Friday, March 13, 2009

Movie Review: The Watchmen

I don't do a whole lot of these, but here we go... movie review time.

Director Zack Snyder thrilled audiences with a big screen brawn and blood filled adaptation of Frank Millers '300' in 2006. The money maker netted ye' ole Brothers Warner a fat wad of cash and Mr. Snyder carte blanche to direct whatever he wanted to direct next. Snyder quickly pegged another WB / DC property to be his next Graphic Novel Screen Adaptation. The Novel in question quickly lit up all the Fanboys across the Globe, when it was confirmed Snyder would take on the Holy Grail of Comic Book Literature, Alan Moore's "The Watchmen".

While Moore would do his usual poo pooing of the project as he has done to other screen adaptations of his work, Snyder still decided to do a painstakingly accurate portrayal of the Spawling U.S. Historical Revisionist tale of the Cold War climate in the mid-1980's. As production continued to grind on and character stills, screen shots, and a trailer were leaked to the public folks were wondering if THE WATCHMEN would prove to be another huge success.

The story isn't simple. The main timeline picks up in 1985 in a world where Richard Nixon has been elected to a 4th term as U.S. president and hostilities with the Russians are at an all time high. The U.S. has kept the edge in this conflict due to the fact we have the only bonefied Super Hero on our side, Dr. Manhatten. Manhatten, played by Bill Cudrup, is basically a nuclear reactor that can bend space, time and matter to his will. A cadre of Super Heros surround him and the team is called, The Watchmen. This is the second major U.S. Superhero team after the 1950's version known as "The Minute Men". However, the Watchmen were disbanded years before our story picks up, and we get to see the fractured personal relationships between the team mates, as they wrestle to uncover who recently killed one of their own, The Commedian. The ensuing story gives the audience, Love, Betrayal, Super Hero Fights, Flash Backs, Nudity, Sex, Abstract Inner Monologues that pontificate on the relevance of the human struggle, and more nudity.

I'm here to tell you, that this is a very solid movie, with an obviously great story behind it. The story is to be honest, brilliant. The adaptation of the text is quite good. The visuals are stunning. The movie however will not be as 'successful' as '300', and I think Snyder squandered his good credit a bit here in Hollywood.

This is a case of an artists, Snyder, taking the huge risk and cashing in new found industry cred to do what is essentially an ART HOUSE narrative wrapped in a Comic Book Torilla. It looks like a semi-dark fantastic comic book adventure if you stare hard enough at the posters, but once you sit down, you're treating to Moore's vision of a sprawling existential examination of how humanity reacts under the pretense of annihilation. As I watched it, I couldn't help but stare at all the TEENS that had suckered their way into the theater hoping for a pre-summer Hero flick like last summer' Iron Man, only to sit through a really complicated Domestic Drama / Internationl History lesson. This is why so many people are panning this film. They feel like they've been sold a bill of goods by the studio. They marketing an action flick and what they delivered is something that is part mystery, part head spinner, part dysfunctional romance, part independent film. It's like buying a butter finger, unwrapping the package and finding and Alan Wrench. Sure, you can always use an Alan Wrench, but you wanted candy.

Synder's execution is fine here visually. His research and creativity in adapation is quite solid. He needs to work getting better performances out of his actors. He could have also cut some things out of the final product. However, in the end I found this movie to be somewhat important. While I maybe stretching and observation, I couldn't help but equate the doom and gloom outlook potrayed in the film's version of the 1985 Cold War Nuclear Stand off, with our own 2009 Global Economic Disaster. It was interesting to see how the media in that world did the same panick button slapping as our own true to life media is doing with our current money crisis. In the end everything worked out fine in 1985, and we were facing Global Nuclear Armegeddon. It's really a testament to what Alan Moore created when he wrote these books over twenty years ago. The film made me re-consider how brilliant that man is. I commend Synder for taking a risk artistically here. I don't think it will help his career, because I don't think the Watchmen, with a bigger budget and more marketing, will make the same cash 300 did. We'll see what he can do with his next project.

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