Plot: Set in an alternate 1985 where superheroes have been outlawed. While the world faces nuclear annihilation, one of the old heroes, the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is murdered by an unknown assailant. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), the only hero presently disobeying the government, tries to figure out why the Comedian was killed as the film explores the past and present of all the heroes, including Dr. Manhattan, the only one with superpowers (Billy Crudup), and the Country’s most important source of National Security.
Watchmen never stood a chance. Not only was it based on one of the most celebrated graphic novels ever written, but it was the first major superhero film to follow the Dark Knight. It was met with mixed reactions and not so hot box office numbers. Let me just get this out of the way right now: While Watchmen isn’t near the greatness of its source material, it’s still a pretty damn good movie. There’s a lot to love here. The film looks gorgeous as director Zack Snyder really shines in showing its imagery, which the movie is heavy on. After the Comedian’s death, it’s got a pretty cool opening credit montage with Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ that really gets you in the mood. There’s a lot of interesting music choices that for the most part work pretty well and fit the mood of the scene perfectly. While the movie certainly has an interesting plot, it’s not really about that. The soul of Watchmen is exploring these very complex characters. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is outstanding. The guy’s a total bad ass, but it’s his voice over journal narrations that are the real essence of the character. One thing the movie actually improves on from the novel is the friendship between Rorschach and Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II) as former partners. Rorschach’s back story is also truly heartbreaking. The flashbacks in general are the best parts of the movie. The most intriguing is probably during the Comedian’s funeral as most of the major characters have flashbacks to time spent with him. The Comedian really is a detestable human being, but what makes him so interesting is how right he is in his way of thinking. This is very apparent when he calls out Dr. Manhattan after winning the Vietnam War. We just saw him perform this terrible act, yet you almost want to hate Dr. Manhattan more after the scene. For me though, with all these characters and back stories, it’s Dr. Manhattan’s past and way of looking at humanity that is the real tragedy and meat of the film. While that story fires on all cylinders, the movie certainly has its share of weaknesses. Malin Akerman’s performance as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II is fairly weak, and her animosity towards her mother for pushing her into this lifestyle isn’t really conveyed very well. When the film focuses on her and Dreiberg’s relationship, it really slows down. The biggest problem I have with Watchmen though, and what really hinders it from being a potential top 5 superhero movie is the characterization of Ozymandias. He’s such a crucial part to the story, but he barely has a personality. Matthew Goode gives a bad performance, but I think this one is more Zack Snyder’s fault. All in all, I like this movie quite a bit and think Snyder really succeeds in simplifying a very complicated book, but still keeping the essence of what it is. It’s got several memorable moments. You can tell Snyder really cared about this. Like I said, it’s not as good as the book, but I feel like if the book never existed and this just came out as an original movie, we’d be talking about it a lot more. Instead, Watchmen kind of came and went…it deserved better.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):
Best Performance: Billy Crudup as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
-Although he’s pretty much blue CG, it’s really the voice that wins him this category. Just listening to him explain his perception of time, and the way he sees the world was always fascinating.
Worst Performance: Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II
-She’s not horrible, but what really pisses me off is that she just brings nothing to the character. And this really shows in key moments. Most notably is near the climax where she has this conversation with Dr. Manhattan on Mars. The scene is well written, and Crudup hits it out of the park. It could have been a very memorable scene if she just brought something to the table.
Best Line: “None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.” –Rorschach in prison
Worst Line: “You’re such an asshole.” –Silk Spectre II right before she shoots Ozymandias
-Not only is it delivered horribly, but this is right at the end. It’s the big emotional climax, and we get this lame line? Boo.
-The fight between Comedian and the mystery killer (who we now know as Ozymandias), is pretty stellar. Although Snyder’s trademark slow motion/speed up BS can get annoying, he knows how to delivery intense and hard action, especially with fight sequences.
-The Richard Nixon impersonation was a little much. The over the top nature really takes some of the seriousness away from the film.
-The whole sequence of Jon Osterman becoming Dr. Manhattan is something I could watch over and over again. Everything about it works: the directing, acting, music, etc. It’s a beautiful and tragic scene, everything it needs to be.
-I hate when Laurie is in Archie, Nite Owl’s Ship. She’s just such a moron. She pushes a button that clearly has an image of a ‘flame’ on it…gee, what did you think was going to happen? Then we get hit with her stupidity again as she tries to put out the fire with a blanket while the fire extinguisher is right there. Dan comes down and immediately uses it. He almost gives this look of, ‘Wait, why do I love this woman?’
-Dan and Laurie are having dinner. They reminisce about some idiot who used to pretend to be a super villain so he could get beat up by Nite Owl II. The funny part is when Dan explains what happened to this guy:
Dan: He pulled that on Rorschach and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft.
That sums up Rorschach perfectly.
Bad Ass Moment:
-It’s pretty much just Rorschach in prison. But if I had to pick a specific moment, it’s got to be when he slams the hot grille water right in the inmate’s face…just relentless.