Past Entertainment

For the week of 3/24/09

You should be watching the Watchmen
By Cozmic

Images are copyright of Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.

I think I need to start this review of by saying that I have not read the Watchmen graphic novel. There, I said it, if this makes the rest of my opinions invalid to you, there are a bunch of other cool articles linked below, or above, or wherever. In fact, I was so into not getting spoilers I tried to shy away from the movie as much as I could, aside from asking a friend who got to go to an advanced screening if it was awesome or not and also watching the Saturday Morning Watchmen just because, before seeing it opening night.
In case you chose to live under a rock like me, or similarly has very little of an idea about what Alan Moore (who had nothing to do with the movie and definitely is never listed in the credits, as usual) and Dave Gibbons chose to actually put in that supposed masterpiece, here's a brief summary without giving away too much: it is an alternate reality where masked heroes have been around for a few decades, doing good and highly changing the outcome of certain things, only to then become nearly outright hated and retiring.
Watchmen takes place in 1985, with the death of one of these old heroes, setting grand events in motion, and of course, meanwhile the US and the Soviet Union stand ready to nuke each other to bits, because people in this reality like to vote for Nixon(Robert Wisden). All in all, hardly an ideal time to be a paranoid borderline-sociopath like Rorschach(Jackie Earle Haley), who starts investigating, and trying to convince the rest to exit from retirement.
Watchmen has a very interesting take on the superhero thing, mainly because it feels a lot like a comic book, in the same vein as director Zack Snyder's previous 300 (the similarities end there, just about), but not a whole lot like a superhero movie. This feels like DC's Vertigo imprint, and the R-rating is definitely justified. Let kids watch Iron Man and a bunch of strippers/flight attendants, or maybe one of those nice cuddly X-men movies instead. One can either say Snyder took the blood and sex too far, or one can respect the man for wanting things the way he feels they need to be. However, one can wonder, if 300 wasn't such a hit, despite the rating, would we see Watchmen like this? Or would Dr. Manhattan(Billy Crudup) walk around in a red pair of briefs outside some tights to please people without a fashion sense?
I've been told the movie raises fewer philosophical questions than the comic, but a 400-page comic book and a movie pushing 3 hours can hardly have the exact same content, unless those 400-pages are all splash pages.
All in all, I like “Watchmen” a lot. The acting feels solid enough, there are no really big names to get hung up on, the effects are cool (even naked Dr. Manhattan, kudos for not censoring that, really), the dialogue sometimes brilliant (lifted straight from Alan Moore?), and while some people complain the music choices are all too “obvious” I like the presence of a lot of Bob Dylan songs, and feel they set the mood just right instantly and effectively.

All in all, go see this movie if you like good movies, and comics, and are mature enough to handle the fact that punches are simply not pulled in this thing, the story is told as it needed to be told, although it is slightly different from the comic (new ending, same style, I've heard, and quite good, yes). Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? A lot of people should, that's for certain.

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