Thursday, March 12, 2009

Marik's take on Watchmen

My friend Marik sent me this review on the Watchmen... (after the jump)

I read the novel when it came out, and grabbed it from my wife’s library for a read over a couple months ago.

From the moment the opening credits started running I was enthralled. It never quite got that “art” feeling that 300 inspired, but the material wasn’t that weighty. This movie also had the advantage of not being based on history, in fact the yarn is spun in an alternate universe that diverges in the early 50’s (maybe late 40’s). Watchmen, based on the DC graphic novel by the same name, takes you on a fantastic spin with a group of superheroes first formed to fight crime in NYC, then eventually joining with the government to fight the Commies, then the government turns on them and they’re outlawed. The shtick is colorfully portrayed in the opening credits with a sort of ‘living montage’ of scenes staring the lead characters, and other side characters. This is wonderfully used to get rid of entire sections of babbling exposition from the graphic novel. And since the movie masses more than 2 ½ hours, brother it’s a good thing.

The cast is lacking any real star power, and for this you find yourself grateful because these heroes aren’t of the uber powered types like most Marvel characters, they’re a kind of cross between Heroes the TV show and Mystery Men. Some are just dudes in suits, others have some real powers, and still others are actually energy beings that can teleport, or destroy you at a whim. I think it was a tough decision to hand more than $100 mil to a director, but with the ultra successful 300 under Legendary Pictures belt, it’s no surprise they let them run with this one. And the results were spectacular. Like 300, the movie follows much of the book panel for panel, some scenes even shot as if they used the graphic novel as a story board. Fan boys like myself are glued to the screen, while it is shot so gracefully that even non fans will find themselves stunned at the effect. The story telling is very fractured, with some very non-linear plot elements and a zillion flashbacks. You do NOT want to go for popcorn if you haven’t read the book, you’ll be screwed and pissing off the row behind you begging to find out WTF just happened.

I have a few beefs, but very few. A few central characters were basically removed. In particular I looked forward to the fat newspaper guy and the kid reading comics. In retrospect they were imminently cuttable and their demise should be no surprise. They make an appearance in the cataclysmic ending, though. Also lost is several subplots, again to save time. In particular I was sad to see Owl’s dad reduced to a one scene wonder. In the graphic novel his book “Under the Hood” in integral to the story integrity in several ways. Here it is only a foot note. Also the character Ozymandias (lol Oz!) is somehow altered in a few ways that I might have to see the movie again to understand. In the novel he had a depth that the movie doesn’t quite seem to capture. And ultimately there is the change that our Oz mentions. This change is the very nature of the plot hook that hinges the climatic scenes. At first I was a little pissed because the element is awesome in the book, but then I realized that by changing this they cut out several sub-plots and likely reduced the length of the movie by an hour. I also suspect that this change is also was has hurt the character of Ozymandias so much, and damaged Dr. Manhattan is ways I can’t go into.

All in all, this movie rocks the house. It is rare that a superhero movie is so completely satisfying, especially after the multiple misfires by the X-men movies (I’m a Rogue fan, I’ll never forgive them). I give this one a well earned 5 our of 5 glowing, ethereal, crime fighting falcons.

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