Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review - Watchmen

Someone has killed off an ex-masked hero and Rorschach, a masked vigilante, has taken it upon himself to find the answers. Rorschach rekindles old friendships and searches out allies and rivals alike, trying to uncover who is commiting the murders, instead his investigation takes him much further than he ever expected. Rorschach and his allies unfold a mysterious plan that could have disasterous worldwide implications.

Director Zack Snyder was able to do what I thought impossible in a single-shot motion picture of "Watchmen." The graphic novel itself is so large and has so many varying plotlines and storyarcs, it seemed impossible to create a cohesive story, that would still deliver the same impact as the legendary graphic novel. Snyder however, was able to present an engaging and cohesive story that jumped right off the pages of the beloved comic and right on to the screen. Not only did Snyder create a cohesive story, his obsessive attention to detail throughout the entire production process is clearly evident and has paid off in remarkable fashion.

Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" is a visual masterpiece. From the first frame to the final shot, the film is an eye-popping extravaganza that has the viewer in absolute awe and under complete captivation. Snyder reteamed with his 300 cinematographer Larry Fong, and once again they are able to translate direct animation from the comic into moving images on screen. The slow motion capture utilized during the fighting sequences in Watchmen is unsurpassed and brought the comic to life by slowing down the action, essentially pausing the actors in exact images taken from the book. It is definately a sight to behold. The sets were perfectly constructed to match the look of the book and the era, the colors were vibrant, ringing true to Gave Gibbons beautiful work and the costumes were flawlessly designed to bring a sense of realism while reflecting the illustartions from the book. The imagery presented throughout "Watchmen" has a true fan of the graphic novel gasping and almost jumping for joy, time and time again, with all that comes directly from the book right on to the screen in the 163 minute film.

Snyder and his writing team consisting of David Hayter and Alex Tse magnificently developed Alan Moore's work as best they could under a one film format. The film like the book, follows Rorschach's journal entries while unweaving characters backstories and motives in the grand scheme of the whole story. Most of the backstories have been cut down or ommited due to the time frame limitations Warner felt neccessary for the film, but are mainly flushed out with only a few exceptions. One positive, Snyder and Warner will have a limited release of the 3 hour and 10 minute director's cut to "Watchmen" in theaters this July that will expand the film, including Hollis Mason's death and other more graphic scenes in the book. Lastley, it is widely known that Snyder and the writing team have changed the ending of the book in the film. Without giving away anything, Synder is able to keep the same outcome by only changing the means. I had no major problems with the re-write and in some ways the result seems far more logical.

The cast of "Watchmen" is outstanding. It is very rare with a cast this size and a story of this magnitude, to have every angle and member contribute in unblemished fashion, but again "Watchmen" pulls it off. Each actor became their prespective character's and did dynamic jobs in their performances.

First and foremost, Jackie Earle Haley is Rorschach! Haley delivers the standout performance in "Watchmen" and really does a fabulous job of carrying the film. His monologues are directly taken from the page and set a engaging tone to the alternate universe film. Haley's moments in prison were flawless and drove home Rorschach's pain creating his vigilante identity.

Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Night Owl II and Jeffery Dean Morgan as Howard Blake/the Comedian were fantastic. Wilson did an ideal job of capturing Dan's despair and a want to re-live his past as a hero. While Morgan delivered a exceptional performance as the hardened Howard Blake/the Comedian. Although his character was one to feel a bit of a trim, Morgan conveyed the ruthless and cynical outlook of the Comedian accurately.

Billy Crudup playing Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan, despite the at times awkward blue cgi, defined the character in a impeccable approach. Crudup was able to convey Dr. Manhattan's diminishment with humanity while not becoming emotionless. He furthermore precisely portrayed Dr. Manhattan's struggle with his powers and his connection or loss thereof to human life. Malin Akerman who was a capable actress and more than fit the part, felt outshined by Billy Crudup and Patrick Wilson as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II. Most of Laurie's screen time is shared between Dr. Manhattan and Dan Dreiberg/Night Owl II and while she does not diminish any of the scenes, Akerman does not match the flawless performances of her co-stars.

Matthew Goode took on a role that has always been my least favorite on the page, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, and made him rellevant and interesting in a whole new way. Goode was the perfect reflection of the world's smartest man, one who looked down upon the entire world. I was however, bitterly disappointed that Snyder had removed the majority of Adrian Veidt's backstory. Understanding Veidt's obsession with Alexander and the lengths he goes to fully explore Alexander's legacy is critical to story. (Here's hoping that is something added into the director's cut!)

"Watchmen" was a film that had better be damn good in order to please fans and Zack Snyder has definately done just that. "Watchmen" was a brillaint re-creation of a timeless graphic novel. The story moved in captivating form throughout, one that allowed both people who have read the book or not, to enjoy the film. The imagery was astonishing in every way and never became over-indulgent or too stylized. The score and soundtrack are expertly matched to the film with standouts coming from the opening and closing songs by Bob Dylan, the latter being covered by My Chemical Romance. Finally, "Watchmen" was a epic movie going experience that measures up to my hopes for a single shot Watchmen film.