I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. I guess this movie is for fans, even though there are apparently enough differences to rile up the most hardcore of fanboys. I’ve never read the graphic novel [Book | Blu-ray] and never really had the desire to read it. Just wasn’t on my radar. So I don’t know anything really about the source, the story, what’s missing, what’s an exact frame grab from the book. So my review is coming from that angle.
First off, it’s a long movie. The director’s cut that supposedly will be released in theatres in a few months (and assuredly on Blu-ray/DVD) is supposed to be an additional half hour or so. As it stands the movie is just over 2.5 hours. And it starts out slow. The pacing of the first 20 or so minutes is drag along slow. It definitely picks up. There isn’t a ton of Zach Synder time shifting. I think the dialogue and the voice-overs kind of add to the slow pace of the film. I think, as has been written a few times, the dialogue, while apparently pretty slavish to the source, doesn’t really work well out loud. This next sentence shows how unfamiliar I am with the source. The dialogue sounds like Tarantino dialogue. Tarantino-Kill-Bill dialogue. Very stilted. Tarantino did it to mimic the samurai flicks he loved. And here it was done to show the love of the source. I think it kind of detracted from the movie here. Sort of the same thing as in Sin City [Blu-ray | DVD].
I can’t say the movie stuck out too much visually for me. There were some cool visuals, but as it stands right now, I can’t say anything comes to mind as particularly memorable. I can say, even though I didn’t read the source graphic novel, that there were clearly scenes in this movie that were direct grabs from the frames of the comic. And you could tell because they seemed to stay on screen a beat longer than necessary. Or were overtly “stylized.”
I think the performances, save Jackie Earl Haley, were fairly mundane. Patrick Wilson was passable as a kind of middle of the road guy in his post-hero life. Malin Ackerman just seemed flat. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan did okay with what he was given. Billy Crudup, I mean, I guess it was an interesting performance in as much as it was written devoid of emotion, for the most part, and played as such. Jackie Earl Haley was spectacular I think. The bits of Rorschach sans mask were the best parts of the movie. I even got past his Christian Bale Batman Dark Knight gravel after a bit, though it really bothered me at first. I think Matthew Goode was okay in his role. I couldn’t get past the fact that he looks kind of like a “normal” Steve Buscemi.
I will probably watch this movie once more when it’s out on disc. Just to catch some of the detail. And then probably never again. I can’t say this movie will stand the test of time like a lot of the lovers of the movie do. I can’t say that it was the best way to tell the story of the “unfilmable” graphic novel. I can see how this story really appeals to college age kids. And things you love in college you tend to love into full on adulthood. And I think that plays a role in some of the reviews out there. It’s kind of like Fight Club [DVD] in that respect. I love Fight Club. The book, the movie, the whole nine. But it’s kind of a college/rebellion/rage against the machine kind of thing that really flourishes in college. The book and the movie are good. Both have problems that I willingly overlook because of my love of it. I think Watchmen is the same thing. Though I’m not saying this is as good a movie as Fight Club or that Synder is anywhere on Fincher’s level. Just that loving something at that time of life resonates for a long time.
Watchmen definitely has an audience. I don’t think it’s a movie made for the population at large. It feels a bit like Serenity [Blu-ray | DVD] in that regard. A vocal group of fans (I can’t say how large a group), but not sure it really resonates with the general population.
Addition: By the way, the world that Watchmen populates sounds a lot like what I’ve heard of Araonofsky’s Batman (via /Film).
“It was a hard, R-rated Batman,” he says. “What I pitched them was Travis Bickle meets The French Connection — a real guy running around fighting crime. No super-powers, no villains, just corruption. For the Batmobile, I had him taking a bus engine and sticking it in a black Lincoln. Real low-tech geek stuff.” (via Cinematical)
The /filmcast guys have a more detailed synopsis in one of the podcasts, but I can’t remember which one. If I find/remember it, I’ll link it here.