Watching the Watchmen

Journal - Reviews


Movie Review



After originally seeing the trailer for the Watchmen, I understood immediately that this was not going to be a movie about the Watchmen, it was going to be a tribute to the Watchmen comic, and upon finally seeing it, I believe it succeeded in doing just that.


The one thing the Watchmen comic book is known for, is that it has a lot of recognition: the only comic book to win a Hugo award, The only comic to be put on Time Magazine's best 100 novels of the 20th century, and overtly loved by comic geeks everywhere. This is primarily what the movie has going for it as well.


In making a tribute to the comic book, more time and effort was put into matching the visual style of the comic than actually trying to tell a story, and this is the achilles heel of the film. Everyone around me when the film ended was exclaiming, 'that was long!'. But I don't agree with them. I could have been longer and been interesting, it's just that the film was 'slow', and it felt long because it never remained interesting.


The actors were cast as look-a-likes over their ability to give a performance, so there seemed to be no time devoted to them by the director. Every line, especially by the the excruciatingly difficult to watch Silk Specter, was simply reciting lines and not engaged in what was happening on screen or within their own characters' motivations. The monotone delivery of every line slowed this movie down to a crawl, and where it was appropriate by the narrator Rorschach, technically the sound seemed under mixed, and distant. Another lack of connection to the visuals of the movie.


Production design and general styling had some odd choices. Again, things seemed to be intentionally caricatured, such as actors cast as look-a-likes to portray historical characters and then given prosthetics to look like exaggerated versions. Any time Nixon was on the screen, I thought I was watching the Spitting Image puppets of the 1980s. And how did they find the one actor on Earth who is not able to do a convincing Nixon impersonation?


None of the costumes looked functional or practical on any level, but for Rorschach who is essentially a trench coat and hat with a fabric mask. The costumes seemed to be made of molded plastic and lacked any sort of real world grounding. Part of the character of the Watchmen comic book was the pastiche it made on superhero comic books, so it was inevitable they would also investigate a pastiche of superhero comic book movies. Unfortunately, the comic book movies of today are inspired by the Watchmen comic book, and because of that portrayed as real as possible. The Watchmen movie is based off of the terrible exaggerations of Tim Burton's Batman or Shaquile O'Neil's Steel, and distracts from a story that is supposed to be about characters that you can relate to.


As any screenwriter would (should) tell you, a good story is all about character. And this story had that in spades, but it was never seen on the screen. Dr. Manhattan's significance is being the only hero with superpowers, but every other middle aged person can punch through walls and jump 20 feet. Just another example of what little thought was put into why things were happening.


What may be surprising, is that I did actually like the movie! It had big shoes to fill and it really was a fantastic tribute to the Watchmen comic book. My favorite part was the opening title montage, where we see the progress of heros move from the 1940s to the 1980s under the song, 'the Times they are a Changin' by Bob Dylan. Every shot was thoughtfully constructed to contribute to a narrative that was too big for even this film, and is in itself worth the price of admission.


Don't hesitate to see this on the big screen while it is out, but if you haven't already, get out and read the comic book first so you can understand why people love it so much.