WATCHMEN: The Film Babble Blog Review

WATCHMEN (Dir. Zack Snyder, 2009)

Darker than THE DARK KNIGHT and raunchier than any other Superhero movie ever, WATCHMEN busts out of development Hell into theaters today and it’s sure to be #1 this weekend. Knowing nothing of the source material, I sat transfixed and alternately baffled at what I saw at a late screening last night. Set in an alternate America in 1985 in which Nixon (played with a cartoon-ish prosthetic nose by Robert Wisden) is still president, a group of Superheroes has been disgraced and placed under governmental control. When The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a power player with a crusty charisma is murdered, Superhero turned vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) focuses on tracking down the killers. Among the not-ready-for-the-Justice-League heroes are Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and Billy Crudup as the completely CGI crafted Doctor Manhattan.

Much of this film feels like a Frankenstein monster of a movie with pieces from pop culture classics stitched together – the rain drenched neon-lit dystopian cityscapes from BLADE RUNNER and the War Room set reproduced exactly from DR. STRANGELOVE for instance. For an over the top action movie it’s really exposition heavy at times which works better than expected especially the soft spoken Crudup, who somehow makes a giant naked blue man animation into a study in eloquence. As for the action, the fight scenes lack edge and urgency, but the overall thrust is engaging if not transcendent. As Rorschach, complete with a cool morphing ink blot mask, Haley is the stirring standout showing how far he’s come from pitching for the BAD NEWS BEARS. A sequence involving Rorschach in stir is absolutely gripping with Haley stealing the movie away from his co-stars and the scores of expensive bombast.

As I mentioned above I have not read the original beloved graphic novel on which this is based so I can’t judge how faithful it is, but it certainly felt like a true comic book movie. It was almost as if bold panel edges and invisible establishing text were present while Crudup’s Doctor Manhattan looked like he had literally walked off the printed page. The soundtrack is quite unorthodox for a Superhero epic – an opening montage set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” sets the tone with odd choices like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds Of Silence”, and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” following suit. Unfortunately, despite all these eccentricities and that it’s leaps and bounds better than Snyders 300, the film is way too long with a number of plodding parts that don’t gel. As a better than average popcorn flick it’s sure to have many fans, but it had ambitions way above that. Despite that WATCHMEN doesn’t soar to the heights it aims for, its intense intent and wicked sense of self is nearly intoxicating enough.

More later…