When I heard that Zack Snyder would be directing the long awaited film adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen, let's just say I was disappointed. Sure, Snyder's previous films 300 and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead were entertaining, but little more. Dawn of the Dead was a gore soaked horror film, and 300 an over-inflated testosterone cocktail. It seemed clear to me, Snyder was going to butcher one of my most beloved books of all time. Why? Unlike his previous work, Watchmen has depth.
Watchmen is a comic beyond it’s genre. Published in the 80’s it took the superhero mythology to heights no one knew it could go, into the realm of art. With it’s layers of meaning, deeply developed characters, uncannily original story, and stark politico-social satire, Alan Moore had created a masterpiece. Hailed as brilliant from comic book fans to literary journalists, Watchmen has become a landmark work of art, and one that changed the comic book industry forever. Recently the book made TIME magazine’s list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century. So, put something like this next to 300 and you can see where my concerns came from. Also, it is said to be un-filmable. So what has Snyder done with this film?
To my delight, Snyder stayed meticulously faithful to the source material. The film captures the book’s dark tone and allegory nearly perfectly, even with the change to the ending. In addition, the visuals are spot on, capturing the spirit of Dave Gibbons’ illustrations. Not only is it a successful adaptation of the novel, but it is a great film in it’s own right.
With spectacular cinematography, a great soundtrack, and some fantastic acting from Jackie Earl Haley as masked vigilante Rorschach, Billy Crudup as the big blue mutant Dr. Manhattan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the psychotic Comedian, and Patrick Wilson as Night Owl. Each actor highlights the weaknesses, quirks, and (in the case of Haley and Morgan) psychoses that made the characters so exceptional in the first place. Unfortunately, Malin Ackerman fails to bring much to her character, Silk Spectre II, a woman forced into the superhero trade by her mother, the first Silk Spectre. Likewise, while not terrible, Matthew Goode seems to need a little more practice masking his accent. However, the faults of these actors is overshadowed by the monumental technical and narrative successes of the film.
Watchmen is a comic like no other, and the same can be said about the film. I guarantee that you have never seen anything like this before. While Snyder takes some liberties with the action sequences (particularly during the middle of the film, which drags a bit), the film succeeds in being stylish, exciting, and most importantly, smart.
The Score: A-
The Best Part: Although this may seem to undermine the rest of the film, the opening credits take the cake for my favorite part. The audience is escorted through a montage of brilliantly shot images of how superheroes have changed American history. Set to Bob Dylan’s The Times they are A’changin’ there is one word to describe the scene: perfect.