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The 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder and based upon the book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

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Technically Astounding--But Zack Snyder's Rendition Misses the Essence of the Graphic Novel

  • Mar 7, 2009

Comic book adaptations are all the rage these days and they are a dime-a-dozen. To prepare for the film and to write this review, I re-read the graphic novel so I can give a more detailed viewpoint. "Watchmen" is adapted from the award-winning 12-issue mini-series in the 80's which in turn became a popular graphic novel. The graphic novel was written by Alan Moore (From Hell, V for Vendetta) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons (Green Lantern) and adapted to the big screen by Zack Snyder (300). This is Snyder's third full-length feature film, and he is in familiar ground in taking well-received formulas in pop culture, make it a strong visual affair and he calls the film a "tribute" or a homage. Most of the time, Alan Moore is displeased with the final result when his story is adapted; as far as I can recall, only twice has he requested his name removed from a film's credits because of his strong displeasure--it was with the Wachowski's "V for Vendetta" and you guessed it…in "Watchmen".  This is why you only see "based on the graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons" in the credits, Moore's name remained in the credits of "From Hell" and "League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen". (whether this was due to the studio's insistence or Moore gave his blessing I do not know)

The government has banned "super-hero" operations with a law passed in the senate and most heroes have retired. When a former super-hero called "The Comedian" (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is murdered, a still operating vigilante called Rorshach/Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earle Harley) takes it upon himself to investigate and comes to the conclusion that someone is killing "masked" vigilantes. He takes it upon himself to warn his fellow super heroes such as the Nite Owl/Dan Drieberg (Stephen McHattie), Silk Spectre/Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup) and a genius industrialist Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) of the supposed conspiracy. Aided by his former partner, the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre 2, what they find is just something so unbelievably insane that it will shake the very world.

I wasn't kidding when I said that Snyder makes these "tribute" films. "Watchmen" is so full of iconic sequences that is lifted from the graphic novel; the scene in the prison mess hall, Dr.Manhattan‘s citadel, all would give fans a reason to rejoice. The dialogue is almost derived word for word, Snyder succeeds where he has excelled in "300", the viewer does feel like he is reading a live action comic book. The characters in the film have plenty of development in the form of flashbacks, fans of the graphic novel will be thrilled. The film is pretty much lifted from the novel with some minor additions--the film is more action-packed than the graphic novel, (the action scenes are brutal, fast and hard-hitting) some sequences are extended and some are deleted. The film has its share of sex scenes and nudity and you see Dr. Manhattan the way he was in the comic--stark naked most of the time. The film does emulate a certain darkly foreboding mood, but it also doesn't lose it's sense of black humor. The screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse is meant to give us a sense of nostalgia, and they do succeed, well, at least until the final act of the film…

              Great, great cast

Purists of Alan Moore's storyline will be a little disappointed as certain key elements in the graphic novel are missing. Laurie is a smoker (which is why she turned on the flamethrower and caused the accident) and abhors donning her costume, the original Nite Owl wasn't killed by gang members, the boy in the news stand does make an appearance but the key subplot on what he was reading is missing. That subplot, "Tales of the Black Freighter" was extremely important in the graphic novel's commentary on humanity's sense to survive. The conversation in Mars between Laurie and Dr. Manhattan is significantly short, and loses a lot of its dramatic and emotional edge. Yes, Snyder and company does make an impressive visual and aural feast, but they missed the original story's message and philosophical relevance. 

        Nite Owl

I am also assuming that Alan Moore had his name removed because the climax takes a significant nose dive and I am sure purists will be very upset. The climax in the film lacked a strong effect on its narrative as it deviated from the original source material. This ending may be easier to connect with for those unfamiliar with the graphic novel, but honestly, it felt very clichéd, unimaginative and predictable. The approach in the graphic novel was very methodical, moody and full of emotions which is why it became a so-called holy ground for comic fans. This film is just another Hollywood fare that uses the source material as a template and not as its stimulation and inspiration.

The direction by Zack Snyder is competent but it does have a lot of problems. Sure, it is difficult to compress 12 issues into one film--but one can stay faithful to the feel, essence and thought of the original. He uses the recognizable scenes and famous illustrations in his shots to tickle fans of the graphic novel. The film has an overabundance in slow motion, and while I thought this was meant to emulate the feel a comic reading experience, Snyder could have done well in refraining a bit from the slo-mo. The direction does present quite a number of plot holes, and felt uneven at times. The biggest goof of them all occurs in the final act of the film when Dan Drieberg said that "everything will be ok, as long as people believe Jon is watching over them.." which is PURE contradiction to what happened before and is an abandonment of the book's essence. I cannot disclose any more without further spoiling the film, you will have to see for yourself. The direction is definitely a mere "copy" of the sequences from the novel, and Snyder made no effort to make the "Watchmen" mythos his own and insists that audiences should fill in the plot gaps themselves. 

            Kicking ass and taking names

The performances are decently acted for the most part and I thought Jackie Earle Harley stole the show as Rorshach. I loved the scenes when he's in prison. The character is by far the most interesting character of them all. Walter Kovacs would give the most ruthless movie serial killers pause. Malin Akerman is charming as Silk Spectre 2 and luscious Carla Gugino even makes an appearance as her mother. I found Stephen McHattie's "Nite Owl" quite amusing but found Matthew Goode's "Ozymandias", interesting but a little underwhelming--his plan made him unworthy of being the "smartest guy in the world". The CGI rendered "Dr, Manhattan" looks very good and maintains a creepy nature to his character.

The visuals are very well done and the CGI rendered environment is quite cool to look at. The costumes have been improved to give the film a more "real" feel, Dr. Manhattan and Rorshach are the two characters who had their appearances unaltered from the comic. The special effects does give the illustrations in the novel a certain amount of homage. The soundtrack is reminiscent from the 60's, 70's and 80's music which I thought was a good approach to give the scope of its diverse periods, but some may say that this approach hampered the film as it lost a lot of the brooding, moody feel of the source material. There is a good number of sex and nudity, as well as a strong display of violence against women.

Now, please do not let my observations to give the impression that I didn't like the film. Complaints aside, "Watchmen" is entertaining enough and it is worth a look. The film is very polished with high production values and is a visual marvel that I will still have to commend the effort. Those unfamiliar with the graphic novel will no doubt be impressed but hardcore fans of the original story may be very disappointed. It also has the potential to turn off some viewers given its violent content and the way it somewhat glorifies the harsh realities of human nature (which the graphic novel never did). It is just a purely ineffective vision of the "Watchmen" mythos, while the premise was faithful to its original material it never truly achieved its complexities in emotional and psychological impact . While not an excruciating film, Snyder's adaptation missed the mark that it felt absolutely unnecessary. After more than 2 hours watching Snyder's rendition, to expose certain heartbreaks, satirical touches, nicely shot action sequences, it gave very little in the way of artistry, emotions and thrills that I found myself pining for the source material's philosophical and emotional significance. I can understand Alan Moore's request that his name not to be associated with Snyder's vision.

Recommended! [4- Stars]

       Glowing blue man orgy time!

movie poster Dr. Manhattan minutemen Nite Owl the comedian idiot's guide

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October 21, 2010
I liked this one a little more than most people it seems, I would rate it about that same as you.
February 01, 2010
I saw this film without reading the graphic novel first, but after reading the comments on your review (it took a while), I think I'll have to buy it this weekend. While I did enjoy the film (I have a soft spot for films with dark undertones), I have a feeling that after reading the GN, I'll have a different opinion. Great review.
February 01, 2010
Oh, the graphic novel is a whole lot better! You will love it! I too have a soft spot for dark overtones, I find movies like those to be sincere and bold. Thank you for the read, my friend.
February 01, 2010
Have you written a review of the graphic novel?
February 01, 2010
not yet, but I may in the future. However, there's a real great review for it in this site. Check this out. That is by far the most comprehensive review of the GN I've ever read. I really don't know how I'll be able to top that review but I sure can try. ;-P
February 01, 2010
I'll read it right now. Thank you!
March 13, 2009
Nice, thorough review. I agree mostly, because I enjoyed the film and appreciated Snyder's stylistic choices, effective use of slo-mo and faithfulness to the original graphic novel. The ending doesn't diverge much from the novel because the fundamental idea concerning the ease of manipulating humanity still holds true. we should probably debate this outside of a review to avoid spoilers. I think Rorshack and Comedian stole the show, and Ozymandius was painfully under-developed, showing up at the beginning and end. Then again, Snyder originally had a 3+ hour cut that studio execs liked but deemed too long for theatrical distribution. I already can't wait to see his "authentic" version on blue-ray
March 13, 2009
I'm looking forward to seeing that 3 and a half hour version on DVD. I too loved way that Rorschach, The Comedian, and Dr. Manhattan were portrayed. But I felt that Silk Spectre II, Nite Owl II, and Ozymandias weren't given enough of the complexity they had in the book. I was also really annoyed with the actor who played Nixon (may have been worst make-up I've seen in a big-budget film).
Also, I set up a discussion on Watchmen (both the book and the movie), so feel free to debate it in as much detail as you want there.
March 13, 2009
Hey, movieman, It's funny because me and trashcanman had messaged each other as to how exactly I felt the ending had compromised the book's main essence or message. Rorshach truly ruled the film, as for the comedian--well, he was a mixed bag IMO. I guess we will have to discuss it in Count's forum as he had suggested. Yes, both endings had the "manipulation of humanity" as its main idea. It's the difference on how Snyder executed it. I actually have two paragraphs which I omitted in this review explaining this for the sake of those who haven't seen the film and also because it reads as if I was reviewing the book rather than the film. I''ll talk to you guys later.
March 07, 2009
Well, tell Rorschach that I quake with fear... from the smell of his bean farts!
March 07, 2009
Rorshach is NOT worthy to lift my hammer...LOL
March 07, 2009
I meant Thor's hammer...that didn't come out right LOL
March 07, 2009
Knowing Rorschach's character, I don't think he'd want to go anywhere near you hammer. LOL. Okay, now I'm making juvenile innuendos. I think it might be time for me to cut back on the caffeine.
March 07, 2009
We need to chill LOL. I'll catch you later, Count, need to cook some grub...
March 07, 2009
Beans on the menu? Ha-ha. That's cool. I'll catch you later on Monday.
March 09, 2009
How's the review going for the graphic novel? I know I'm going to risk sounding like a complete (or at least a partial) dork, but I can't wait. It's about time someone else jumped on the Watchmen bandwagon and gave my review some friendly competition. After all, "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever know." Besides, this is one of the greatest works of graphic literature and it seems absurd that I'm the only one to review it. Hopefully, when Trashie's done with it, he'll follow suit and give us his take on it too.
March 09, 2009
Not to worry, Count. I just had a busy weekend but I will probably write the draft tonight. I already have the review in my head, but I still have to put it on paper. You have nothing to worry about, your review will be a tough act to follow. I will try to approach it in a different way. Hey, you're the one with the huge backlog with reviews LOL! Oh, trashie and me are under attack in amazon for our reviews for "Watchmen"....LOL
March 09, 2009
"Under attack"? How so?
March 09, 2009
well, Trashie more than me because he got a troll on his back in amazon. Me, people are trying to spark a debate on the climax, fanboys of the movie are jumping on my review (they're different fans from fans of the graphic novel)by giving it negative votes . No biggie, I try to explain my take the best I can..but now, I'm beginning to think that I should never have deleted one paragraph; I deleted it for the sake of those who haven't seen the film. "Watchmen" is difficult to review w/out spoilers because of its complexities. Oh well, it's's just so amusing at times.
March 09, 2009
Damn troll voters. I was almost thinking about posting my reviews for both the graphic novel and the film as a sort of "farewell" to the crew, but the last time I even checked out the site, my reviews were loaded with negative votes and more of my positive votes were missing. It's weird because a lot of the positive votes were ones I had long before I'd gotten any friends or fans, so I know that Amazon is just turning positive votes into negative ones. So there's that and then there's the fact that I sent them an e-mail about starting a customer reviews discussion and they kept responding "Our team is currently looking into the matter for you". Well, I got that same message seven times before I said screw it and dumped their review feature for good. I still order merch from them, but only because their services are good when it comes to orders, though they suck when it comes to treating the customer reviewers with any sense of respect. So far, the petition hasn't gotten any more signatures and I'm wondering whether that's because people don't know about it or whether they dislike the idea of standing up to Amazon's staff. Something's got to happen though. I'll e-mail you about it later.
March 10, 2009
Count, ammie is all screwed up now. The only thing keeping me there is the fact that some of my amazon buds don't want to move here and I am able to promote asian cinema through amazon. Where did you post the petition? You have to post it somewhere very visible.
March 11, 2009
Its as weird as ever on amazon. The negatives votes are still there en masse and yet our approval rates are back up in the 90% range. I wish they'd get their act straightened out. Other than all that shit I really liked it over there because there were more film people to reach.
March 13, 2009
No kidding, but the crap you'd receive for giving a film four stars instead of five is ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that a lot of people on Amazon don't know much about reviewing films (obviously not counting you guys, who rock the hell out of your film reviews).
March 07, 2009
I couldn't agree more. Wow, just about everything you said was spot on. The main problem is that Zach Snyder focuses on spectacle, action, sex, epic visual shots, but he really can't inspire the right performances from his actors that the film really needs. It lacks the emotional and intellectual resonance of the book. I've heard rumors that there will be an extended director's cut on either DVD or Blu-ray, and that it will contain the "Under the Hood" and "Tales of the Black Freighter" sequences, as well as more character-driven scenes. The scene that I miss most is the one where Dr. Manhattan confronts Ozymandias. that scene in many ways is a microcosm for the whole book as is the "Tales of the Black Freighter" sequence. It's about those who have power not knowing what to do with it and the way so often our best intentions are motivated by an egocentric, paranoid emotional center and that no matter how hard we try, that our actions when motivated by such emotions will always lead to our own self-destruction. Clearly, Snyder didn't get that.
March 07, 2009
Agreed, Count. Snyder's approach felt more for mainstream audiences. He just could not express its concept in a 2.5 hour film. I really hated the climax, that scheme was so stupid! "Smartest man in the world?", so how come Ozymandias could only hatch up a scheme like that? Plus, Dr. Manhattan kissing Laurie before he left was so cliched. I agree his confrontation with Ozymandias was beautiful in the novel. "The Tales of the Black Freighter" is coming out in animated form and I doubt Snyder would have the skill to incorporate the added philosophical significance even in an extended dvd. He's a visually-inclined director (a very good one) but he just cannot express emotions. Good movie, I could've rated this one 3.5 stars but I decided to appreciate Sorshach's scenes more...
March 07, 2009
That's funny, I gave it a 3.5 too. I rounded it up mainly because I didn't think that they'd be able to make a movie as good as this, plus I've never seen a "superhero" film quite like Watchmen. But of course, my expectations were "shit in the gutter" low, so I was probably being generous and I was grateful that Dr. Manhattan wasn't vilified or forced to wear a black leotard. By the way, who's "Sorshach"? Must mean Rorschach. Just kidding with you.

Hey, have you heard anything about the upcoming Green Lantern movie? I'm hoping that whoever makes it bases it on the classic late '60s and early '70s books that were written by Dennis O'Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams. I love those issues!
March 07, 2009
Yeh, I meant Rorschach...still half asleep LOL! I can never get that guy's name right!! My expectations were quite low and when I heard Moore was so adamant in having his name disassociated with the film, it was almost rock bottom. This film was still good, Trashie liked it and I went with a friend to see it, (I wanted to experiment how someone who hadn't read the comic would react) and he liked it a lot! No, I haven't heard anything about a GL flick...I loved Green Lantern Rebirth by Johns. What I want to see is "Midnight Nation" by Starczynski. As for "Under the Hood", that should be a whole different "tales of the Minutemen"...
I'll be your reading your long review after I have my coffee LOL
More Watchmen (2009 film) reviews
review by . November 17, 2010
All I know about WATCHMEN I learned from the movies. I'd never read the graphic novel…I'd never heard of it, in fact, until buzz about the movie started. So I cannot comment on the faithfulness to the source, or whether it captures the spirit of the original work.      So for this novice, WATCHMEN was a big, often entertaining, sometimes tedious mish-mash of straight-forward action film, a tongue-in-cheek spin on the superhero genre and a sometimes interesting …
review by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Careful what you ask for, you just might get it.  I always wanted to see the Watchmen made into a movie.  At the same time I knew it would be a train wreck.  It had to be.  How can you get everything from the graphic novel into one movie?  You can't.  it's just that simple.  Still they tried.  Problem is I don't give credit for effort.  Only for success.      The biggest problem for me is how they changed the ending.  …
Quick Tip by . November 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I'm a firm believer in that you shouldn't review something if you don't know the full story (or at least the background), like a person who doesn't play video games reviewing a video game movie or criticizing a Sci-fi film because you don't understand something or a better example me reviewing the Watchmen Movie.      See i never read the graphic novel so I went into the theater (opening day might I add) expecting a classic Superhero movie, (Spiderman, …
review by . March 06, 2009
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WARNING: This review may contain spoilers!   For the past decade Hollywood has been scrambling over the rights to adapt comic book characters to the big screen. This year one of the most celebrated graphic novels is being brought to theatres in a cinematic adaptation that may very well be the most highly anticipated film of 2009. But can director Zack Snyder's film adaptation of Alan Moore's masterpiece Watchmen satisfy legions of rabid comic book fans and still succeed commercially …
review by . September 25, 2010
If there's one thing that I lament about the film-going experience as I get older, it's that I move further and further away from the boy who used to watch movies with unquestioning wide-eyed amazement.  When I turned thirteen I started looking at film with a slightly more critical and as the years packed on with an increasingly cynical eye.   It's a very rare experience for me to walk into a film without the baggage of 20 odd years of cinema watching experience, comparing …
review by . June 11, 2009
I'll Watch something else, thank you.
I never read the old Watchmen book.  Called by many the greatest graphic novel ever and read by millions,  I was going to consider reading it after I saw the film maybe catching what they changed and get more insight but now, I think I'll pass. The film is about an alternate 1985 where Nixon has remained in office and the world is constantly facing a doomsday clock where Russia could launch it's weapons in a moments notice.  A once proud group of masked crime fighters have …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It's really a mixed bag. A lot of what worked for the graphic novel doesn't translate well to the big screen. But it comes alive enough to keep you entertained, even if it doesn't fully satisfy. A few cheesy liners and a few moments where the movie takes itself a little too seriously is nothing to deter anyone from going to see it. And for what it's worth it's a decent movie. The problem isn't so much the movie, but more that what they had to work with was very complicated. I would say they did …
Quick Tip by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Zach Snyder does his best to adapt the "unfilmable" graphic novel magnum opus from Alan Moore, and comes up short from either fans who wanted more, or didn't think it stuck close enough to the source, not to mention the general public who the story went over they're heads due to almost requiring the audience to come in knowing whats going on. Uneven performances and loss of narrative hurt what could have been a pretty good adaption.
review by . November 07, 2009
The movie was a little bit dark (the superheroes in this parallel universe literally kill their enemies) but I found it entertaining throughout. The movie starts with the murder of The Comedian, a sometimes hero, most times a nasty bully acting as a hero. He was part of a group of masked adventurers called the Watchmen. Most of the Watchmen were retired but they get together at the funeral and each has their memories of the group that go back to the 1940's.       There is also …
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I can see where the film was TRYING to go, but it never quite got there. Visually appealing but it dragged on just too long.
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Production Overview

There have been numerous attempts to adapt the superlative graphic novel Watchmen, which was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, into a feature film. The first serious proposal to do so came in the late 1980s and for a long time director Terry Gilliam (director of Brazil and 12 Monkeys) showed interest in making the film. However, after numerous attempts to create a script, Gilliam was quoted as saying that the graphic novel was too complex and too amorphous for even him to adapt. Later acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) was reported as a possible director, but this never came into fruition. Initially set to direct the film  was Paul Greengrass (director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum). However he was sacked during budget disputes at Paramount Studios, who were at the time meant to release the film. Since then Zack Snyder (director of the remake of Dawn of the Dead and of the film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300) has been assigned the role of director and the film has been moved from Paramount to Warner Bros. Studios.

The film was released on March 6 of 2009.
On July 21 of 2009 the film was released in both theatrical and director's cut editions on DVD.
On November 10 of 2009 the film was released in an Ultimate Edition containing Tales of the Black Freighter animated sequences and linking scenes.

Cast / Crew and ...
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Director: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: March 6, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: David Hayter, Alex Tse
DVD Release Date: July 21, 2009
Runtime: 162 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Legendary Pictures
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