Watchmen – Review
I’m a geek, tried and true, but I’ve never been one for comic books. I like my super-hero’s, I just prefer them in a more animated form. I have a great respect for the artists and the artistry that goes into many graphic novels, but I’ve only recently given consideration to picking up the paper versions due primarily to recent films that did them great justice. The first being The Dark Knight (this Joker being inspired by The Killing Joke) and last night’s film, Watchmen.
Widely considered in the comc world as THE groundbreaking graphic novel that inspired a generation of writers and artists, Watchmen was said to be unfilmable. Not having read the novel myself, I can’t rightly comment on whether that’s true or not, but in researching I can see how some might come to that conclusion citing the intricacies of the plot and the characters. At its core, Watchmen is a murder mystery whose stage is an alternate 1980’s era U.S.. Superheros exist but by and large lack actual super powers. They are men and women who dress up and fight crime but aren’t any less fallable or self-destructive as any of the rest of us can be. The novel’s subtext isn’t as subtle in the film, but responsibility is pitted against the truth and the film does that bit of the novel to a tee. Heros aren’t always good people.
But that’s all deep philosophical talk. You want to know if it’s fun. Well, it is. It’s like no other comic-book super-hero movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not mindless like the recent Superman flick and considerably more mature than any Spider-man movie. There’s a lot of fighting, intrigue, guns and plenty of gore, not to mention a level of nudity not seen since Boogey Nights. The only character with any actual powers, Dr. Manhattan, can be described as more of an entity after a lab accident transforms him into a being of blue, man shaped energy. A being that just plain doesn’t like clothing. There was plenty of uncomfortable laughing at our screening. Think of a Jolly Blue Giant without the leaves and you get Dr. Manhattan.
Most suprising amongst my colleagues was the performance of one particular actor, Jackie Earle Haley. Haley plays Rorschach, an obsessive detective of sorts whose face is most often concealed by a mask that looks like an ever changing ink-blot test that he takes his name from. Haley, a former child actor and voice artist, has had a few bit parts on television, but if his Watchmen performance is any indication, this 40 something actor is about to be launched. He does an incredible job at portraying emotion basically through a bed sheet.
Storywise, I’m told, is rather faithful to the novel save for it’s ending. Zack Snyder of 300 fame directs with a heavy hand towards blood and bone breaking, but it shouldn’t come off unexpected or out of place, since this is supposed to be more of a real-world look at super heros and the harsh reality that beating someone down would be like.
Watchmen hits a good stride for action movies, film noir and sci-fi at the same time. I will see it again, if nothing else to catch some of the hidden details that only a second outing, after the initial awe of first time wears off. If Watchmen is any indication of the quality and value of this year’s movie-going experience, 2009 is gonna be one helluva year for film.