As part two in our series of Zack Snyder reviews (part one was for 300)leading up to the review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of justice, Watchmen shows its audience what Zack Snyder could do with the superhero industry. Though the film was neither financially nor critically successful, I think Watchmen is ambitious and bold in terms of its stylistic choices. However, the film is almost too audacious and falls flat.
Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe in which costumed crime fighters have existed in our world since WWI. The film takes place in the 1980s when extreme US and Russian tensions still are at an all time high, which prompts many to believe that the world might end soon. The film follows (mostly) retired superheroes (who used to be a team called The Watchmen) as they try to solve the mystery behind the murder of one of their own hero teammates. Most of these heroes hung up their costumes a long time ago and the only super powered one works with the government, but one hero is still active. There’s Nite Owl, a Batman-esque hero, Rorshach, the only active hero, Silk Spectre, a Black Widow type character, Dr. Manhattan, an all-powerful superhero who has the power to manipulate matter, and the Comedian, the dead hero who the other members of the Watchmen are trying to find out about.
Let me get this out of the way first: Watchmen is a phenomenal graphic novel. It is not only the first graphic novel I ever read, but also the best graphic novel I ever had the pleasure of picking up. The dark storyline and gritty dialogue coalesce to form one awesome elongated comic book. The graphic novel was one of the first in the genre to actually be taken seriously. Up until then, comic books were considered campy, but Watchmen was one of the first graphic novels that appealed to an older demographic. The book is widely regarded today as one of the most influential graphic novels of all time and ranks among some of my favorite comic book storylines.
The movie, however, isn’t that great. It definitely succeeds in bringing the comic panels to the big screen. The costumes look as though they were torn straight from author Alan Moore’s pages and the dialogue nearly matches that of the book. However, it fails to actually present a coherent movie that resonates with people who haven’t read the book. For the people who have read the book, the movie’s awesome, but I’m a firm believer that a movie should stand on its own. Often times I hear that I have to read the book to watch the movie, but I believe that film adaptations of books should not make their viewers have to read the book before watching the movie.
Let’s talk about the positives first. The film’s visuals are fantastic. Zack Snyder knows how to make a film look sexy like no other director and this film is a testament to his ability. From the visuals alone, it’s pretty easy for one to figure out how much of a comic book fan Snyder is. He knows the genre very well and he himself has repeatedly said in interviews that he loved comic books throughout his life. The fact that he was able to visually transform the comic panels in the Watchmen book to frames in movies is just awesome. Rorschach’s mask animation is also super cool (see below).
The action is also pretty neat in that it utilizes the same fighting style that Snyder (pretzels) successfully pulled off with 300 (the kind that slows down and speeds back up). The choreography is definitely staged, but it’s still brutal and unrelenting (see the video below). Back then, comic book movies that were Rated R did not do too well at the box office due to box office takeover of PG-3 superhero movies such as the Dark Knight and Iron Man. This movie could have been sugarcoated and made to be PG-13 if most of the blood was removed, but Snyder’s decision to keep the movie Rated R to stick 100% to the style of the graphic novel is bold.
A main problem this movie had is that it isn’t very well acted. Maybe this is due to the absolutely bonkers storyline and crazy characters, but the acting wasn’t that great. Rorschach sounded like a discount Christian Bale as Batman and Silk Spectre’s line delivery didn’t feel natural. Dr. Manhattan sounded monotonous, but that might actually have to do with the fact that Manhattan is supposed to be disconnected from humanity (that’s what happens when you suddenly become a god among men). Ozymandias speaks all of his lines in this really slow, obviously evil voice and it kind of gets on my nerves because he stretches the film’s length way past where it should be (the movie could honestly chop off a good 20 minutes and that would make the film 2 hrs and 22 minutes as opposed to 2 hrs and 42 minutes). I agree that the movie should be length, but it shouldn’t be that lengthy.
The biggest positive I can give for Watchmen is its opening credits scene (see below):
Those six minutes tell a completely satisfying story that could honestly be a separate movie. This scene shows that Zack Snyder knows how to make visual poetry in a grand fashion. The opening is artistic and is a great way of introducing the alternate reality that the movie takes place in. Also, the inclusion of Bob Dylan only elevates this scene even more!
Overall, Watchmen is okay. Its dark, gritty, and merciless tone makes a stylistic film that is a nice nod to the fantastic graphic novel of the same name. However, it falls flat when it comes to acting and some scenes seem unnecessary or too long. Watchmen will please fans of the book, but will probably confuse general audiences. However, general audiences will marvel at the action and effects and are pulled off very well by Zack Snyder.
What did you think about Watchmen? Also, what not well known graphic novel would you like to see me review? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!
This is part two of my Zack Snyder review series leading up to the review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Next time I’m going to review Man of Steel. Thanks!
NOTE: I don’t own any of the videos shows above. I just thought it would improve the overall quality of the article. If you have a concern about a video in this article, please feel free to let me know. Thanks!
Categories: Movie/TV Reviews