Saturday, March 7, 2009


Who watches the Watchmen? All of us, according to Zach Snyder's newest comic book to film screen adaptation of the 1986 classic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Snyder stayed as close to the original text as possible. A visual orgy, many scenes, especially the ones in slow motion appear as if they were scanned in and copied straight from the text. Purists can rest assured. The ending has changed in a way that doesn't take away from the movie as a whole but brings the film up to date in a world where nuclear annihilation is a very real scare.

The story follows a disbanded group of masked vigilantes in a nuclear arms race New York City in Tricky Dick’s 1980s. The film begins with a montage of the Minutemen of the 1940s and how the Watchmen came to power to the sound of Bob Dylan’s fitting “The Times They Are a Changin’”. Moore’s mixture of present day reality and flashbacks can be difficult to get your mind around especially if you haven't read the book and don’t know where the film is going. If you want to see this, I highly recommend reading the novel first. There you will fully appreciate the relationships between the characters and get a background on the story that will make it easier to follow. As the film moved on, action progressed as if I was holding the novel in my hands.

The casting was excellent. Patrick Wilson’s Daniel Driedberg/ Nite Owl II looked exactly like his one dimensional inspiration, from the glasses to the hair and the slight pouchy stomach of a man who hasn’t fought crime in quite awhile. Looking at him move on the screen, it appeared as Moore drew Driedberg from a picture of Wilson. Billy Crudup's Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan spoke in a calm, direct, and detached mood emphasizing his godlike powers. There’s nothing quite like watching a large blue glowing man pulverize the Viet Cong to the tunes of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”. Jackie Earle Haley gave Rorschach a gravelly rumble that fit in perfectly with the rough inner workings and outward masked expression of an assumed maniac. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Eddie Blake/Comedian was played bitter and cruel, a great deviation from Denny Duqette, Isobel Steven’s deceased finance on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. Matthew Goode’s Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt, the smartest man in the world carried himself through his ancient Egyptian inspired office with sophistication and book smarts with an idealized view on the world and peace. A thin bookish figure he was fast enough to catch a bullet with his hand. I was especially thrilled to see Bubastis, Ozymandias’ genetically altered pet lynx.

Even though the film is almost three hours, you’re riveted to the scene, barely conscious of your immediate need to empty your bladder. It moves through the novel’s story yet leaves out the psychology of some characters, something that Snyder was unable to capture in the fast paced world of cinema. There are many things we can only get from the text, such as the comic that runs parallel to Watchmen, “The Tale of the Black Freighter,” and excerpts from Hollis Manson’s book Under the Hood. All the intricacies are impossible to fit into a move that won’t last more than 5 hours, but Snyder tried his best and succeeded in creating a visual companion for Watchmen fans young and old.

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