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Thursday, March 05, 2009


Considering just how highly anticipated Zack Snyder's WATCHMEN movie is, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to provide a second opinion on it for those of you kind enough to read my blog, so here's what my former Marvel Comics colleague Glenn "the Jew" Greenberg has to say on the subject:

That this film got made at all--and is as well-done as it is--is an impressive achievement in and of itself.

My overall impressions:

* Extremely well-cast, pretty much from top to bottom. Particular standouts are Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Morgan Blake/The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach. I would go so far as to say that Haley as Rorschach just may be the most perfect casting of a comic-book character since Richard Donner hired Christopher Reeve to play Superman. I only wish Carla Gugino had more screen time--she steals every scene she's in.

* That said, when you consider that we've seen effective portrayals of Richard Nixon by such diverse actors as Anthony Hopkins, Frank Langella, Lane Smith, and even Dan Hedaya, it comes as a bit of a shock that in this film, Nixon is so... I guess unconvincing is a good word. The makeup, the voice, the overall portrayal... they just don't get the job done.

* Despite a running time of about 2 hours, 45 minutes, there's never a dull moment. It's a visual feast with iconic images, many of which were taken directly from the comic series.

* Great soundtrack! The song choices were appropriate and effective, particularly the use of "The Times They Are A-Changing" by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix's version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," and Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence."

* I'm not sure how effective the film works as a mystery. Sure, I knew the outcome going in, having read the comic series, but I have a feeling that the "uninitiated" members of the audience may figure out who the real threat is well before it's finally revealed on screen.

* To a large extent, the film, on an emotional level, is somewhat sterile. You don't really form an emotional attachment to any of the characters, certainly not like you do when you watch Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, or even Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. WATCHMEN, by and large, is about characters who are apart from us, separate from and above humanity...more like gods among us. The closest that the film comes to having a truly relatable character is Patrick Wilson's Nite Owl. Which is not to say that the characters don't have human flaws or quirks or foibles--boy, do they ever! If you've read the comic series, you know what I mean. I'm not saying that the characters are too perfect, just that it's somewhat difficult to truly empathize with them.

* I'm very curious to see how people who are unfamiliar with the comic series will react to the movie. It takes a long time for the super heroes to be seen in actual super heroic action and doing super heroic things. People coming into this expecting two-plus hours of slam-bang action are going to be very surprised--and possibly disappointed.

* By and large, it's VERY faithful to the comic series. Even the ending, which was changed from the one in the comic, maintains the spirit and the intent of the source material.

* I'm not sure that WATCHMEN the movie will have the same kind of impact on super hero films that Watchmen the comic series had on super hero comics. I think, when all is said and done, that Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT may well end up with that distinction. Clearly, that film resonated with moviegoers on a PHENOMENAL scale, to the point where
Warner Bros. execs have said that they want to use it as the template for ALL of their future super hero movies. Whether that's the right approach or not, it speaks to the massive impact that THE DARK KNIGHT has had on the genre.

It must also be noted that we've seen the "grim, gritty, realistic" approach applied to a number of super hero films over the last few years, whereas, when it was done in WATCHMEN the comic series, it was new and groundbreaking. I liken it to INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE; by the time the film was made of Anne Rice's novel, so many ideas had been lifted from the book and used in other vampire movies (particularly THE HUNGER) that the film version of INTERVIEW, while successful, wasn't quite the landmark of the genre that it might have been otherwise. Will the majority of moviegoers, who aren't particularly well-versed in comics history, see WATCHMEN as simply following in the footsteps of THE DARK

* What the film does, in spades, is explore the moral, philosophical, and physical implications of there being super heroes in the world, just as the comic series did (and just as THE DARK KNIGHT did too, to some extent, which is another reason why many moviegoers may see WATCHMEN as simply covering the same ground already covered in TDK). The question is, how will all of this fly with audiences expecting a more traditional, style-over substance blockbuster action flick, and who aren't looking for a lot of depth? I think of critics like Roger Ebert, who is deservedly well respected, but who nevertheless excused the sheer STUPIDITY of Ben Affleck's DAREDEVIL movie because in the end, it was, after all, just "a superhero movie," and he thus gave that flaming turd a thumbs-up.

I don't think WATCHMEN is the ultimate super hero movie, and I can't say it's wormed its way into my Top Five quite yet, but it's a well-made, finely-crafted, faithful adaptation of one of the most acclaimed comic book series of all time. And as someone who sat through absolute junk like X- MEN: THE LAST STAND and SPIDER-MAN 3, that means a lot in my book.

I plan to see it again. I plan to check out the extended cut on DVD. And I plan to pull my collected edition of the comic series off the shelf and read it again. Taking all that into account, I would have to say that WATCHMEN is a success.


Amber Love said...

I can't wait to see but I'm not about to face the opening weekend chaos. It's good to hear that the movie was a success. I honestly don't think non-readers of the book will have any desire to see it unless they are the dates of people who are fans already. I just don't see them connecting with seeing these characters on the commercials when they have no idea who they are. Everyone knows Batman, Superman and Spider-Man so whether they've read the comics or not, they are drawn to those movies.

Laser Rocket Arm said...

As I've stated previously, I'm not a comics geek at all. I know of Watchmen simply because my comic geek friends have been ... well ... geeking out over the movie. I don't know the storyline and while I've heard the characters mentioned I don't know who does what. It doesn't look like I'll score a ticket this week but I will take Amber's challenge and go see this and report back.