Who watches the Watchmen? I do. Many have before me. After reading this, so will you, and you, and your friends as well.
Great cryptic opener huh? “Watchmen” is an adaptation of the like-named source graphic novel series centering on a murder of a retired superhero that unfolds into a larger conspiracy with apocalyptic ramifications in an alternate world circa 1985, where President Nixon is on his third term.
People are jaded and otherwise amoral, and most superheroes are outlawed via government act. The thing is in the graphic novel, this is not even the tip of the iceberg. These “heroes” are quite conflicted in a world that doesn’t want them, but does the world need them? “Watchmen” isn’t like the other superhero films that have come out in the past 10 years…it takes you to a dark place and then goes to places you didn’t really want to go. That is just a little bit on the ideas and the themes of the movie, that the novel fleshes in full, and is quite difficult to make engaging on screen. However, the movie shoots for the moon and lands on Mars with adapting the “inadaptable graphic novel.”
The story is so accessible to those who have never read the novel, nor even heard of it or even are fans of the genre—that’s really what I love about this movie. For a guy like me, who has read the novel and all its supplemental material within (faux interviews, dissertations, inside comics and a retrospective biography), I found nothing glaring as to what’s missing or a reason to wince at the numerous changes to the storyline. However my issues will be addressed later.
The acting is quite good actually with Jeffrey Dean Morgan making a near-heartless man actually have a heart in the Comedian, Billy Crudup showing the disconnect from humanity while having to save it in Dr. Manhattan, Patrick Wilson’s reawakening turn as Nite Owl, Malin Akerman’s jaded and equally reawakened posture as Silk Spectre, Matt Goode’s arrogant and grandstanding image of Veidt, but the real tour de force is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, a sociopathic detective who never compromises “even in the face of Armageddon.”
Notice how NONE of these people are big names…that’s good. Can you imagine say…Arnold Schwarzenegger or even Tom Cruise in this movie? I could but I know it wouldn’t be as good. These people make the classic characters spring off the page and even add new dimension to them that only film could offer, and make you believe that these people exist in our world as we know it. Everyone and their background are given just enough time to flesh out, some more than others, and with this many characters, it’s a wonder they pulled it off in 163 minutes.
As aforementioned, each character isn’t painted in good guys and bad guys… heroes do horrible things and villains show heart and conscience, making everyone painted in shades of grays. You can side for whomever and not feel bad about it.
For you die-hards, I’ll acknowledge the changes. Certain events and characters are either given cameo appearance or it doesn’t happen at all…in this version. Word on the web is that an extended edition will be released later. “Tales of the Black Freighter,” the pirate story within the novel is omitted, but its on DVD elsewhere. The ending is different, which is a love/hate relationship for a lot of people for good reason.
I would have loved to see the original, horrific images that the later chapters of the book offered, but what the movie gives is just as destructive and effective, and it ties in to the storyline more, I would say. The original ending might have taken the movie into gonzo-strange land if it was presented on film, so I think a little plausibility won out in this case.
Certain classic lines are changed or even omitted, but I was fine with that personally, as it didn’t detract from the overall experience. The movie definitely has more action involved than the book, which is good because we need something to hold our attention than just vivid colors and the random body explosion or head cleaving, and frontal nudity…the fights are long and straight up, knock-down brawls—I loved every single one of them.
Speaking of which, the movie like its source material, is extremely graphic in every way possible so if you’re a prude, squeamish or otherwise disgusted by things here and there…bring a paper bag. Actually bring several bags…it’s that brutal.
In the end, “Watchmen” is definitely the movie to see so far this year if you’re a neo to the material or a hardened pro that knows everything cover-to-cover…but we all know, “Nothing ever ends.”
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