DIRECTED BY: Zack Snyder.
SCREENPLAY BY: David Hayter and Alex Tse.
STARRING: Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson.
PLOT: Based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, WATCHMEN is set in an alternate 1980s, where Nixon is still in power and America won the Vietnam war. The Watchmen - a band of masked vigilantes are outlawed, but when team member The Comedian (Morgan) is assassinated, the Watchmen reband to seek revenge before they are all killed.
They said it couldn't be done - turning Alan Moore's graphic novel into a film. I can see why. The source material is rich and visually overwhelming. But they were wrong. The film produces on more than one level.
We open with the ageing Comedian (Morgan) in his place. Suddenly the door is smashed down and the style is set. Instantly we see Zack Snyder's stamp on the film, with trademark slow down then speed up action and brutality. In a short but powerful confrontation, The Comedian is killed. Obviously we sympathise with the brutally murdered hero, but in a series of flashbacks we begin to realise he is all not all he appeared. The effect of this is that you don't know what to think. Should I feel sad about this? Should I be glad that bastard's dead? It's a great trick that echoes throughout the film - are the Watchmen good guys or bad guys? The answer - they're human.....well.....apart from the big naked blue guy.
Speaking of - in this alternate decade, the world's first superhero has been discovered - Dr. Manhattan (Crudup) and he is essentially a god. With the world under threat of nuclear attack from Soviet Russia, Dr. Manhattan is America's best defence (and weapon). Crudup doesn't have much chance to display great acting talent, but what he does is fine.
The real great acting comes from Haley - anti-hero Rorschach and Patrick Wilson - Nite Owl II. To say Haley is covered in a mask for 90% of the film, an incredible amount of emotion is revealed, even when smashing a butcher's knife into someone's skull. And when he is de-masked about half way through, you instantly believe that the weak-looking man is the hard-as-nails vigilante. Wilson provides a fair bit of light comedic relief but also delivers great emotional moments. He's really a character we can relate to.
But for me the Oscar goes to Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Maybe I'm biased because I loved him in SUPERNATURAL, but he's on top form. He does a great job of portraying the Comedian as a bad ass, gun totting warrior with no care for human life. And just when you think you've got him figured out, he starts crying! An excellent performance and I have no doubt that Morgan's phone will be ringing non stop over the next few years.
The script is ambitious to say the least. I'm unsure as to how much is from the original comic (I suspect most of it), but nevertheless, it's a grand story. I was never bored. Probably because I had no idea what was going to happen next. This was done mainly by the fact that we're in an alternate timeline. Anything can happen (including President Nixon's nose growing larger!)
Direction-wise, Snyder has done what's expected - created a visual masterpiece. Tense action, grand landscapes, CGI camera work - it's all there. In 300 (Snyder's other big film, if you've been asleep), this got a little repetitive, but here I was thrilled throughout. None of the sheer brutal action (and believe me - there's some majorly brutal violence) is unjustified. Knees shatter, bones crunch, elbows burst through flesh - you name it, it's there. All justified, all amazingly realistic.
Dialogue-wise, it's smart, witty and insightful. With talk of saving humanity from themselves by killing them and corruption of the system, it's very political. The best line of the movie however, comes from Rorschach (straight from the comic) - "All the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'save us'. And I'll whisper...'no'"
All in all, WATCHMEN is the most ambitious comic book adaptation to date and it delivers on all levels. If I had one problem with the film, it's that bloody tiger! I'm assuming it's from the novel and you'll see what I mean when you watch the movie (which you have to do). There's no reason for that tiger to be there. Fortunately, it's only on screen for about a minute.
It's a must-see for comic book fans and 'normal' folk alike. If you thought THE DARK KNIGHT was a good, powerful movie, you ain't seen nothing yet! Also see if you enjoy looking at a giant blue penis.
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Check out the trailer here.