George V. Reilly

Review: Watchmen (film)

Watchmen
Title: Watchmen (film)
Director: Zach Snyder
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Copyright: 2009

As promised yesterday, we saw the initial midnight showing of the Watchmen movie at the Pacific Science Center IMAX. And, lo, the geeks came in their numbers and they were greatly pleased. Some were dressed as Rorschach, one came as a smurf; no, I lie, he was Dr. Manhattan.

I summarized the plot in my review of the book. That still holds: the movie was largely faithful to the book. In many scenes, it was clear that the book had served as a storyboard. Too faithful in some ways at 165 minutes long. Some subplots were elim­i­nat­ed; no doubt they will resurface in the director’s cut. The Tale of the Black Freighter has been made as a separate animated feature for the DVD. One crucial point about the ending was changed (to Peter’s outrage), bringing it closer to The Dark Knight.

I found myself immersed in the movie, though sitting in front of a six-storey screen does tend to draw one in. It’s a visual spectacle that couldn’t have been made twenty years ago during the early attempts to turn it into a movie. It’s violent, more so than the book and more shocking than the book. Un­sur­pris­ing­ly, much of that extra violence centers around Rorschach, the un­com­pro­mis­ing sociopath.

The acting is adequate to the task. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) are the two most normal characters and hold the moral center of the film. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach has the most difficult role, hidden behind a face-covering mask most of the time, trying to convey the character’s tortured soul. Billy Crudup has little choice but to play Dr Manhattan as a blank cipher, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan hits the right note as the Comedian. Matthew Goode as Ozymandias comes off more as a cartoon villain than in the book.

Fans of the book will certainly enjoy it. I think newcomers will like it too.

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