Movie Review
Watchmen poster
By Craig Younkin     Published March 4, 2009
US Release: March 6, 2009

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Carla Gugino , Billy Crudup , Patrick Wilson , Jackie Earle Haley

R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 163 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $107,503,316
The plot is lost in translation and it’s one big three hour mess, a long and unpleasant string of flashbacks, subplots, bloody violence, and overall an exhausting jumble of different things that never work into any sort of entertaining narrative.
“Watchmen” the book has been called one of the 100 best novels of all time. If that’s the case then “Watchmen” the movie is missing a lot. I’ve not read the book but I’ve seen some of the art and from a technical standpoint director Zack Snyder and his team have done very well for themselves. Just the plot is lost in translation and it’s one big three hour mess, a long and unpleasant string of flashbacks, subplots, exposition, bloody violence, and overall just a flat-out exhausting jumble of different things that never get a chance to breathe or work into any sort of entertaining narrative. It makes you wonder just how anyone thought Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s multi-layered graphic novel really could have ever worked on film? I was hoping to love this movie. Instead I wound up enjoying the Advil I took after it was over.

The time is 1985 and the soviets are about to attack within the U.S. It’s five to midnight, which is like saying code level orange. Tricky Dick Nixon has been elected to a third term and, in the first of many flashbacks, we find that throughout current events between the 1940’s-1980’s regular human beings with no super powers have donned masks and costumes and become superheroes until Nixon forced retirement on them. When the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is killed, it effects the group in different ways. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) is determined to uncover the murder, while Dan Dreiberg, formerly Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Laurie Jupiter, formerly Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) just seem content to live normal lives, and Ozymandias (Mathew Goode) has turned his hero status into financial gain by harnessing cleaner energy. Meanwhile, the only hero who actually has powers, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), is trying to divert the Soviet crisis while at the same time deal with rumors that his blue glow has caused his colleagues and several others to get cancer.

This is really only the setup. From here it goes in different directions but still doesn’t really add up to much. The script by David Hayter and Alex Tse is so back-story-crazy it makes “Memento” look linear, centering on everything from a controversy between the Comedian and Jupiter’s mother (Carla Gugino), a stint between him and Manhattan in Vietnam, Manhattan’s creation, a lot of childhood stuff with Rorschach and Jupiter, various scenes where these characters become disheartened or disillusioned, and a lot more. And when not in flashback, we’re treated to everything from a character vacationing on Mars and building some indescribable circular thing, Dan and Laurie having odd super hero fetish-sex, a prison riot, an irrelevant revelation about a character’s father, and of course so much more. And then we have the actual action, which seems to come just as randomly as the rest of this movie and features every bloody thing from cheeks being bitten off, arms being chopped off, a meat cleaver taken to a guy’s forehead, and unexciting slow-motion fights where arms, legs, and various other body parts are broken in two.

The movie spares nothing in regard to what’s in the book but surrounded by all this bloat is some type of deep, mature point about heroism and humanity that just never comes through. The movie holds itself out as too serious and important. The constant shifting back and forth and from subplot to subplot, the scenes that just can’t play out dramatically because they suffer from crammed explanations and characters who seem to just randomly come and go rather than feel a part of the movie just make this effort a bore. And what’s worse is that most of these people are either just assholes or bland, monotonous, and cheesy and it makes it very hard to be anything but indifferent to them.

If anyone makes a jump to being somewhat interesting here it’s Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach. He’s a gruff-voiced bad-ass and I loved the character. The rest don’t really make a dent, but Akerman and Crudup respectively increase the sexy by a lot. As does Zack Snyder. Like most comic book movies nowadays, he gives it a dark, seedy, grimy, and depressing look that complements the effects nicely. I thought the make-up, especially on Nixon, gave the movie a nice comic touch and Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan are each done beautifully, the former with his entrancing mask of move-able ink and Manhattan with his gorgeous blue electrical light and ability to duplicate, transport himself, and take things apart and put them back together just with a move of the hand. The Owl copter, the circular thing I described on mars, and the big ball of light that comes in the finale all look great as well.

This movie also has one of the best soundtracks probably ever put on one CD. Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence," Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower," and the movie opens up with a Bob Dylan “Times they are a Changin” montage. In general this movie was just lost on me though. I have no idea where it was trying to go or what any of it means and to me it just looks like a nice-looking jumble of different things that just didn’t work.
Craig's Grade: C
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
Share, Bookmark