Watchmen (2009) Review

Time: 162 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and sex scenes.
Cast
Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach
Patrick Wilson as Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl II
Malin Åkerman as Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II
Billy Crudup as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Morgan Blake/The Comedian
Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre
Director: Zack Snyder

In an alternate 1985 America, costumed superheroes are part of everyday life. When one of his former comrades is murdered, masked vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) uncovers a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his retired associates, only one of which has true powers, Rorschach glimpses a far-reaching conspiracy involving their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the world’s future.

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I’m a big fan of Zack Snyder. I loved Batman v Superman (the Ultimate Edition was of course the far superior version), Man of Steel, 300 and many of his other movies. However, I have to say that Watchmen is undisputedly his masterpiece. Alan Moore’s unique story was adapted incredibly well (not a perfect adaption of the comic, but the best that we’ll probably ever get). It was not only riveting and entertaining, it was something really special for the comic book movie genre. Although Watchmen was polarising to most people upon it’s initial release, it has gained a cult following (deservedly so), and I am certain that the film will only receive more love as the years go on. In my eyes it’s the best comic book movie ever created.

First thing you should know is that Watchmen isn’t exactly a conventional superhero film. Sure it has beautiful visuals, action scenes and people who dress up in costumes and engage in fights but it’s still not quite like other superhero movies you’ve seen. It’s one of the few superhero movies that I would call a drama (like The Dark Knight, Logan, Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition). This film shows what it would be like if heroes really existed in our world (the standout being of Billy Crudup’s Dr Manhattan, truly fascinating character arc). The film – like the graphic novel – accurately displays the flaws in the superhero. Every character (at least the main characters) have visible flaws, making them quite interesting and feel like real people; it’s interesting watching their stories. It also should be known before going in that this movie is very dark, It’s the darkest and most violent of all the comic book movies ever made (that or Sin City). It’s a bleak world this film inhabits. This film wouldn’t have been as effective if they tried to make it a PG-13/M rated movie, Snyder firmly stuck with an R rating, allowing them to take the story to many levels (in terms of the story, tone and violence). While this turned off many of the viewers, I think that decision really benefited the movie overall.

This movie did have a lot to work with, it being based on Alan Moore’s Watchmen. I have read the graphic novel and I personally think that the film adapted it quite well, the changes made worked well. Some of the themes and aspects of the story were changed which made it work as a movie. While Alan Moore’s Watchmen tackled comic books, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen tackled comic book movies. Also, there are some ways that this movie improves over the graphic novel, especially the ending (if you’ve seen the movie and read the graphic novel, you’ll know exactly what I mean). I pretty much love everything about this movie. The plot kept me interested from start to finish, despite the long runtime I didn’t feel bored (however I do think that the Director’s Cut, which includes 24 minutes of additional footage, is better paced). I honestly think that Watchmen is the best comic book movie yet.

One thing I really like is the casting, these actors weren’t well known when they were cast. No one here is an A-lister and so it’s so much easier to see these actors as their characters. The acting by everyone was very impressive but there were particularly a few stand out performances for me. Firstly, Jackie Earle Haley as the vigilante Rorschach. Even with a mask on his face for most of his screentime he conveys so much with his movements, mannerisms and his voice (especially the voice). Rorschach is a disturbed, almost psychopathic character but yet he’s one of my favourite characters in the whole story, and I’m not alone with that. It’s one of the best comic book performances I’ve seen. Another great performance was from Jeffery Dean Morgan as the character of The Comedian. This character was a nihilistic force of nature, one of the most fascinating characters in the story. Even though he is despicable, a lot of what he says is true, in a very twisted way. Morgan portrayed him excellently, definitely a scene stealer.

The other stand out performance was Billy Crudup was Dr Manhattan, who is such a super powered being. For most of Crudup’s screentime he is motion captured but despite this, Crudup manages to give a compelling performance, he definitely left an impression. His character is very fascinating and Crudup did a perfect job with him. Other actors like Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Matthew Goode and Carla Gugino were also were great in their roles. Matthew Goode also stood out, also in the way that the story turned out (won’t spoil anything here). His performance and character I think is particularly underrated.

The direction of Watchmen is so excellent. As this is Zack Snyder, you can expect the visuals to be great. The cinematography by Larry Fong is absolutely fantastic as always. The use of colours and shadows were so beautiful, it’s like the scenes were ripped straight out of a comic book, which Zack Snyder does very well. The action and fight scenes were also directed greatly, the choreography was so excellent and works so well with the movie (however I will say that occasionally Snyder does use just a little bit too much slowmotion). The CGI in Watchmen is also great overall but I particularly want to draw attention to the motion captured CGI used on Dr Manhattan, it was so well implemented in the film. It was really the only way to bring Dr Manhattan to life and it worked incredibly well (of course it was also helped by Billy Crudup’s acting). The score by Tyler Bates was also great and fitted so many of the scenes. Also previously existing songs worked very well in the film, such as ‘Unforgettable’ for the opening scene. While on the subject of classic songs used in Watchmen, the opening credits sequence (which features Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times they are a-Changin’, is truly excellent, as it shows the history of the Watchmen through brief clips and snapshots. The graphic novel did contain that history but it would be near impossible to show it in the movie. However without any lines of dialogue, Snyder successfully portrayed that on screen and it is beautiful. It’s one of the all time best opening credits scenes ever. I loved every single scene of this movie, the only moment that really didn’t work for me was a sex scene between Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) to the sound of Hallelujah, which was… odd. I guess it was meant to be over the top and hilarious but I’m not sure… I loved everything else though.

Watchmen is my all time favourite Comic Book Movie. With Zack Snyder’s great direction, the excellent performances as well as the fascinating, riveting and overall brilliant story makes this one of my favourite movies of all time. Watchmen isn’t for everyone, it’s not a conventional superhero film, it is slower paced, it’s very dark and brutal (probably the darkest superhero movie out there) and the story is a lot different from what most would expect. But I do think that it is worth a watch. If you’re going to watch this movie, I highly recommend the Director’s Cut, even though I loved the Theatrical Cut, the extended version makes the film much better overall (I haven’t seen the Ultimate Cut yet, so I can’t judge that version).

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