Friday, June 25, 2010


I must say I was very much looking forward to seeing Watchmen.  I had never heard of or read the graphic novel, which is considered to be one of the greatest graphic novels ever, and is respected even outside of the usual comic circles.  I am a sucker for sci-fi/superhero movies, and this one looked pretty cool.  It was cool, but I was disappointed.

I almost hesitate to say something negative about a movie that was as painstakingly made as Watchmen seemed to be.  Accounts I've read talk about how faithful the filmmakers were to the original graphic novel, even using frames from the novel in storyboarding the film.  There were some changes made, as always happens when a movie, comic, or video game is made for the big screen.  But I think the graphic novel faithful, of whom there are many, were pleased with the results.
I was struck by the similarities to The Incredibles, which, since it came out after Watchmen was published, may have lifted some ideas.  Like The Incredibles, the Watchmen are former superheroes who have kept their identities secret after having been driven underground by an ungrateful public.  Unlike the Incredibles, the Watchmen are ordinary humans with no superpowers (with the exception of Mr. Manhattan, who attains superhuman powers due to a lab test accident).  They long to get back into the mix, and when some of the Watchmen are systematically killed, they regroup to uncover a plot.  The ringleader of the plot is a Watchman turned bad who has a secret base from which he is hatching a plot to become the most powerful man in the world. 

Despite all the parallels, Watchmen is a very different movie.  It's dark, violent, and definitely not for kids.  And it's very long.  The theatrical version was 2:42, I watched the director's cut, 3:06, and there's also an "ultimate cut," 3:35.  Sometimes a long movie is so great that when it's over it seems like it was shorter, or you want it to go on.  To me, Watchmen was way too long.  And boring.

That's not to say there weren't good parts.  Like I said, the movie was carefully crafted; almost every scene was eye-catching, artfully done, and full of so much detail that there's no way you can catch it all.  The fans that read and carefully reread the graphic novel will wear out their DVD player's remote pausing and replaying scenes to pick it all up. 
I liked the use of music in Watchmen.  A favorite composition of mine, Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi, provided the soundtrack for Mr. Manhattan's first manifestation (pictured above).  An original piece composed for this scene could not have been a better fit. 

Another element I noticed was references to The Man Who Fell to Earth, only because I recently watched it.  One brief scene showed the interior of Mr. Manhattan's apartment, clearly modeled after Newton's apartment, with the ping pong table, astroturf floor, and wallpaper that looks like woods.  In another scence, Ozymandias in front of some televisions recalls Newton's sitting in front of a bank of televisions (pictured here).  I know there were probably dozens more cultural references I missed, more scenes that will be carefully reviewed by the faithful.

As many cool, engaging, and thought-provoking elements Watchmen had, I still found it to be a bit of a bore.

Bottom line, 2 stars.

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