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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.82%
Worth A Look44.86%
Average: 4.67%
Pretty Bad: 23.36%
Total Crap: 10.28%

7 reviews, 65 user ratings

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by William Goss

"Red with Menace, White with Fear, Blue with Malaise"
4 stars

For decades, filmmakers have been trying to bring the densely-plotted, genre-twisting, award-winning graphic novel 'Watchmen' to the screen, and leave it to '300'’s Zack Snyder to tackle a movie that even Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass stepped back from. That isn’t to say that Snyder hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew, but what has made the cut is an inevitably compromised translation of some inherently uncompromising ideas that still stands as a work more faithful, engaging and ambitious than most this season.

The world of Watchmen is an alternate one set in a 1985 that sees Nixon claiming his third term after the arrival of caped crusaders and one especially empowered being changed the course of history (brought to striking and effective light with an opening credits sequence set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are A-Changing”). These “masks” have been outlawed, and the presence of the teleporting, telekinetic Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) on America’s side only frightens the Soviets closer and closer to nuclear war. In the midst of all this, a retired super-patriot known as the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) finds himself tossed from his penthouse apartment and landing as most things do from great heights, and the still-street-scouring Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) wants to know how a man like that met a fate like this.

The former bombshell Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) has passed the torch to her daughter (Malin Akerman), the aged Nite Owl (Stephen McHattie) let an admirer (Patrick Wilson) take his place, and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) has turned his substantial intellect into a formidable business empire, and slowly but surely, they all wonder who would’ve killed the Comedian, who among them might be next, and perhaps most importantly, why.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: any and all civilian subplots have been done away with, while the parallel plot of a comic book is being wisely saved for DVD. That which remains still clocks in at the better part of three hours, but if audiences were willing to sit through The Dark Knight without complaint, then they should be able to give this its due attention. For the layman, it’s an elaborate plot to grasp, spanning generations and thusly prone to flashbacks, but it shouldn’t be an impossible one. For the fans in waiting, it’s an accurate adaptation for the most part, though its insistence on repeating verbatim passages tends to result in the occasionally stilted line reading as much its need to alter motives and add needlessly violent flourishes leads to somewhat short-changed characterization.

Rarely do the elements come so cohesively together as they do with the back story of how physicist Jonathan Osterman transformed into the cool, removed super-being of Dr. Manhattan, someone who can end the Vietnam conflict within a mere week but fails to reciprocate the love of first a colleague, and then Silk Spectre II. It’s a chapter of the film that ranges from conflicts personal to those political, navigating between the intimate and the infinite aspects of his existence with exceptional grace, with a perfectly passive Crudup as convincing to our ears as the visual effects are for the eyes.

Ironically enough, the more emotive roles of Wilson and Akerman ring a little less true, as both try to find their place in a world that wants rid of their alter egos, but may need them now more than ever. Gugino and Morgan are likewise forced to deliver some heavy-handed bits under varying degrees of aging make-up, while Goode is perhaps given the shortest shrift out of the entire ensemble in terms of character and range. He may be rich, but it seems that money does not equal time for our exceedingly clever man.

Last but certainly not least would be Haley as the gravel-voiced and fairly psychotic Rorschach. Having most recently played a likewise outcast sex offender in 2006’s Little Children, the once and future Kelly Leak manages to bring a more live wire persona to the table, though his circumstances as tweaked by Snyder and writers David Hayter and Alex Tse lend him to being more of a conventional antihero than he should rightfully come across as. Similarly, the infamously changed climax takes a different route to the same end as the novel, and perhaps reasonably so, but it compresses and condenses a moral battle of considerable magnitude into more of a small-scale melodrama at the end of the world (literally, at an Antarctic base).

There are plenty of nits for the fans to pick at, and as a casual entertainment, it indulges in too many details and yet not enough nuance. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be; some books are perhaps best left unfilmable ('Revolutionary Road', cough). Maybe some alternate universe did get a prime rib of a sprawling HBO miniseries that left in every last bit of gristle. But in this universe, Zack Snyder’s serving up a big burger for our consumption, and even without all the toppings, burgers this well done tend to be rare.

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originally posted: 03/06/09 04:26:13
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell DONT believe the hype its a dull overlong piece of shit 1 stars
6/19/16 Ken Despite Malin Akerman being hot, this film is not that good. 2 stars
2/11/13 Langano Pure crap, one of the worst films I've seen. 1 stars
9/17/12 roscoe overlong shit. only haley's rorschach is great, and that's not enough to sustain this shit. 1 stars
8/11/11 larsen Graphic Novel was ahead of its time as was this film. Some just need to catch up. 5 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 I was a big fan of the comic & the movie is pretty faithful. Extended DVD cut is better. 5 stars
4/22/10 millersxing The unfilmable becomes the unwatchable. 1 stars
3/29/10 Charles Tatum Too long a film to sit through for such an awkward payoff 3 stars
1/27/10 Jerome C. OK movie great effects. pins right too much peter indeed. 4 stars
1/12/10 mr.mike It just wasn't my cup of poison. 2 stars
12/29/09 matt what happened is this is the best movie of 2009. 5 stars
12/13/09 mwilde What happened to sucks all ass? 1 stars
12/01/09 Silkworm Hard work - A film trying to be stylish but failing 2 stars
11/16/09 matt great story, great performances, great style. the new animated stuff is great too 5 stars
9/17/09 TreeTiger Let's cut it short - this is a good movie! 4 stars
9/06/09 Black Leather Rain Huge fan of the comic, Lukewarm fan of the movie. Disappointed in the changed ending. 4 stars
8/27/09 Laurey Martin I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. Loved the look of it! 4 stars
7/27/09 vesta brilliant 5 stars
7/15/09 michael mann eww. Like being hit with a sledgehammer for its atrocious running time 1 stars
7/04/09 Gristle Has its moments, fairly blah overall though 3 stars
7/02/09 pantera overlong, boring , bad acting from that hot chick. Pretentious 1 stars
6/22/09 Rorschach Hrrnnh 4 stars
4/25/09 matt I've never read the comic but I liked the movie 4 stars
4/17/09 Total Crap Very unintelligible if you haven't read the graphic novel. The acting was crap IMO. 3 stars
4/10/09 farrow please a terrible disjointed incoherent movie. Only Jackie Earke Haley was good 1 stars
3/22/09 james obrien a fantastic movie long time coming 5 stars
3/20/09 The Comedian Jeez, can you give more of the movie away? Why don't you buy "" 4 stars
3/19/09 Craig D. Replaces "The Dark Knight" as the best comic book movie ever made. Simply fantastic. 5 stars
3/18/09 jim knew nothing of the graphic novel, loved the art direction, the retro styles and the jokes 4 stars
3/16/09 Brian Mckay Better than the source material. More action, less meandering, better ending (yes ,fanboys) 4 stars
3/16/09 Honolulu Bitchslap Only 2 groups will be disappointed- 1, the 'uninitiated' & 2, fans of the graphic novel. 2 stars
3/15/09 Gil Carlson A monumental work. Read the book. THEN see the movie. If you like the book, you'll love it. 5 stars
3/14/09 geetus Too many unfinished subplots.Good, but left too much unanswered.Another hour wouldve helped 4 stars
3/12/09 Brandon Allin Beautiful visuals. Wonderful movie. 5 stars
3/12/09 Grandmaster T A flawed though impressive endevour. Good bashings. 4 stars
3/12/09 aliceinwonderland I was bored at times but I think it is worth a look. Good characters, good conversations. 4 stars
3/11/09 Jonathan I really wanted to like this film. But I didn't. Too convoluted. 1 stars
3/11/09 Ayrie Keep to the story 5 stars
3/10/09 karamashi Just Awful and Souless. 2 stars
3/10/09 Raul Valdez Jr another blockbuster year 4 stars
3/10/09 Nessus A lot better than the haters are willing to admit 5 stars
3/09/09 ES Impressive highs dampened by disappointing lows, Rorschach was excellent throughout 3 stars
3/09/09 Aesop After the fanboy filmgasms die down, what you're left with is a really mediocre flick. 2 stars
3/09/09 Mishyana ending robbed of a lot of punch due to a lack of bodies, but still good stuff. 4 stars
3/09/09 Jedimasta Never read the novel, but smart enough to 'get' the subtext AND have fun with the action. 5 stars
3/09/09 jason unfortunately i think the ending in the movie was better than the books 5 stars
3/09/09 KingNeutron Very enjoyable and complex, even for a complete newbie that doesnt know the backstory 4 stars
3/09/09 Pokejedservo A somewhat flawed but very interesting movie based on the famous graphic novel. 4 stars
3/09/09 Alan Moore It sucks ass. 1 stars
3/09/09 Jeff Light flawed, ambitious...probably best enjoyed by intellectuals not familiar with the comic 4 stars
3/08/09 Sn0wCrash Unbelievable! A Milestone for comic book movies! 5 stars
3/08/09 cpbjr very unsatisfying 2 stars
3/08/09 M Had people walking out throughout the movie and found story messy but still worth a look. 4 stars
3/08/09 Chris Actually, it's determinist nihilism vs. existentialism, Shortt. Nihilism loses mostly. 4 stars
3/08/09 belike Compared to most superhero films it was really good. 4 stars
3/08/09 Ickabod 13 If you're thinking about seeing this movie, DO IT! You will not be displeased! 4 stars
3/08/09 bubastis619 better than I thought it could be 4 stars
3/08/09 Darkstar Amazing! Never seen anything like it. As close to the graphic novel as you can get. Awesome 5 stars
3/08/09 blah blah amazing paul shortt die of cancer cunt! 5 stars
3/08/09 Adrian I was never bored. Stylish execution. Story still worked. Hopefully people will read it now 5 stars
3/07/09 malcolm would've been much better as a cable mini-series 3 stars
3/07/09 pin good stuff, not the "regular," and not perfect either. also, too much peter. 4 stars
3/06/09 Raul Valdez Jr its up to your own personal taste guys i think you should give it a look. 5 stars
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  06-Mar-2009 (R)
  DVD: 21-Jul-2009


  DVD: 21-Jul-2009

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