Watchmen


Rife with its own rich backstory, including a complicated development history and copyright infringement lawsuit involving several Hollywood heavy hitters, Zack Snyder's sprawling adaptation of the ground-breaking 1986 graphic novel Watchmen arrives in theaters with perhaps the loudest buzz of any spring release. A vividly re-imagined Cold War-era drama about a group of former masked crimefighters grappling with intrigue against a backdrop of the soured American dream, the film is an instructive lesson on the perils of overstuffed big screen translation. A thematic Whitman's sampler that fitfully touches on a variety of complex issues, but never entirely satisfyingly so, Watchmen is shockingly devoid of natural narrative pull — a beautifully constructed rocket that never gets off the ground.


Nevertheless, the rabid, sizeable fan base for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' respected, award-winning graphic novel, combined with the boutique allure of IMAX presentations should guarantee Watchmen a successful theatrical run, with steady repeat business among its core demographic. Snyder's ultra-violent, hyper-stylized 300 was a worldwide smash, grossing more than $450 million, and given his nascent cachet and the source material's pedigree, it's hard to fathom another R-rated film in 2009 with more of a primed, built-in audience.

A lot of what made Watchmen a landmark achievement in the comic book realm — its imaginative density, philosophical grappling and embrace of different modes of storytelling, including faux primary documents — helps make the film feel bloated and unfocused. David Hayter and Alex Tse's script seems faithful to a degree that handcuffs any substantive exploration of the chief narrative dilemmas, and the curious result is an exercise in tension-free antics and alt-noir styling. The film's performances are also uneven. Billy Crudup, working mostly through a flattened voice, wonderfully conveys the melancholic nature of his character, while Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach (above), an unchained id, gives Watchmen a growling, vengeful heart of darkness. Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson, however, fail to register — problematic since their characters share a love story — while Matthew Goode comes across as too arch. For the full review, from Screen International, click here. (Warner Bros., R, 162 minutes)

 

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  • 3/2/2009 6:12 AM Joe wrote:
    Fanboys gotta cheer, and critics gotta critique, such is life in the realm of watchmen. Moore's vision being captured on film is likely to make us Watchmen geeks' heads explode. But the narrative arc of a comic, much less twelve of them combined in graphic novel format, is far different from the traditional three act structure that fills most filmmaking.

    Since I've yet to see it, I can only guess and speculate about this, but perhaps the vision would have been better presented in its full form with each comic comprising some 45 minutes of stylized HBO series goodness. And the DVD sales would be bigger too.

    But still I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what Snyder hath wrought.
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