Despite the embarrassment of comic book movie riches the public has enjoyed in recent years, Watchmen was definitely the most anticipated, if not the most hyped. Making a movie out of the most celebrated graphic novel of all time brings certain expectations and a lot of pressure.
Fortunately, Watchmen does not disappoint.
Those who have read the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons can rest assured that the film, directed by Zack Snyder (300) remains very faithful to the original text. Those new to the Watchmen experience are in for a ride.
This is not your typical superhero movie. Set in an alternate reality, the heroes are normal people (except for Dr. Manhattan, who can do pretty much anything). Some of the heroes have obvious DC or Marvel hero parallels (Nite Owl is essentially Batman if he were stripped of badass) while others are more unique (Ozymandias is preternaturally athletic and intelligent, incredibly wealthy and takes his name from a Shelley poem). Rorschach is a sociopath who, when you think about it, is a terrible person. That said, he’s also the easiest to root for and features the best performance (by Jackie Earle Haley), making him a crowd favorite.
Watchmen treats its audience to a look at the everyday lives of its superheroes; they have troubles, foibles and do irrational things just like everyone else. This, really, is the core of the movie. Because we can see so deeply into their lives, we understand the disaffected, depressed, cynical mood of this alternate reality. Watchmen is a statement on the human condition. It questions the audience about what’s right and what’s wrong far more than your typical comic book fare and does so (mostly) in a realistic, non-cheesy fashion.
Most of the scenes are well-acted and many are both visually and verbally identical to the graphic novel. While this might appease Watchmen snobs, it doesn’t always work well. Some lines (“What happened to the American dream?”) invite gales of laughter when they’re said on screen. This aspect of the film is particularly infuriating because Snyder obviously has a good ear for dialogue; Rorschach, for instance, gets the most badass line in the movie, which wasn’t in the graphic novel.
Any dialogue issues the movie has, however, pale in comparison to the atrocious soundtrack, which must have been devised by someone who either hates people or has no desire to work in Hollywood ever again. Aside from a fantastic montage set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin‘” the music is either too loud, inappropriate or both.
Visually, Watchmen is stunning. That said, there is a great deal of gratuitous sex and violence. This movie is not for the squeamish, the faint of heart or young children. One wonders why such scenes go on far, far too long and leave the audience feeling bored (since such scenes don’t really advance the plot) and awkward (read: lots of doughy man-butt).
Aside from the issues with dialogue, soundtrack and the feeling that you’re running a marathon (the film is three hours long), it is extremely fun to watch and does a fantastic job adapting the graphic novel to the big screen.
Watchmen is playing now at the Regal Cinemas Davis Stadium 5 on G Street.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.