Movie Review: Watchmen

Yes, I have read the original Watchmen book by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins. In fact, I just reread it to prepare myself for the intense analysis that would surely follow this adaptation’s release. So let’s get the important stuff out of the way, shall we?

If you’re a fan, will you enjoy this?

Yes, indeed you should. It’s all very exciting to see our favorite moments from the book shown on the big (IMAX, baby!) screen. Though do prepare yourself, you may be a little negative after your first viewing. That’s only natural. I felt the same way, but I’m sure that a few months, I’ll be incredibly happy with this film.

If you’re not a fan, will you enjoy this?

Yes and no. Yes, a lot of the important material from the book is there. So I can definitely see some newcomers loving this film. However, a lot of the book’s subtler moments and characters have been played down or completely cut from the film. Though a newbie can enjoy and even love this movie, it can’t compare to the affection you would have felt if you read the graphic novel first.

Alright, now that we’ve got the general stuff out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. To me, there are four things that composite a film adaptation: acting, score, look, and faithfulness.

Acting: Surprisingly good, I thought.

Dr. Manhattan/Billy Crudup: It’s mostly about the voice for him. He supposedly did all the motions for Manhattan, but that’s not very important. I liked his voice. He played it calm, collected, and alien, which is pretty perfect.

Laurie Jupiter/Malin Akerman: She was never once called Juspeczyk in the movie, by the way. Laurie was probably treated the worst in the book, from a creative standpoint. Moore didn’t really know what to with her (And that comes from Moore himself, so don’t stab me). In the film, Akerman plays Laurie as a badass chick and that’s about it. I think that’s Snyder’s take, not Malin’s. Malin did the best job she could, and the result it fairly positive. Although, without the complexities she eventually had in the book (See, I saved myself), her character was uninteresting.

Ozymandias/Matthew Goode: Easily the worst performance in the film. Some of that credit belongs to Snyder. I didn’t like his costume. He was completely played as a villain from the first time you saw him (More on that later). Goode never once made me believe that Ozymandias was trying to do some good. He just played him as a pretentious, rich prick.

Dan Dreiberg/Patrick Wilson: Honestly, the second best performance in the film. Dan is the hero of the film, as he should be. Though he looks a bit like Batman (Especially in this movie) and is based on Blue Beetle, he’s most like Spider-Man. He’s the everyman. Wilson just nailed the performance and since I’ve always been a fan of his, I couldn’t be happier.

The Comedian/Jeffrey Dean Morgan: The best performance in the film! Only in a few scenes, but he dominated the screen every time he was up there. Sounds like the Comedian from the book, right? That’s because Jeffrey Dean Morgan absolutely hit it out of the park! The dude is on Grey’s Fucking Anatomy, and yet, whether he was incinerating Charlie or pouring out his soul, Morgan demonstrated top-notch acting.

Rorschach/Jackie Earle Haley: Even though I have Jackie as my third best performance in the movie, he might have actually done the best job. Though his Rorschach ends up third in the “How much is he like his character in the book” category, Haley had it the hardest in this film. Rorschach doesn’t translate well to the big screen with his Batman-esque voice, short sentences, and mannerisms in general. The fact that Haley presented a mostly-faithful Rorschach is a clear sign of the man’s immense acting talent. Rorschach was a bit ridiculous at times, but Haley did a fantastic “hurm” and a few great lines,” I’m not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with ME!”

Score: The original music was just ok. I didn’t notice it much. Didn’t some idiot say “If you don’t notice the score then that means it’s great”? Anyway, what I can talk about is the soundtrack. We get that stupid My Chemical Bullshit cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row during the end credits. Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable is in a Nostalgia commercial while the Comedian is fighting for his life. Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ is played over the opening credits. Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence is played over the Comedian’s funeral. KC & the Sunshine Band’s I’m Your Boogie Man is played while the Comedian is breaking up a riot (With violent results). Philip Glass’ Pruit Igoe & Prophecies is played during some Dr. Manhattan scenes. And of course, we get some of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries while the VC are getting slaughtered in Vietnam, sound familiar? There are a few more songs, but those are my favorites. They’re great (Except that Chemical Romance crap) and well-known, but they’re misused at times. Still, Watchmen’s music is pretty sweet.

Look: Filmed entirely for IMAX and I saw it on IMAX, I have to say, the film looked terrific. The makeup was a little weak at times and so were some of the costumes, but the sets and graphics looked great. It was thrilling to see things like Archie come to life, and I saw that ship at Comic-Con, which was cool as well.

Faithfulness: Ok, first off, as I said earlier, this adaptation was fairly faithful. However, just to geek out, I’ll try to remember everything that was different.

SPOILERS!

A big one was that Hollis Mason didn’t die. Uh, the lesbian, Joey, and her girlfriend were completely cut out. Actually, just about all of Watchmen’s human connection was cut out. So when New York blew up, you didn’t really care. In the book, we had followed Joey, the Newspaper salesman, the kid reading the Black Freighter comic, and especially Dr. Long (That guy was cool) for a long time. In the movie, we didn’t care about them at all. As I’m sure you already know, the squid is gone, but thankfully, the ending is pretty much the same. Although, the squid was one of those experiments that Veidt was working on, so without that, there’s no reason for his cat. And yet, his cat was still there to do nothing except die and again, I didn’t care. In the book, Dan never saw Rorschach die. In fact, did he even know about it? In the movie, Dan is out in the snow watching for some reason. Oh, of course you know about the Black Freighter and all the back matter getting cut out, right? At least we’ll have a DVD for some of that. There are more differences I’m sure, but I’ll stop here.

END SPOILERS!

So overall, I really did enjoy the movie. The acting, score, and look were great for the most part. And this is probably as faithful as Hollywood will ever get with the Watchmen. I still have to stress, read the book first! Not only do you miss out on some layers in the film, but I also feel that many of Watchmen’s twists are telegraphed. I think it was pretty obvious who the villain is in the movie. Also, it is pretty much revealed who Laurie’s real father is within the first thirty minutes. So please, read the book first, folks. For those of you who already have, go out and have a blast!

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13 Responses to Movie Review: Watchmen

  1. I agree with you almost 100%, especially with some of the song choices being excellent while others were iffy.

    The only think I disagree with is the treatment of Veidt. Never once did I think he was a good guy while reading the comic. Moore telegraphed it as much as the movie did in my opinion. When I saw the panel of his hand over his would-be assassin’s mouth my very first thought was that he was killing the man. In fact, Moore might have made it even more obvious, because Moore played up the ‘pyramid’ look of Adrians office so that when you first heard of the pyramid company (or whatever it was called) behind everything, you were like. “I knew it!” Veidt’s office in the movie did not have the pyramid-like structure that it did in the book. This was something I guessed Snyder did to delay the twist of Veidt as a baddie.

    Though I agree his doom-and-gloom demeanor and emotion-free speech did not help us think of him as a hero.

  2. brucecastle says:

    Alan Moore loves ironies; so to me, Watchmen is all about saving yourself at the cost of losing your humanity. You saw it in the Black Freighter and you saw it in the Watchmen. Now, doesn’t that only really work if the characters have humanity to begin with? That’s why Moore, in my mind, portrayed Veidt as a hero. That’s why you have the Alexander parallel. Is Alexander the Great really a hero? He’s certainly is thought of one today, but at what price? How many deaths did Alexander cause?

    In the movie, this is from the POV of someone who read the original material first of course, Veidt never once showed any form of heroism. He was up in his ivory tower with cheap merchandise and slimy businessmen. Especially in this economic climate, the rich are often villainized anyway. But add his “doom-and-gloom demeanor and emotion-free speech” and you’ve got a genuine baddie. Wow. Now I believe Veidt’s treatment in the film was more than just telegraphing, it might have deterred from Watchmen’s basic message as well. Oh well, even with all its flaws, I still enjoyed the movie.

  3. I’ve never liked Watchmen that much (please don’t kill me), but I appreciate it. I’ve read it, and there were parts I liked. I just saw the movie and I enjoyed it. It was 2 1/2 hours or something like that, but it went really smoothly. I wasn’t bored at all, and it just kept chugging along. I thought Rorschach was done nicely, although I’d have liked to see the scene in prison where he talks to the psychiatrist broken up into different days like in the comic, and less emotion during the talk. In the comic, Rorschach looks bored as hell, delivering lines about pretty butterflies, then about killing dogs all with the exact same expression. See, I loved when he saw the dog, then mentioned the butterfly (or whatever), then later, actually just said what he actually saw, in the exact same manner, freaking the psychiatrist out. Still, I enjoyed it, for all it’s worth.

  4. brucecastle says:

    Yeah, you’re talking about Dr. Long (Psychiatrist guy). As I said in my review, I really enjoyed that character. But as you saw, in the film, his role was severely cut down. So all you saw him do was whine about not getting killed by Rorschach and then die in the explosion. Kind of a bummer.

    As for not liking Watchmen, what’s your address? I’d like to murder you now.

    Seriously though, just give it some time. Reread it every couple of years. You’ll probably enjoy it more as you age. Or maybe not. Watchmen is great from two viewpoints, its text and subtext. Its text is something you should be able to enjoy, but most of what was great about it has been superficially recreated in hundreds of other comics, some of which you probably read before Watchmen, I’m guessing. Watchmen’s main attraction at this point is its subtext, but from what I gather about your reading habits, you’re not that interested in that stuff. I could be wrong, but that’s how it seems. It’s probably why you love Millar so much. Millar is one of the best straight shooters around. Not much depth, but he tells his stories well with exciting ideas, most of which he thought of as a kid, interestingly enough. The only Millar book I can think of that has depth is Wanted, but who knows? I may just have a case of Apophenia.

  5. Okay, here I go (from memory, as I don’t have Watchmen with me at the moment). The art isn’t bad, but it is okay. The style of the pages is incredibly boring. Each page is nine identical panels. Each and every page. I think panels should be somewhat exciting or at least not make me bored. Each panel also has so much text in it that, well, I can’t enjoy it. Sure, I am supposed to read the comic, but I like not having to read a novel while reading a comic. Or at least I like it to be interesting dialogue. Also, like so many other things, it gets praised way too much in my opinion. Plus, I love the Squadron Supreme. In general, I think they are an awesome team and I enjoy reading stuff with them in it. Before Watchmen came out, Squadron Supreme did, where superheroes take over the world, to an extent, because they know better (like Ozymandias). Sure, it isn’t exactly the same, but the concept was in Squadron Supreme, and nobody even talks about Squadron Supreme. For most people, the characters were brand new, in that they had only appeared in random Avengers or Defenders issues before (including as the Squadron Sinister). Because of the way the comic is done, I also get confused, as the same panels are repeated multiple times, and there are so many flashbacks, especially with Dr. Manhattan.

    Phew… I understand, to an extent, why people like it a lot, but it just doesn’t cut it for me.

  6. brucecastle says:

    I love the original Squadron Supreme series! People don’t talk about that enough and that’s a shame. But SS lacks the depth that Watchmen has and again, the subtext is the main attraction at this time. The art actually looks pretty great when it’s blown up in Absolute format. Watchmen doesn’t have nine panels on “each and every page”, but it is fairly dense. The dialogue is interesting, there’s not much wasted time in that book.

    I don’t think many panels were repeated (You must have hated that New Avengers #50). I’m pretty sure that at least something changed in each of them. Wordiness doesn’t bother me in comics unless it’s excessive. Why not treat Watchmen as a novel? It’s better than a lot of them and yes, it was on one of Time Magazines’ “best novels” lists. As for it getting praised so much (Ultimates 2 gets a lot of praise too), there’s a reason for it. Watchmen is the War and Peace of comics. It may not be the best the medium has to offer, but it definitely deserves respect. The 80’s is the decade that proved “Comics aren’t just for kids” and that’s extremely important. Watchmen was the flagship in that movement.

  7. coffee says:

    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)

  8. brucecastle says:

    I doubt he will, but Jackie Earle Haley was fantastic. As I said, he had the most difficult role.

  9. Maybe I am mostly thinking of the Dr. Manhattan stuff (where time is somewhat irrelevant) on the repeating, but it seemed like a lot more. I don’t mind when it is one after the other, when things are progressing and people are just standing in the same spot. When there is a scene, an image, another scene, the image repeated, three more scenes and the image is repeated again, that is what annoys me. Again, though, I don’t have it with me, and I may be mistaken (but I seem to remember it at the very least).

    I don’t treat Watchmen as a novel because it isn’t. Or at the very least, it doesn’t fall under the usual description of a novel. I don’t consider any “graphic novel” a novel. To me, a novel is a book that is not in a comic format, where there are panels. There can be pictures, but often there are not, and when there are, it isn’t the same as a comic, and isn’t necessary to the story, where if the picture weren’t there, it would be exactly the same.

    Again, I understand why it’s popular, and well praised, but I just happen not to like it that much. I don’t dislike it, but it gets somewhat tedious and my arrogant, rebellious nature makes me more opposed the more something is praised that I don’t happen to like as much.

  10. brucecastle says:

    Which is fine, but Ultimates 2, and a lot of Millar’s work, is highly praised as well. So, rebel!

  11. By comic fans, sure, but not nearly to the extent that Watchmen is. I also don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything bad about Watchmen aside from me and one of my friends (after I had already mentioned I didn’t like it as much as others, my friend agreed). People criticize Millar, and while not many, he still gets criticized. Alan Moore doesn’t get that.

    Again, it is okay. If I had to rate it, I’d probably give it an 8 out of 10, but I wouldn’t give it an 11, like how almost everybody I’ve ever heard does.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was joking.

    How you feel about Watchmen is fine.

    I know two people who disliked Ultimates 2, although they didn’t give it much of a chance. Still, Ultimates 2 is pretty damn popular.

  13. brucecastle says:

    Oops. That was me.

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