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Who's Watching The Watchmen?

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Rorschach
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« on: March 08, 2009, 06:37:15 am »

Mike Ragognamusic biz vet, entertainment writer
Posted February 20, 2009 | 07:23 AM
Watchmen: Who's Watching The Watchmen?


From the moment we see The Comedian's blood streak across his seventies Happy Face button, we know that the movie version of Watchmen and its caretakers were going to be as respectful as possible to the vision of the original comic miniseries. Based on one of the most collected and memorable comic book runs in history, the movie Watchmen tries to be all things cosmic and ambiguously moral to all of us unactualized and imperfect people, and it succeeds on most fronts. But unlike the thought-provoking Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins 1986 creation that demanded one's imagination stretch beyond a page of panels, this thoroughly-engaging incarnation of Warner's DC Comics property attempts to achieve that level of examination through a more stylized, literal approach.

For instance, let's look at our team of "masks": When we see the overly-evolved Doctor Manhattan (an agent of the government since a 1959 lab accident transformed him), he is blue, shimmering, and godlike, with some of the most artistically-filmed/CGI effects (and full frontal male nudity) ever computerized. The Comedian is played by actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan as patriotic, but nihilistic and despicable with almost no redeeming qualities, documented in the opening sequence in which he is established as the JFK trigger-man (we'll get to the fun historical anomalies in the next paragraph). A twist from later in the movie (in the comics, it was issue number nine) almost puts him in the Big Lug category -- though any empathy is nuked by his **** attempt and multiple, out-of-control shooting-sprees. (Well, this isn't Stanley Kramer's Bless The Beasts & Children.) Rorschach (Walter Kovacs, played by Jackie Earle Haley) is a delightful, noir antihero whose endorsable, brutal violence has us cheering with every act of commendable vengeance. There's Nite Owl (Dan Dreiberg, played by Patrick Wilson), the lovable, retired, slightly pot-bellied hero who always is trying to do right in a world that's so wrong. The Silk Spectre (daughter Laurie of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter) is as hot and bangs-layered as this film requires; actor Malin Akerman plays her as sensual and tough, her character discovering a mysterious past that we only learn about in the film's last half-hour. Her even temperament serves as a ground for Manhattan and a spark for Nite Owl. That brings us to the only real cartoonish figure in this movie, Ozymandias, the self-outted "mask"-cum-corporate multi-billionaire, Adrian Veight, whose preciousness and sanctimony are reeled-in, thankfully, by director Zack Snyder and some self-restraint by British actor, Matthew Goode.

For much of the movie, a Sin City-esque rain washes over a dystopian, mid-'80s New York City whose World Trade Center's twin towers control a skyline filled with Veight-logo'd zeppelins and his own corporate high-riser. The city hates its "heroes," mostly because of The Comedian's non-discriminating assaults on both villains and innocent citizens, and Doctor Manhattan's omnipotence. On one occasion, Nite Owl -- the movie's sanity compass -- confronts Comedian/Edward Blake on his aggression; Blake justifies what he is doing as the fulfillment of the American dream. Of course, this is a universe where Nixon was elected five times, we won The Vietnam War (thanks to Doctor Manhattan's intervention, accompanied onscreen by an Apocalypse Now nod and Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries"), Russia and the US threaten nuclear exchanges over Afghanistan, and Ronald Reagan (differing from the comic's other "RR" reference) runs for president in 1988. The movie exhibits about four world views, touching on pacifism, militarism, evolutionism, and interventionism.

We are given a back history of our "heroes," one that involves The Comedian's original team that evolved into its next generation, until the "Keene Act," a law barring "masks" from crime-fighting, was instituted years later. Throughout, we're treated to a few non-linear visits to the group's past, plus the main event that regroups the Watchemen -- Blake's assassination -- that triggers relationship estrangements and realignments, and a new call-to-arms for certain members of the old team. The overall violence is an eight out of ten, the explosions would make Michael Bay proud, and the occasional sex scenes are played naturally by the aging crew with just one slightly deviant scene in which two Doctor Manhattans pleasure Laurie as a third is working in the lab. That brings us back to Manhattan's full frontal nudity -- now times three. The visual probably will make some a tiny bit uncomfortable seeing that much of Billy Crudup's junk.

For the uninitiated, when creating the original Watchmen comic book's characters, Moore and company used a couple of DC's Charleton Comics heroes as archetypes. For example, Nite Owl is based loosely on The Blue Beetle, and Doctor Manhattan borrowed a bit from Captain Atom. And there is the politics of the era which gets visited and flogged by spooferies of Richard Nixon, Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, and Henry Kissenger, with Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift and John McLaughlin in a light send-up of the latter's famous Sunday morning talk show, The McLaughlin Group. Even though scenes push the envelope a little with these characters' over-pancaked make-up and wardrobe choices, the approach is not really irreverent, just kind of funny. To flesh out details, we also get quick visits from Watchmen's supporting cast, such as Laurence Schexnayder, Dr. Malcolm Long, and Big Figure.

Overall, comicdom probably will embrace this movie, but its critics are going to compare it to The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Sin City , though it would be unfair to use those familiar templates. This kind of film hasn't been done before, it has no clear "right" or "wrong," that, even in current Batman movies, still is very well-defined. Also, it's pretty refreshing to see a "superhero" movie with no superheroes -- well, there is one, the omniscient Doctor Manhattan. But he is so powerful and above human logic that the terms "hero" and "super" are inadequate to describe what he really is. Watchmen purists, whose expectations will be off the chart, shouldn't be too disappointed because whatever scenes seem to be omitted (especially the Halloween murder of the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason) most likely will be included on a planned four hour or so special version whose DVD release is rumored to be nothing short of The Lord Of The Rings expansions.

Finally, its soundtrack was a real surprise. Instead of any predictable slammy technobeats, the film featured random, but effective, familiar songs that accented each scene perfectly. We're given Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" (sans daughter Natalie, of course), Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" (well, duh), KC & The Sunshine Band's "I'm Your Boogie Man," and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (with that artist's "First We Take Manhattan" sung over the end credits). But the most touching use of songs in the film were Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence" over a funeral scene, and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" over an historical recap sequence. The soundtrack will be available March 3rd, the same week the movie is released, that date being March 6th. And for those still craving more, you can run out and buy the "absolute edition" of Watchmen, the graphic novel, that includes additional sketches, and the whole shebang. But focusing back on this mythic movie, on every level, it will demand your attention and intelligence as it entertains; it's sophisticated and sensationally sophomoric; and for those just watching Watchmen for the Watchmen without any expectations or knowledge of the comic's storyline or historical importance, this really will be a blast.

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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2009, 06:40:35 am »

MOVIE REVIEW: Watch out for 'Watchmen':
They've got some serious problems
by James Sanford | Kalamazoo Gazette
Thursday March 05, 2009, 11:12 AM



Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan in the action adventure "Watchmen."
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2009, 06:41:12 am »

Superhero stories used to be painted in primary colors: good versus evil, right versus wrong, etc.

But Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' comic-series-turned-graphic-novel "Watchmen" is set in a world awash in murky moral ambiguity, in which costumed avengers are reviled and ridiculed by the people they're trying to protect.

Superhero stories used to be painted in primary colors: good versus evil, right versus wrong, etc.

But Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' comic-series-turned-graphic-novel "Watchmen" is set in a world awash in murky moral ambiguity, in which costumed avengers are reviled and ridiculed by the people they're trying to protect.

It's an environment in which hope is hard to find and suspicion and cynicism have run riot. Disturbingly, some of the would-be heroes are almost as trigger-happy and blood-thirsty as the criminals they're battling.



In bringing "Watchmen" to the screen, director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse haven't attempted to soften up the story's rough edges or simplify its multiple layers. Some will argue the filmmakers haven't really adapted the material, they've enshrined it: Large portions of the movie's dialogue have been taken verbatim from Moore's text, and Snyder isn't shy about faithfully reproducing many of Gibbons' memorable images of an alternative 1985, in which Richard M. Nixon is still President, and the threat of nuclear war weighs heavily on everyone's mind.

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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2009, 06:41:52 am »

It's a strategy that will likely please the millions of readers who have fallen under the spell of "Watchmen" over the years, although viewers unacquainted with the original material might be understandably perplexed by the film's peculiar combination of tones and styles. "Watchmen" shifts from film-noir to political satire to psychological drama to meditative fantasy, frequently erupting with blasts of gruesome violence, a la Snyder's earlier "300."

If that's not enough to hold the attention, Snyder also drops in replicas of real-life personalities such as Andy Warhol, Annie Leibowitz, Lee Iacocca and the Village People, as well as visual references to Wendy's "Where the Beef?" commercial and the famous "1984" spot for Apple Computers. In a funeral sequence, the World Trade Center towers loom in the background like twin tombstones.

The film's unqualified triumph is the casting of Jackie Earle Haley as the deeply disturbed (and disturbing) Rorschach, left, a crime-fighter who hides his face beneath a white mask covered with moving inkblots that reflect the churning fury within him. Haley easily wraps his crackly, dusty voice around Rorschach's grimly poetic narration and, when Rorschach is forced into a corner, Haley reveals a feral ferocity that's truly hair-raising.

Several other cast members also seem to have sprung straight from Moore and Gibbons' pages.

Billy Crudup, as a glowing body of electric-blue power known as Dr. Manhattan, represents Rorschach's polar opposite, a largely solemn creature that doesn't recognize any boundaries between the past, present and future. Somewhere in between the two extremes is Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson), aka the Nite Owl, a quiet sort who only comes alive when he puts on his costume and slips behind the controls of his sleek airship.

As the uncouth Comedian, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a fascinating, frightening tangle of ugly urges, crude observations and surges of self-loathing.

Unfortunately, Malin Akerman's awkward portrayal of Laurie Jupiter, aka Silk Spectre II, doesn't do justice to the sassy, spirited and secretly needy character, and Matthew Goode isn't given enough screen time to fully define the ultra-wealthy, slightly aloof Adrian Veidt, aka the all-knowing Ozymandias. Even at two hours and 40 minutes, "Watchmen" can't pack in as much detail as fans might demand and, while most of the movie is almost slavishly faithful to the source, Hayter and Tse's modified finale is a bit jarring and unsatisfying.

But if Snyder hasn't delivered a flawless film, no one can accuse him of being unambitious. Keeping track of the multiple subplots is sometimes like trying to watch three circuses at once; anyone who tries to stay on top of all the film's pop-culture references had better bring along an extra pair of eyes.

Check out James Sanford's At the Movies blog for movie news, including his weekly podcast.

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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2009, 06:42:30 am »


Movie Review "Watchmen" (R) -- The acclaimed graphic novel is brought to the screen as an ambitious, provocative, violent and sometimes disturbing fantasy. Sneak previews at 12:01 a.m. Friday at Rave Cityplace 14, Kalamazoo 10, Celebration! Crossroads, W. Columbia 7 in Battle Creek. Also opens Friday at Gull Road Cinema 5, Three Rivers 6 and Strand in Sturgis. Grade: B.
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2009, 06:48:21 am »

Movie review: 'Watchmen' delivers great scenes
Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic

Friday, March 6, 2009



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Watchmen
 Action fantasy. Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Directed by Zack Snyder. (R. 163 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Director Zack Snyder is beginning to look like the best thing to happen to the action movie in this decade. His previous film, "300," took the battle of Thermopylae and re-created it, combining stylized visuals with a feeling for history, culture and character. His new picture, "Watchmen," follows in the same vein, but goes deeper, achieving a psychological sophistication that "The Dark Knight" aimed for but didn't quite reach.

Other directors shake the camera to instill excitement. Snyder meticulously choreographs action scenes and thrills audiences with his inventiveness. Other directors go in for brutal realism. Snyder goes in for brutal surrealism, adding little visual grace notes that comment on the action and allow for audience distance. These touches, some of them genuinely odd but strangely right, show an unconscious engagement with the material, the work of a director not going through the motions but pulling from all sides of his brain.

He had a strong advantage going into "Watchmen," an audacious adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. In their screenplay, writers David Hayter and Alex Tse don't do the usual thing of pounding the novel into something simple and linear. Instead they give us a story with lots of digressions and spin-off narratives. In one scene, at a funeral, the movie's forward motion completely stops for a series of flashbacks in which various people recall their contacts with the deceased. These scenes and others like them explore character - and with no apology coming in the form of an action **** minutes later.

One could say that the filmmakers' strategy in "Watchmen" is to try to hold the audience's attention, not with a great story (the story is just OK), but with great scenes, one after the next. That's the ultimate risk in any narrative art: It means that the contract for an audience's engagement is up for renewal at the end of every sequence. Yet Snyder and company keep closing the deal. They keep the ball in the air for an epic 163 minutes, by attending to the drama within scenes and by nurturing the film's pervasive mood - despair and nihilism.

That mood descends during the opening credits. Through a mix of archival and manufactured footage, we get the back-story of "Watchmen" through flashes - an alternate history in which masked heroes have been part of the urban landscape for decades. The effect of this credit sequence can't be overstated: It presents, in fictionalized form, the mid to late 20th century as an endless slog of wars, assassinations and mass deceptions. Within minutes, the viewer has been infused with a sense of life on earth as chaotic and hopeless.

It's 1985. Richard Nixon is still president, the Soviets are threatening nuclear war, and a serial killer is threatening two generations of masked heroes, who were once important figures on the American scene. Now disbanded and back in private life, the various heroes, to different degrees, try to discover who is after them. Along the way, they uncover more serious plots and threats to civilization.

Unlike the case of "The Dark Knight," there are no performances here that we'll be talking about at Oscar time, but the ensemble is excellent, with Patrick Wilson as a Batman-like figure, who's shy except in his bat suit; Malin Akerman, as the woman torn between him and her increasingly remote lover - a shape-shifting, radiation altered superman (Billy Crudup); and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, the gruffest, meanest little guy anywhere.

Hard-bitten, weary and contained, the performances reinforce the somber mood. Action scenes, when they happen, are bold and striking, but they're kept to a minimum. As the story isn't the movie's strong suit, it's no surprise that the climax is mild by action movie standards - just an intelligent resolution, then the credits.

The appeal of "Watchmen" is really about something else - the sight of a blimp passing by the twin towers, as seen from an office window. It's about the uneasiness we feel when we see those towers resurrected in an alternate universe. Part conscious and part unconscious, "Watchmen" tells us of a world without hope and then makes us wonder if we're already living in it.

-- Advisory: This movie contains simulated sex, nudity, strong language and graphic violence.


To hear Mick LaSalle talk about movies, listen to his weekly podcast at sfgate.com/podcasts.

E-mail Mick LaSalle at mlasalle@sfchronicle.com.

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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2009, 06:54:51 am »



In this movie still released by Warner Bros., Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as the Comedian in a scene from the film, "Watchmen." (Clay Enos / AP)
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2009, 06:56:47 am »



Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman in "Watchmen." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)
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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2009, 06:59:01 am »



Jackie Earle Haley in "Watchmen." (Warner Bros. 2009)
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« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2009, 07:01:27 am »



Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan in the action fantasy "Watchmen." (Warner Bros. Pictures)
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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2009, 07:03:12 am »



Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II in the action fantasy "Watchmen." (Warner Bros. Pictures)
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« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2009, 07:05:12 am »



Jackie Earle Haley plays Rorschach, the gruffest, meanest little guy anywhere, in "Watchmen." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros. Pictures)
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2009, 07:19:57 am »

Will You Watch the Watchmen?
 
By 1996, I thought I knew everything about comic books. I had mastered the Batman mythology, knew about 12 members of the Green Lantern Corps, could recite the Spider-Man television theme song, and felt that Superman 2 was the best comic book movie ever made. Then my illustration professor told me to read Watchmen. It changed my life. And Friday March 6, the movie will open, changing the lives of many comic book fans, who are calling it the greatest day in cinematic history. I have a hard time swallowing that pill, and hope the movie does not kill one of the greatest graphic novels of the 20th century.



On the contrary, it may further its legacy, as many novels increase in both popularity and readership after being translated into films. Film goers will likely purchase the original graphic novel to dive deeper into the story, digging for clues they missed in the film. Or to read story lines omitted from the movie all together, such as the pirate comic book. (Yes, that says pirate comic book, and it is a story told within the super hero story.) This is unlike any comic book you have ever read because in Watchmen, the writer / illustrator team of Moore / Gibbons delivered a politically-charged, murder-mystery, sexually-graphic, exploitative, and tongue-in-cheek super hero story. On the surface, it humanizes super heroes by showing us their strengths, weaknesses, and quirks; at its heart, Watchmen is a noir murder mystery that involves the reader in tracking down who killed the Comedian. It's a challenging read, even for second- or third-timers. The first time I read Watchmen, I did so in one day, and flipped backwards many times to track down clues I missed. (I even cheated by skipping ahead to look for answers.)

Time is a powerful theme that runs throughout the graphic novel, and you become even more aware of it as you push forward through the narrative, realizing that you missed something previously shown to you in words or images. Gibbons does an amazing job of peppering details here and there that help you solve the puzzle on your own, foreshadowing the next scene in advance. He drew the book frame by frame in a very cinematic style with pans, dissolves, and cuts transitioning from present day to the flashbacks and vice versa. The film will probably do justice to many of Gibbons' illustrations, judging by the select few seen in the trailers. Most of them are direct representations of the original vision. But what about the time issue, and Dr. Manhattan's asynchronous existence? Will film audiences understand, let alone appreciate, the fact that he occupies the entire length of the story all at once, and can see everything all at once? As the most powerful hero, who can leap forward and backward in time himself, he serves as the link connecting all of the flashbacks. But then again, so does Rorschach's journal. And Hollis Mason's Under the Hood tell-all book. And the Silk Spectre's scrapbook items she sends to Silk Spectre II. And the Dr. Manhattan cold war briefings. And then there's the pirate comic book, which didn't even make the leap from graphic novel to film—it's left out of the film, but will be in the DVD. It's a lot to digest, and it's a lot to transfer to the big screen, but Shakespeare would be proud to see so many plays within plays.

Reading these multiple story lines in the graphic novel makes it easy to rewind and fast forward, or skip something entirely. Currently I am re-reading it, and this time I started with all of the interludes (such as the book excerpts, Kovacs' case file, and pirate comic book story); and after completing them will read the Watchmen book by itself—in an effort to get the prelude under my belt first, because honestly, I cannot remember who killed the Comedian. Translating such a story to film is a big challenge for even the most skillful production team. And even though Watchmen's multiple story arcs could lose audiences, we have accepted some of these complicated non-linear narratives at the cineplex: time travel with Back to the Future I-III or 12 Monkeys, time order with Memento, or preludes (and this is a stretch) such as Star Wars I-III coming after Star Wars IV-VI. Then there's Pulp Fiction. Even Pulp Fiction successfully time-jumped from one story to another, in a William-Burroughs-cut-up way, and audiences actually appreciated it—getting to see Travolta one more time, even after being blown to bits by Willis.

I'm optimistic that audiences will see Watchmen, but they may not handle the flashbacks easily, and leave the theaters wondering, What the hell just happened? Moreover, getting people to just show up at the theaters may be tough, following the likes of The Dark Knight and Iron Man. How many people are ready for another super hero movie following on the heels of Ledger's and Downey Jr.'s awesome performances? (Did I forget to mention Oscar-winning Joker performance?) My bet is millions and millions will see Watchmen, but don't expect it to break the $1 billion mark that The Dark Knight has staked. While we're talking numbers, Warner Brothers producers would probably be happy with Watchmen earning greater than the approx. $40 million Friday the 13th earned during its opening weekend.

What The Dark Knight has proven is that audiences are ready for a mature, politically-charged, and albeit noir spin on the super hero story. Watchmen the comic book possesses all of those attributes, and then some. Let's see how the movie fares. Or don't, but at least read the book.

By Jason A. Tselentis on Feb.26.2009 › Link › Comments [11]


http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/005844.html
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« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2009, 12:47:10 am »

Watchmen
by Amy Nicholson



posted February 26, 2009 5:13 PM

Love it or hate it, Watchmen is worth seeing

 Captain America punched Hitler on a comic book cover. Superman threatened the Fuhrer with a "strictly non-Aryan sock on your jaw." That's as safely political as our spandex heroes get, which is why it's a shock here to see Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a charmer, here meaty and lethal) lay waste to a field of Viet Cong, incinerating and blasting them one terrified fighter at a time. Audiences will flock to this cynical juggernaut—some to love it, some to try to hate it—and all will leave feeling they've had An Experience.

In Watchmen history, the original gang of superhero vigilantes were World War II celebrities. Silhouette (Apollonia Vanova) strode proudly through the ticker tape parades to grab a cute nurse and bend her backwards with a kiss. But that was the last moment when war was morally black and white; when the Watchmen—and America—got mired down in the fear of the ’50s and the tumult of the ’60s, the country and its saviors suffered. This is a parallel America where after the hippie stuck a daisy in the soldier's rifle, he pulled the trigger. Silhouette and her nurse were murdered in a lesbian hate crime, perky Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) succumbed to booze and men, and when this movie opens in 1985, the Comedian has just been tossed out of a window by a mysterious blackhooded man.

The next real plot point doesn't happen for an hour. Like Silk Spectre's boozy regrets, this is a story that would rather study the golden past than involve itself in the grim future. After ‘Nam, Comedian and Rorshach (Jackie Earle Haley, fantastic) went rogue, punishing man's wickedness with the wrath of a thousand Travis Bickles, and making superhero vigilantes as unpopular as Batman at the end of The Dark Knight. The next generation of Watchmen has taken off its rubber suits and capes and gone underground in plain sight; they're Clark Kent with the tights packed in storage. Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) is a brilliant billionaire, Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) has packed on the pounds and the new Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman), daughter of the original, is in a dysfunctional relationship with boyfriend Dr. Manhattan, who, since the accident that made him an atomic god, has increasingly grown distant from humanity, walking through the real world "like mist," she gripes.

Dr. Manhattan's best moments are when he fumbles for the pretense of human emotions. Aware that Silk Spectre suspects he's fallen out of love with her and mankind, he splits himself into three doppelgangers and sends two into her bedroom for a threesome while the last piece of him continues work on his top secret invention. (And he's caught off-guard by her anger.) He's the heartless heart of the Watchmen myth; like his fellow superheroes, humanity is beneath him. Most see people as either slimy or small—even Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, the fluffiest, prettiest pair, can joke about a man's fatal plummet down an elevator shaft like an old college prank. For anyone who ever wondered why Superman insists on saving every person in peril, Alan Moore's bracing original characters and story also ask 'Why bother?'

Inadvertently, director Zack Snyder underscores his point. Snyder can't capture a sentimental human emotion—like Dr. Manhattan, ultimately we, too, don't feel a thing for these humans with their loud talk shows and continued love for President Nixon, here in his fifth term in office. Dr. Manhattan's solution is to teleport to Mars, ‘a place humanity couldn't improve,’ he declares. ‘They'd only soil it with oil pipelines and strip malls,’ he notes. We're mostly stuck on Earth, cringing at Snyder's attempt to form a great romance between Silk Spectre and Nite Owl. Half of the cast can't act and worse, must wrestle with dialogue from David Hayter and Alex Tse's adaptation that proves that lines that look deep in a text box are too flat for film. (Sample exchange: "What happened to the American Dream?" "It came true.")

Snyder is lousy at directing actors, however, he's tremendous at directing action. When even smart directors like Paul Greengrass have succumbed to breakneck editing, Snyder knows the power and awe of patience. In 300, we watched the beautiful cruelty of a spear soaring through the air and into a man's chest, or a hapless Persian somersaulting as his leg is severed from his body. The Comedian's deadly opening sequence is a masterpiece of fight choreography with the two brawlers crumpling furniture as easily as sugar sheets under their strong fists, and when the Comedian is ultimately tossed out of a window, the glass crackles and floats around him like he's in a snow globe.

Snyder doesn't chop; he pans. He's incredibly—but not stupidly—violent. Pineapple Express had obvious heroes, but the body count in that film feels perverse. Those deaths are entertainment. Watchmen goes beyond nameless bullet-riddled victims. A pregnant woman is shot in the belly. Two dogs fight over the leg of a dead six-year-old girl, still clad in a ruffled sock. But Snyder isn't using death for cheap thrills; we're meant to feel revulsion and despair. There are no fun fights. When our semi-protagonists battle in mere self-defense, the loud whiplash snap of each shattered bone makes us uneasy. Even a scene in which the Comedian batters and attempts to **** the original Silk Spectre both flouts and indicts misogyny. Taking in her garter belt and miniskirt, he tells her she dresses like she wants it, and we flush with guilt that it's us readers who've mandated skimpy outfits for all female heroes.

Watchmen is gunning for a scene in which every character—and the audience—is forced to question their own morality in a climax where the "good" choice and the "bad" choice might both result in the deaths of millions. In that moment, we ache for a character we once found loathsome, and find the qualities we thought were just to instead be cold and unsparing. There's been a lot of sour fanboy grumbling about this decade's need to put our superheroes on the therapist's couch. While Watchmen shares a common tone with these reworked comic book psychodramas, its focus is political not personal. It's knowing without being ironic, using music to make wry commentary satirizing its own seriousness, but never once allowing the actors to wink or mug. It won't please everyone, but what it does right outweighs what it does wrong, and if I was Dr. Manhattan, I would calculate its strengths and judge it a success.


Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David Hayter and Alex Tse
Producers: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Deborah Snyder
Genre: Action/Drama
Rating: Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Running time: 162 min.
Release date: March 6, 2009


http://boxoffice.com/reviews/2009/02/watchmen.php
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« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2009, 12:57:36 am »

55 million, opening weekend.  Not bad.
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