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WATCHMEN (2009) ***** ADVANCED REVIEW by COOP

Posted on March 6th, 2009
Posted on March 6th, 2009


It’s finally here.

The year is 1985, Richard Nixon gets reelected for a third term and the planet edges closer and closer to WWIII. Superheroes are forbidden to interfere due to the “Keene Act” which has outlawed masked vigilantes since 1977. The United States depends on Doctor Manhattan, the world’s only super-powered human, as the last line of defense against an all-out nuclear holocaust. The problem is he hardly cares. This is the world of “Watchmen,” the most revered comic book/graphic novel of all time. Many, including the comic’s creator Alan Moore, declared the book unfilmable. Now, 23 years after “Watchmen” hit the shelves, visionary director Zack Snyder (“300”) has proven the naysayers wrong with spectacular results.

The story begins with the murder of The Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan), a retired hero with a morally questionable past. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), an underground vigilante gone psycho, vows to bring The Comedian’s killer to justice. When more retired heroes start turning up dead, Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and the Silk Specter (Malin Akerman) come out of retirement to aid Rorschach in his investigation. Hero-turned-industry-mogul, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Mathew Goode) offers little help despite an attempt on his own life. Doctor Manhattan (Billy Crudup), feeling disconnected from the human race due to his god-like power, leaves Earth for Mars to ponder the universe’s greatest mysteries. With the world on the brink of destruction, all of these former allies will collide to uncover a counterplot that could save or destroy the world.

To say I’ve been waiting for this film for 23 years is an understatement. Many people consider the “Watchmen” graphic novel to be the “Citizen Kane” or the “Pride and Prejudice” of the comic book world. Confirming that Snyder knocked this one out of the park has pleased me to no end. I’ve followed the project for years, poured over every bit of information and still can’t believe I wasn’t disappointed by this exceptional film.

You’ll recognize one or two faces in the cast, but Snyder opted for relative unknowns due to budgetary reasons and as a creative choice. Besides a few minor missed opportunities by Akerman, everyone performs brilliantly. Haley takes home the audience favorite award as Rorschach, even though 90% of his performance happens while completely masked. His ability to emote with body language, gestures makes him a cut above the rest. He delivers a couple of lines so perfectly, I’m convinced he will inspire the audience to roar with applause on more than one occasion. Crudup presents as accurate a representation of Dr. M as I could’ve ever imagined, despite some dodgy CGI lip-synching. Everyone else: No gripes.

I had a few issues with the creative choices, especially the music. Snyder’s decision to include 80’s era songs like “99 Luftballons” and overused rock ballads inspired by Vietnam results in some distracting moments. The modern pop-punk song during the end credits strikes me as highly inappropriate but I suppose Snyder’s iPod list differs from mine. By itself, the competent orchestral score wedged in between the songs would’ve sufficed. Plus, some of the makeup work gives some actors a phony, aged look. However, the rest is so fantastic, these minor infractions won’t lower my score in he slightest.

Purists will undoubtedly sound off on the change in the apocalyptic plot device towards the end which differs from the comic. Personally, I think it was an intelligent choice and enhanced character development. I’m sure with time the detractors will dismiss the complaint. Others might fuss over the minor (but no less important) story elements left out of the film. Those fans should take heart that Snyder promises a super-long cut for DVD/Blu Ray that will include all these elements including the famous “Tales of the Black Freighter” parallel story that accompanied the comic. Honestly, I’m blown away by how much story Snyder managed to include in the theatrical 163 minute cut. I consider it a miracle of time/story management.

As a fan I loved it. Question is will YOU like it? I’d say it depends on how you approach the experience and if you can stomach the film’s harsher elements. The “X-Men” this ain’t. There’s plenty of nudity (Snyder didn’t balk on Dr. Manhattan going full frontal), sex, gore and violence to qualify its hard “R” rating. Also, don’t let the commercials and trailers fool you. This isn’t a straight-up action film. It’s a mystery… A puzzle that challenges you to follow the clues (mostly through flashbacks) to discover the ultimate morality of the characters and the weight of the final solution. Although Snyder cut a lot of fat off the story and paced it tightly, prepare for a long sit. In fact, if you take a restroom break for more than a couple of minutes, you might want to start over. Every scene contains important info so if you fail to pay attention, you’re going to feel confusion later down the road.

This is the best comic book film I’ve ever experienced and might turn out as the best movie of the year. If you think you can handle it, I proclaim “Watchmen” a must see.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The trailers for this are vastly overexposed. Instead, take a look at this “Watchmen: The Motion Comic” trailer. I watched all five hours of this on DVD and it’s a great way to experience the original comic in a semi-animated form (but seriously, go see the movie too)…

What the heck. Here’s a film trailer too…

Also take a peek at this hilarious spoof of a Saturday morning cartoon “Watchmen” adaptation. Keep in mind, this IS NOT A REAL SHOW! But it’s funny. Thanks to Ain’t it Cool News for this one…

-Coop

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