i need to preface this review:
i have spent all day so far debating whether or not i should write a review after only seeing the film once.
i decided that after seeing it with my father tomorrow (which will be a whole new experience in itself), i may make some changes to certain points i will be covering in this review. so keep that in mind.
here we go.
one thing needs to be made clear from the very start, as a fan of the trade (and when i say "fan", i mean i think it is the greatest comic series i have ever read) i was on the side of never wanting the comic to be made into a film. however, about a year after i finished reading watchmen the first time, i heard that it was being adapted, and that the person helming the project was none other than mr. 300, zach snyder.
my initial reaction? shit. please not him.
this is not to say i didnt like 300. i did. as a film, 300 worked in kind of a crazy, bizarre, kinetic way that i felt actually represented the aesthetics of the graphic novel. frank miller is crazy, bizarre, and...crazy. so it worked. snyder's obsession with over choreographed fight sequences and grainy, over-saturated colors fit the the bat-shit world that 300 existed in.
watchmen is not this world. its not even close. so throwing snyder in the director's chair and saying "go ahead man, make this movie." was like saying "hey lets get dr. dre to produce taylor swifts new album." all those 15 year old girls would have their favorite little superhero chick singer shattered into big beats and talking about 40s of king cobra.
i did not want watchmen handled that way. but then something strange happened. zach snyder gave an interview at the very beginning of pre production, before they had casted a single actor. he said he wanted to use the comic's panels as a storyboard for the film. he said he loved watchmen. he said he was keeping it in 1985. what he was saying was, he wasnt going to make taylor swift sing about cocaine and gats.
so i got excited.
then i saw the first stills of the set. i was shocked. shocked at how much the world of watchmen transfered beautifully to tangible reality. after those two stills, i was on board.
the stills were released during production, so by that time they had already cast most of the characters. the casting did not get me on board, those stills above did.
then, after months and months of more information being released, i felt i was not quite prepared for what i was about to see. i had read completely divisive reviews from fanboys and straight-laced movie critics alike. i knew about the changed ending. i had heard about the terrible aging makeup job. i had heard about jackie earl hayley's portrayal of rorshach. i even heard about the screen time given to dr. manhattans florescent blue penis. so what were my expectations? i knew i was about to be thrust into some mad machine, and had no idea how i would come out.
so i am now going to actually get into reviewing the film. and yes, there will be spoilers. i am going to discuss the ending. i am going to discuss the changes from the comic to the film. im going to be discussing a hell of a lot. so if you havent seen it, i would suggest not reading further, unless you want to know all of my opinions, biases, and critiques beforehand (i do not recommend this plan of action).
the opening sequence drags. im going to be honest. the newsroom commentary on the state of the world during nuclear war was completely unnecessary, even if it was a device to both introduce the comedian and set up the world. it falls so utterly flat. at this point im already cursing snyder under my breath, and man did snyder just bitch slap me saying "dontchu ever talk back to me boy!" because in less than a few seconds, i forgot all about the newsroom. i watched the comedian get the shit kicked out of him, and as he fell towards his death, my eyes widened, my jaw slacked open, and i knew i was watching watchmen.
the opening credits are great. a quick backstory and history to the world offers up some great little geeky jewls and a brilliant way of getting the attention of watchmen first timers.
then we hear rorshach. i mean we HEAR him. this isnt some actor trying to PLAY rorshach, this is rorshach. and this will lead me into my character analysis. so i will start with the insane, morally compassed, rorshach:
jackie early hayley not only does a great job, he becomes the character. his narration never feels stiff or forced, it just feels dark. dark and angry. and perfect. while behind the "mask", hayley commands attention with body language. yes his voice is perfect, but to me, the body language was what really convinced me i was watching a living breathing rorshach. once the mask is off, hayley does the unbelievable, he gets even better. my biggest, and i hate using this word but it will have to do, disappointment, was that there wasnt enough time spent with unmasked rorshach in prison. however, i do understand that this is a film, and sacrifices have to be made. i will get to that later in my critique of the film as a whole. so although we dont see enough of hayley unmasked, he is still the second strongest performance in the film.
so who gives the strongest performance? well, it depends on what you would define as a "performance". in my book, the strongest and most convincing of anyone in the film is billy cruddup as dr. manhattan. now, i put performance in quotes for a reason. apparently (thanks to geek intelligence handed to me by myles gilkey) billy cruddup's performance capture was not used all that much in the final film. for those of you who i have lost already, basically to give manhattan the body of a god, the makers of the film decided to use motion capture. its what was used to get andy serkis' movements as gollum in LOTR. its a suit that translates a human body's movement to a computer, where it can be digitally changed to look like anything. so, billy cruddup went through the entire film with this suit on, and then, most of it was not used for reasons, i assume, are not yet known. all of that to say, just cruddups VOICE convinces me it is manhattan. completely convinces me. i was blown away. his acting as jon osterman in the flashbacks is great, but there is very little of that in the film. its his voice that does it, and gives cruddup the voice acting award of the last ten years at least.
now, patrick wilson as dan dreiberg(aka night owl II), and jeffrey dean morgan as eddie blake (aka the comedian) work perfect.
although not to the convincing levels as manhattan or rorshach, they still convinced me. there was not one scene where i felt like i wasnt watching dan or eddie, night owl or the comedian. i even leaned over to busse a few times during patrick wilson's scenes as night owl and whispered, "damn he is perfect." the reason i say they arent on par with hayley or cruddup is that those two performances were just completely unbelievable. morgan and wilson are spot on, but they just dont quite hit hayley's and cruddup's level.
matthew goode as ozymandias. throughout the entire movie he was unimpressive. not bad. not by a long shot, just sort of bland. he works as ozymandias, but his performance doesnt stand out. its almost as if he is a walking, pontificating, good-looking prop. however, the ONLY way the third act of the film works, is because matthew goode turns ozymandias from a prop into a character. for the final few scenes i finally felt like he was alive. thank god for that.
malin ackerman as silk spectre II. here's the rundown. her acting is stale, forced, flat and distracting. easily the sore thumb in a group of brilliant performances. but she is incredibly attractive. and you know what? that saves her character. really. im sorry if that upsets some of you, but heres the reality. she is supposed to be attractive. in the comic she is written as a neglected, lonely woman who finds her worth in the love of, at first, manhattan. once he begins to drift away from humanity, she turns to dan, and dan cant get it up, even though she is an incredible gorgeous woman. her beauty is part of her character, and its the only thing that keeps malin ackerman's silk spectre from being a complete miscast.
there are some other minor character problems, including nixon, but they dont distract from the film. there are some surprise performances including moloch, the detectives, and hollis mason, all who help support the film rather than detract from it.
now on to the review of the movie as a whole. but thats coming in part 2 of my incredibly lengthy watchmen review, after i get back from sign language class...