Website: Watchmen official site
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino
My Review: I never read the Watchmen graphic novel, so I went to go see Watchmen—I mean Watchmen: The IMAX Experience—without any preconceived notions of what the movie should be. A dearly beloved friend of mine, who wishes to both be recognized and remain anonymous, was geeking out pretty hardcore over the movie’s release, so I decided to check it out.
Not knowing anything about the story going into it was both a relief and an annoyance. Plenty of fans of the original text are lamenting, “It’s not as good as the book!”, and to that I have to say, duh. The movie is never as good as the book, graphic or not. So at least I don’t have to deal with the disappointment that movie didn’t live up to my expectations, since I had none. However, a lot of the movie felt rushed and certain things were glossed over, so I feel like I know need to read the book to pick up on everything I missed. Running almost three hours long, it’s obvious that director Zack Snyder tried to cram in as much from the book into Watchmen as he could, but it’s nearly (if not totally) impossible to adapt a film from a book and fit in everything that will both please the book fans and clearly explain everything to the newbies.
What I liked: The opening credit montage that showed the progression of the original Watchmen crew to the social outcasts they are today (with “today” actually being 1985). Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. The portrayal of the “superheroes” as what they would be if regular people decided to be superheroes: bizarre misfits prone to egomania, megalomania, and outright insanity.
What I didn’t like: Silk Spectre II; I don’t know if it was her character or the performance by Malin Akerman, but I couldn’t stand her any time she was onscreen. Some of the extended fight scenes; Watchmen is not in want of explicitly violent, gritty fights, and some of them just go on for so long I was left thinking, “If you had cut this ass-kicking in half, you would have been able to fit more plot into this movie.”
What I wanted more of: Backstory. The movie briefly touches on the backstory of each “hero,” but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to know more about how and why each of them ended up on the path they were on, and why most of them chose the goofiest costumes they could come up with. There were also several plot points that were glossed over and confusing for those of us going to the movie not already in the know. For example, I know from reading a magazine article about the movie that the reason Nixon is still President in 1985 and is allowed to serve more than two terms if because the nation was so grateful to him for winning the Vietnam War. But this isn’t clearly explained in the movie, and I can imagine a lot of moviegoers wondering, “What’s the deal with Nixon?”
Bottom Line: Watchmen is an enjoyable and visually impressive action movie (especially in IMAX), and if you’ve already read the book there’s no doubt you’ll be checking it out. And if you go to see it without having read the book, you’ll want to read it as soon as you leave the theater. Which was probably the brilliant plan all along.