100 Days of Superheroes- Day 78: Watchmen
His buff, he's blue, and you'll see more of him than you'll want too.
Trailer: (note: one of the most badass trailers ever!!!)
“Who watches the watchmen?”
So you might have heard of a dysfunctional family. Well, this would be the dysfunctional superhero team (if you would even go so far as to call them a team). Watchmen brings Zac Snider to the superhero scene with his second adaption of a graphic novel, one that many consider to be the Citizen Kane of all graphic novels.
The movie follows a group of retired heroes that have given up the mask and cape after the government passes a law to keep them off the streets (Mr. Incredible sympathizes). They basically all retreat into what they consider a menial existence—what we like to call real life—and proceed to b*tch about their traumatic careers and shattered romances.
That’s when a superhero called The Comedian is murdered and one of the few remaining vigilantes, Rorschach, begins to investigate a conspiracy to frame and murder any remaining heroes. This is where the film is most interesting. Sure the graphic novel had a lot of solid backstory, but the flashbacks throughout the film feel more tedious and only add to the films already excessive length. It does, however, beg the question of if these heroes would be as interesting or dynamic without it. I’d say yes.
Yet when the film is following Rorschach and the Owl’s search for the conspirators, the film is at its best. It has a good bit of mystery too it and that’s where you’ll find most of the action as well, something this film is surprisingly lacking in until the third act.
Zac Snider, as always, is the man you can count on for stellar visuals. Watchmen is no exception. With a blast of cool effects and moody lighting you get a tone that is about right for the source material. Unfortunately you get all of Snider’s usual baggage as well. This includes excessive use of slow motion and character arcs that many times feel incomplete.
Luckily the film has a colorful collection of characters that have good chemistry together. This keeps the many many slower parts of the film from becoming dull. Rorschach is by far the most interesting and dynamic, and SHOULD be considering that half the film is narrated by him.
He is labeled a psychopath but during many moments seems the most rational of the lot—and easily the most badass. I think even Batman would have second thoughts about trying to take him on. Jackie Earle Harley gives a phenomenal performance, with great voice work. That’s a big plus for a character that almost always has his face completely concealed.
The other interesting character is Dr. Manhattan. A character that can control atoms and the very building blocks of life. For all extents and purposes he is practically a god among men and the film has little subtlety in that comparison. Yet the way he views the world is so bizarre and alien that it’s amusing to see how others, including his lover Silk Spectre, reacts to him. He’s hardily what you’d consider a “relatable” hero but he doesn’t need to be with so many other leads. Although on the downside I don’t think I needed to see his bright blue junk all the time.
Silk Spectre is more annoying than not. She jumps between partners faster than a swing dancer and though she claims emotional attachment to them, actress Malin Ackerman never really shows it well.
The Owl is the most flat character of the group. He’s sort of the golden boy who can do no wrong. Yet with so many (sometimes overly) flawed individuals running around it’s good to have a likable face in the crowd even if he doesn't have a whole lot of depth and dimension.
Like many adaptions of graphic novels, this movie takes quite a few liberties with the source material. Most notably at the climax, which no longer involves a giant space squid. This may rankle some but for me, the change was a positive one and more in keep with the cold war era theme the film had going on.
Overall the film fails to pack in all the fine details of the graphic novel, even into a near three-hour running time. The film itself might have felt more compact and less chaotic if they cut their losses and just focused on the conspiracy plot. As interesting as each character’s backstory is, they are interesting enough to survive without it. Runtime was the greatest enemy in adapting this property, but Snider still managed to pack in enough to keep me invested in the story and the people in it. The fact that the film is only half as good as the novel and still a pretty damn fun says a lot about the source material.
FINAL RATING: 7/10- (70%)
Previous DAY 77- The Spirit
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