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Watchmen

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

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Visually stunning but overlong

  • Jul 26, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+3
Not being a big follower of the endless slew of comic book conversions, I was refreshingly surprised with how good this film is. Directed by Zack Snyder, who previously made 300, apparently the movie has been stuck in development hell for years with one director after another bailing out, since the original graphic novel is a rich and complex environment that has a Lord of The Rings unfilmability (though of course, Peter Jackson proved everyone one on that one). 

There are a number of stand-out successes of this movie, the most noticeable of which is the visual direction. Although it seems to give up about two thirds through, the first two acts contain shot after shot of well-framed and well-lit setups, with some moody camera moves and unusual imagery. Needless to say the special effects are first class and it's getting harder every day  to tell the difference between sound-stages and 3D models - much of it is hidden is clever and impossible camera moves (such as tracking down a hallway and pulling back between two prison bars, where a real camera wouldn't fit). In the same way that 300 captured its story's style visually, Watchmen also creates a unique look that highlights the underlying mood.

Snyder also has a good eye for casting - pretty much everyone is relatively unknown with the exception of Billy Crudup. It's pleasant to see a film putting its development budget on the screen where we can see it, instead of into the inflated price-tags for A-list celebrities. Jackie Earle Haley has a scene-stealing presence and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is convincing as the psychotically troubled 'Comedian' character. 

Many critics have complained about the plot's tendency to fire all over the place and create confusing setups for the main characters, but I consider this is a strength in the attempt to include as much as possible from the original work. The tendency to dumb things down for the A.D.D. generation leads to dismal failures like Stallone's Judge Dredd, and if you're willing to pay attention and not have to text on your iPhone every five seconds, it's pretty clear what's happening despite the use of non-linear story lines.

Watchmen is dark. Very dark. This is R-rated and should be kept away from your kids. The fundamental principle of its universe is that human nature is savage and even with the superpowers of exceptional individuals, they cannot fundamentally change the tendency of people to annihilate themselves. There are sex scenes that push the boundaries of where Hollywood usually likes to go. There's brutality ranging from the unspeakable (the murder of a pregnant woman) to the understandable (the frenzied butchering of a pedophile that feeds a six-year old to dogs). The characters are all troubled and the general public seems unsympathetic and unsupportive at best, while the world's leaders are manipulative and opportunistic. Even the ending isn't a happy one, and stays true to its concept. This is all good stuff.

But I have two major bones to pick with the film, only one of which derails what could otherwise be a 5-star movie. It's too long - I mean, really, 30-45 minutes too long. The main drag appears somewhere in the second half of act two to near the middle of act three, and while I was glued to the screen prior to this speed bump, I felt I was losing interest in the slow stretch. Even the visual quality has less care and attention in this section, and it's a shame. With a little more editing, this could have easily been fixed without sacrificing plot development. My second complaint is the overuse of Matrix-style slow motion, and some fight scenes that just seem tacked onto the story. Bullet-time has been overused extensively, and there are only so many times that massive fight sequences where piles of bad guys are dispatched by our super-fast heroes can be engaging.

Otherwise this is quite a solid movie and certainly one of the best comic book adaptations I've seen. The backdrop of US-Soviet nuclear tension adds an interesting dimension, and there's a vague plausibility to the whole concept (well, as plausible as super-hero films can ever be). The soundtrack is well chosen too. Anyway, fingers-crossed that Zack Snyder keeps improving, and hopefully on his next film he'll allowed the editor a little more control.

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July 30, 2009
Very Nice review!  While I wasn't a fan at all of Watchmen, I never felt like it was all over the place.  I actually felt that, like you, it over explained things, making the movie feel so long.  The main reason I wasn't a fan was because I don't think "Super hero" films should be dark.  Eve if the content in the graphic novel was dark.  I really enjoyed how Iron Man took hero movies to a different level though. 
 
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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
Logo- Smiley Face Button with Blood
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 …
review by . March 07, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
movie poster
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). …
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 …
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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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Details

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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