Movie Review: Watchmen

Ten days ago, I did a review of Watchmen: The Graphic Novel — and in it, I intoned,

All that said, the Watchmen does not strike me as a graphic novel that will translate particularly well to film — even with 300‘s Zack Snyder directing. It’s just too disjointed and has too many weak plot threads that don’t have much of a payoff. The twist at the end is also, in my humble opinion, more than a little bit disappointing.

Well, this week-end, I caved in and went to see the film and, regrettably, it was about what I expected.

All in all, the movie did a pretty good job of sticking to the graphic novel and it was visually stunning. In fact, after having read the novel, there was a sense of, “Wow, it’s cool to see the characters made flesh on the screen” feeling that permeated the early part of the movie.

The movie was also groundbreaking in that it took the “hero as an everyman” angle to a new level. As I said of the graphic novel,

“(I)t does the same thing that The Incredibles did, albeit in a much darker fashion — it humanizes the super-heroes. One of the “good guys” is utterly immoral. Another is portrayed as a nerdy doofus. Dr. Manhattan’s behavioral patterns are reminiscent of a person with autism.

Also, the book covers something else that would surely happen if there really were super-heroes: the government gets involved. Eventually, being a masked vigilante is made illegal — unless you work for the government fighting in Vietnam, controlling riots, or taking on organized crime. That gritty sense of “realism” injected into the story is its greatest strength.”

Also, you couldn’t take your eyes off of Rorschach when he was on the screen. He was every bit as good as expected.

However, there were a number of issues with the movie. Although the movie wasn’t filled with sex and violence, some of the particularly graphic scenes may have merited a NC-17 rating. Also, I didn’t care for the multiple full frontal shots we got of Dr. Manhattan either. I know it’s CGI, but CGI or not, I don’t want someone’s junk on the screen while I’m trying to enjoy a movie.

That being said, although it’s no surprise to those who read the graphic novel, although the action scenes were well executed, there really weren’t many of them. For an action movie, there just wasn’t enough action.

Additionally, even though the movie deserves credit for the “realistic” way it portrayed super-heroes, there was a problem: many of them just weren’t very interesting. For example, Daniel Dreiberg & Laurie Juspeczyk spend a lot of time on-screen and while they are certainly sympathetic characters, they’re not particularly INTERESTING characters. There’s a difference.

Although the movie started out hot (lots of Rorschach on the screen), it really dragged in portions and seemed too long at 2 hours and forty three minutes. Additionally, there were several times when I couldn’t help but think, “People who didn’t read the graphic novel aren’t going to be able to follow what just happened.”

Last but not least, the movie changed the ending of the graphic novel for the worse — and the ending already wasn’t very good.

Summary: The movie gets a 2.5 out of 5 stars. In other words, it’s a thumbs in the middle movie. If you are a big fan of the graphic novel or really love super-hero flicks, it may be worth your time to see the movie. If not, you may want to stay away.

PS: After the jump, there’s some more commentary on the ending and what bothered me so much about it. It does contain spoilers, however, so don’t click unless you don’t mind seeing details about the end of the movie.
Here’s my big beef with the ending. It defies the imagination that Ozymandias, who’s shown to be a student of history and is called, seemingly with good reason, “the smartest man in the world,” could believe that a single attack could permanently unite the planet, thereby putting an end to war.

Look at WWI, which was called the “war to end all wars” at the time. Look at 9/11. The human race has a very short memory and no single event is going to unite humanity for long. Surely, someone as intelligent as Ozymandias would understand something that any student of history should already grasp.

Beyond that, look at the chain of events: Ozymandias, whose one real goal is peace on earth, spends years preparing a plan that will lead to Dr. Manhattan fleeing earth, despite the fact that it is his power that’s preventing the Soviet Union from behaving aggressively. In fact, the movie hammers this home by noting that the Soviets were holding off on invading Afghanistan to make sure that Dr. Manhattan was really gone. So then, what was the purpose of driving Dr. Manhattan away? Why, Ozymandias wanted to stop the nuclear war that was in danger of occurring because Dr. Manhattan had left. Ehr…what?

Moreover, the ending made even less sense than the one in the book. In the book, the world united to fight off a potential alien invasion. That makes sense. Think back to Independence Day. But, what good would having the world unite to fight Dr. Manhattan do after he had supposedly blown up half a dozen cities without even showing himself? Presumably, he could annihilate every city on the planet without the human race being able to fight back at all. Moreover, since Dr. Manhattan was thought of as an “American superman,” wouldn’t that create more distrust than and divisiveness than an alien?

All in all, the end was third rate in the graphic novel and it was even worse in the movie.

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