorb its densely layered story and appreciate the complex characters Moore created. Though Watchmen suffers from some bad dialogue and the occasional questionable musical choice, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Is it Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen? Decidedly not. But it is a terrific cinematic version of it, visually dazzling, with moments of greatness and wonder. If it’s not the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, it’s certainly one of the most provocative and challenging ones I’ve come across, and hopefully it will provide a fresh audience for the graphic novel it’s based on.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)


One Response to “MONKEY REVIEW: Watchmen”

  1. derricknation Says:

    I liked the movie, but it was too verbatim

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