Friday, March 20, 2009

Watchmen Review

I've heard many different people saying many different things about the Watchmen movie and I am quite frankly confused. I went in having never read the book, intentionally, and having no idea really of the plot, also intentionally. I think this gave me a good perspective of the movie and allowed me to view it free from preconceptions. This is something I did not have when I went and saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I sometimes wonder how my take on those movies might have differed.

Watchmen is indeed a difficult story to tell with its emphasis on different time periods being interwoven. As it is a piece of graphic fiction, it is an extremely visual movie that Zach Snyder (of 300 fame) used quite well. Again, I hadn't read the book before seeing the movie but I could certainly tell that certain scenes were most likely pulled straight from the novel as they weren't your traditional cinematic camera angles. For the most part, and I'm discussing this first because it is such an integral piece to the movie, the visual style of this movie is flawless. There are some less than desirable shots that sometimes pull you out of the movie a bit but they are so few and far between that I simply didn't care.

The acting in the movie was overall a mixed bag which is par for the course in a movie that employs relative nobodies in the lead roles. The standouts in my opinion were Rorschach, the walking talking Rorschach test, played deftly by Jackie Earle Haley and the Comedian played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Of all the onscreen personas they made me the least aware that they were acting. They became these characters to such a degree that it was truly a sight to behold. Going briefly to the Lord of the Rings parallel I drew before I would hold this up to Sir Ian McKellan's flawless performance as Gandalf (with one small irritating moment at the Mines of Moria aside!). The rest of the cast were adequate individually. As a whole, however, I truly felt they all did a commendable job for such a difficult piece of fiction.

Now, some of the detractors for this movie have made such a fuss over showing Dr. Manhattan's anatomy a little too much. I agree that it was onscreen much more than most fans of American cinema are used too but with his character it made no sense for him to cover up anymore. He simply doesn't care anymore. The book may have been better at hiding this particular feature of his anatomy but those camera angles wouldn't have made as good of a film cinematically. You can't handicap the cinematographer simply to deal with our over-sensitive take on nudity. I certainly didn't hear many, though there were some, complain about the amount of female nudity in the movie.

The other big complaint I kept hearing about the movie is that it is difficult to follow the storyline. Again coming from the point of view of someone who has never read the book I must say that I didn't have a problem understanding the plot. Is it intricate? At times it is but the movie does a very good job at leading the audience through the plot to its conclusion. Perhaps if people would quit texting during the movie or checking box scores they might come to the same conclusion. The problem here isn't the movie, I feel like the problem is that we as a society have such a small attention span though I think that may be the topic of another blog posting entirely.

The success or failure of any movie is tied in with how the movie comes together as a whole. Small miscues here and there can be forgiven if the core of the movie is strong enough and if the audience gets sucked in. At 2 hours and 45 minutes the movie is long but other than the strong urge to pee I couldn't say that I was completely aware of the length. I was mesmerized by much of what was going on, though I was surprised at the level of violence. There were times where I felt like a little boy looking out into the vastness of the universe and truly beginning to comprehend it. This may seem a bit out there but most of these times have to do with Dr. Manhattan who is a truly unique character in cinema.

If I am forced to distill this experience into a five star rating I would have to give it a four, which many websites say means excellent. You may go to this movie and have a completely different experience which is one of the great achievements of this particular medium. I would caution, however, against taking negative reviews at face value as they are misleading and will keep you from judging for yourself.


Paul said...

Yes I have a small attention span but I did follow the movie plot. I just didn't think it was good.

Sean said...