Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen? I do!

Caution: Contains Spoilers!

As you are already aware, Studicus and I had the honor of catching a sneak preview of Watchmen on Monday night. Sometimes, working for a major media conglomerate has it's advantages. As the proverbial cherry on the sundae, we also saw it in IMAX. Now, to my knowledge, they did not shoot any IMAX-specific sequences like in The Dark Knight (which were amazing BTW), but it still looked awesome on the XL screen. The sound was great as well, and fortunately it wasn't eardrum blowing like TDK was when we saw it (and I'm a guy who likes it loud). Now, the question has been posed on multiple occasions to me if one should read the graphic novel before seeing the film. I'd say that it will help you understand what's going on, but not a prerequisite.

As for the film...

I believe that it is as close to perfect as one could get given the source material. It hits all of the major highs and lows of the story and somehow manages to compact it into an almost 3 hour film that moves along quickly and doesn't drag at any point. Feels a lot quicker than 3 hours. Of course, I don't mind long movies anyways, but that's neither here nor there. I doubt Alan Moore would like it, but he'd rather hang himself in his closet than watch a film about one of his comics anyways. Visually, Zack Snyder does his damndest to recreate the alternate universe 1985 New York City that we know and love from the comics. The airships are there. The Gunga Diner is there. So's Studio 54 and Times Square. And, they all look beautiful. I have to say it felt good to see the World Trade Center again. Not quite sure why. It's been recreated in other films before (the first was the kickass movie Miracle about the 1980 US hockey team), but this time felt more special. It's a credit to the director and his crew for bringing the city to life in such a great way. The secnes on Mars were great as well, and I was very happy that a certain expression was shown on the planet's surface as Laurie and Doc Manhattan prepared to return to Earth. Also, I thought it was great that they made sure to point out that Archie serves coffee just like in the book. And, they left the last few scenes of the film untouched. Little nods like this make fanboys like myself very happy. BTW, I didn't miss Tales of the Black Freighter at all. I suspect it would've thrown off the pacing. Besides, you're getting it on DVD if you so choose.

I also enjoyed all of the "cameos" (Nixon, JFK, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, The Village People, Henry Kissinger and Jackie O to name a few) in the film. It further immersed me in the setting and also made me wonder about things like if John Lennon and Elvis were still alive and kicking in this universe and what they were up to. I have to admit, I also wondered what the 2 almost 3 year old version (the events of the film take place roughly 10 days before my birthday) of yours truly and his family would look like through Moore's eyes in this setting.

I loved the opening sequence, as well. The choice of Dylan for the montage and the recreation of some of the iconic panels from the book were done expertly. Really set the tone well. All of the music was great and helped again to convey the 80's vibe. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen in the film, as the version by Jeff Buckley is one of my favorite songs right now.

My favorite character is a coin flip between Rorschach and The Comedian. Both actors did a fantastic job of bringing the characters off of the page and onto the screen. Though it will never happen, I think Jackie Earle Haley's performance was best supporting actor Oscar-worthy (even though the Oscars are dead to me). And the more I think about it, The Comedian really resonates as the other side of the coin to Ledger's Joker from TDK. I know that it's impossible for numerous reasons, but I'd love to see them square off. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a great job of adding a ton of dark humor to a somber film. My favorite moment with him has to be when he and Nite Owl II deal with some rioters in the NYC streets. He makes very creative use of a tear gas gun. Even though I was not familiar with the prior work of the majority of the cast (save Danny Woodburn {who was perfectly casted}, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer {was also great} and to an extent the smoking hot Malin Akerman), I enjoyed the job they did.

A lot has been made about the decision to change the climax from what happens in the book, and I thought they pulled it off well. They managed to take elements of the story that were already there in the source material and make some adjustments to keep the outcome and desired aftereffects the same. And yeah, there's no squid, but I survived without it and I think you can as well.

That's not to say I don't have some issues with this film. Most of them are minor, but they are still issues nonetheless. I'm sure a lot of these will be resolved when we get a director's cut of the film:

Why didn't we see Rorschach steal and/or eat any Sugar Cubes?

Why didn't Doc Manhattan go to Gila Flats before Mars? (this was probably a timing issue)

Why did Doc talk with the same voice throughout the whole movie? I was under the impression that he used his softer voice only while talking to Laurie in the book.

Why in the hell did Veidt adopt a German accent at the end of the film? Was he a secret Nazi? Did the audience really need to be so blatantly hit over the head with the logic hammer to show what role he ended up playing?

Why did Rorschach take off his mask at the end? He would not do this! Did JEH have a "Tobey Maguire clause" in his contract or something? This was not necessary!

The flamethrower? Are you fucking kidding me? (You'll see what I mean.)

Why didn't we get to see what happened to Hollis Mason? (another timing deal, I bet)

Why did Laurie and Dan keep making faces at each other during the fight with the Top Knots and the Prison sequence? It was retarded.

Why'd they change what happened to Laurie and Dan, anyways? There ain't going to be no sequel. There better not be, at least.

Bottom line, if you read the book or like comic book based movies, you will love this. If you like action movies, you will love this. This film was worth the 20 something year wait and stands along with The Dark Knight, X2 and Spiderman 2 as a prime example of how you make a comic book movie.

5 stars out of 5.

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