Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Watchmen - Review

I've acknowledged in the past that I have a soft spot for comic book movies and westerns. So it shouldn't come as any surprise to the reader that I enjoyed The Watchmen.

Except it WAS a me.

If there is such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel, The Watchmen would be it. Originally a 12 issue limited-series, The Watchmen novel has an unprecedented following. The book is considered by most comic book aficionados as the Hamlet of the industry and as such, any alteration or compression of the story is usually considered sacrilege.

Although probably unbeknownst to most comic book fans, Shakespeare's works are routinely edited, re-arranged, and brutally altered for presentation on stage and film. We're talking poetry too, iambic pentameter. So cutting a line can have a tremendous impact on the flow of the script.

As an actor and stage director I've experienced the success and failures of Shakespeare adaptations multiple times.

So when I heard the criticism and buzz about literary aspects changed in the film. I considered it Much Ado About Nothing. I've learned through experience that the editing and the changing of a literary work isn't necessarily a bad thing.

That was the least of my concerns.

Judging from leaked footage and trailers, the look of the film seemed too bright, attractive and glossy for The Watchmen universe. The assembled cast seemed like a group of network television mini-series guest stars. I also was not a huge fan of Zack Snyder's previous film 300. Then of course, on top of all that there is the obvious visual and story telling challenges that the work presents.

Suffice it to say I went into the movie with low expectations.

I even attended an IMAX screening for my initial viewing of the movie so that if I were disappointed by the film, at least I wouldn't be disappointed by the presentation.

I am happy to report that the movie is the first legitimate GREAT film of the year.

The motion picture succeeds and triumphs on most fronts. The griped about changes in the plot did not compromise the overall powerful themes of the piece.

My only complaint is that I wanted more.

But that is a situation that is going to be remedied in the Blu-Ray release of the film.

As for the cast, much of the positive buzz has landed on Jackie Earle Haley.

Which is deserved.

But the performance that stood out for me the most was the work of Billy Crudup. Crudup was faced with the challenge of portraying a character with little emotion, not to mention the challenge of working behind the most special effects of any character in the film. Crudup couldn't even work with his eyes. Dr. Manhattan's eyes are a consistent white glow. Despite all these obstacles Dr Manhattan's story arc and Crudup's performance was the most powerful aspect of the film for me.

The simplicity of his performance, the way he was able to transition from childlike wonder and naivety to emotionally cold, distant and pompous within the same scene was just stunning.

For me it was the key to the character and perhaps the entire film.

I am also happy to report that previous knowledge of the plot did little to spoil the entertainment value of the film. I admit I was turned into a gleeful nerd, anticipating certain classic sequences from the novel.

Simply put the project delivers in every way.

Of course I can't vouch for the experience of the uninitiated. But I suspect if one goes into the film NOT expecting The Dark Knight, they will be pleasantly surprised.

Just like me.


Anonymous said...

Since I havent read the actual graphic novel, I cant say how well this movie is comparable to the original. Considering the storyline I feel it as a superb flop. The characters neither had strong roles to play. I thought that the action scenes would be similar to movie 300, but it was not even 25% near to that. My $20 ticket was a total waste!

Anonymous said...

Rorschach was an especially well developed as a character; i hope the actor that played his role is nominated for some kind of an award (when that season comes around again)