3.07.2009

Exactly What The Interwebs Needed, Another Watchmen Review

I liked the movie; I thought it was mostly effective and entertaining. Starting with the casting and performances, I think things were mostly nailed down with a few minor glitches. Rorschach was probably the most convincing as the scrawny, but deadly, sociopath. Though he’s arguably the most mentally unstable, he’s remarkably one of the most principled characters of the lot, wanting to reveal the truth, which ultimately leads to his demise in a really heartbreaking scene. Nite-Owl was also rendered very well, capturing the humility, fear, and dysfunction of the character (my favorite of the group) with an accessible every man quality. His scenes with Hollis Mason and Silk Spectre are very sweet and touching. The Comedian’s performance is another hit, embodying a unique brand of self-aware hypocrisy which Watchmen revels in. Those three (probably in that order – Rorschach, Nite-Owl, and The Comedian) seem to be the most effective performances, with Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias bringing up the rear. Malin Ackerman as the Silk Spectre is quite convincing as a youthful archetype trying to step out of her mother’s shadow, constantly in the wake of her many father figures, biological or otherwise. The movie does falter a bit with the corny delivery of some of her lines. Billy Crudup, in the Dr. Manhattan role, nails the clinical detachment from humanity, but is hampered a bit due to his dangling genitalia. I didn’t personally mind, but it was hard to stay in the movie as the grown ups around me kept snickering. Once I noticed, I thought that his schlong actually looked a bit… pencil-y(?) and could have used some more girth. Heh. Ozymandias is probably the least effective of the bunch, with some good notes (again, the aloof intellectualism and slightly effeminate affectation were done well), and some bad (the Bat-Nipple-'tastic silliness of the costume and weak sauce delivery of lines) that really minimized the effect of the line “I already started it 35 minutes ago.” Instead of playing like a dramatic and chilling moment, it rolls out a bit anti-climactically. Though he quips about not being a comic book villain, he could easily pass for a Bond villain revealing his plan. What I appreciated most about the film (and this is by extension, a testament to the unique strength of the source material) was its atypical structure. Contrasted to something like the recent Iron Man, Watchmen deviates from the standard superhero movie. Absent are the formulaic origin story, introduction of the villain, love interest, conflict, and inevitable denoument. Watchmen plays much more cerebral and intellectual, delivering on the premise of examination; that a superhero paradigm based in a “real world” would be deeply flawed. We’re clearly shown that "supermen” are still just men – fallible, fragile, egotistical men, which make this a most dangerous game. Utilizing The Comedian’s funeral as a framing device to jump through flashbacks fleshing out this 1980’s alternate reality is done particularly well. I enjoyed how we never focus too long on one character’s perspective. It’s truly an ensemble narrative, partially stemming from Rorschach’s journal, partially from Nite-Owl’s perspective, partially from Silk Spectre’s journey, and partially rounded out from the detached positions of Manhattan and Ozymandias. Even the caricature style melange of Nixon, Kissinger, and Iacocca play their part - relying on some callbacks to Dr. Strangelove. It all begins to drive the point home that life is most certainly gray; there are no simple heroes or villains, just people with intentions. Each and every character is imbued with positive and negative qualities and actions. They are all both angels and demons simultaneously; adding to the multi-faceted complexity of the work. The music is mostly spot on, enjoyed the Dylan tunes, and where else could 99 Luftballons surprisingly work and not play cheesy? I appreciated the callback to Apocalypse Now with Ride of The Valkyries in the Vietnam sequence, but the Hallelujah song was much too over the top for Dan and Laurie’s love scene and pushed me right out of what would have otherwise been a pretty erotic bump and grind. I’ve got to say that the R-rating was a smart choice. Not only is the violence obviously pretty visceral, but I think it was handled meaningfully. In this world, "comic book" style violence doesn’t really exist, the horrific violence here is deeply disturbing and has realistic consequences that nobody is impervious to. As is typical from Zack Snyder, the movie is shot beautifully with a thematically consistent color palette and much attention to detail in the backgrounds, sets, props, clothing, text choices, etc. It’s amazing that so much of the 12 issues is crammed in and touched upon within 2 hours and 40-some minutes (the opening montage sequence helped tremendously). For the most part, all of the essential elements are here, but the editing got a little sloppy in spots and could have been tightened up - it seemed to stifle some bits and gloss over them, while wallowing a couples times and bordering on boring. Watchmen is not without its flaws, but is a faithful adaptation of the intent and themes of the source material that fully engaged about 90% of the time. Overall, I think it succeeds in portraying a group of really diverse and broken individuals who interact with their reality in plausible ways. They all show us a side of the superhero paradigm that is deeply flawed and thought-provoking. They’re so pre-occupied with saving humanity, that only too late do any of them watch their own actions and question if they (and humanity by extension) are worth saving in the first place, and at what cost. And hey, I'm still thinking about it - movies hardly ever make me do that. Grade B+.

4 Comments:

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Matt C said...

Great review Justin.

You're right about the sex scene - I can sort of see where Snyder was trying to go with it, but it didn't work.

Now bring on the Director's Cut!

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks Matt, anxiously awaiting your revew!

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger DMonkey said...

Nice review. As usual your writing is impeccable. I have yet to see this movie, but plan on doing so in the near future.

Take care - the MotherShip.

And what about Star Trek rolling around soon? Khaaaaaaan!

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Justin said...

D-Boney,

Hey hey hey, thanks my man. Definitely check this flic out, totally worth it. Never been much of a Trekkie myself, but the trailers for the JJ Abrams flic look AWESOME.

If you haven't been watching the new Battlestar Galactica, you've been missing out my brother from another mother. Don't make me pull a full on Christian Bale mantrum to get you to watch it! Last episode just wrapped, grab the DVD sets and you won't be disappointed. Highly recommended!

"I SEEN YOUR GIRL,"

Justin

 

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