Movie Review:
'Watchmen' brings graphic novel to life
Posted March 20, 2009

Jonathan Smith
Copy Editor

Summer blockbusters typically don’t come out until May, but this year audiences were treated to the highly anticipated film adaption of “Watchmen” on March 6.

Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, “Watchmen” is good, but not great.

The movie takes place in an alternate universe. The year is 1985 and Richard Nixon is president while the U.S. and the Soviet Union are in a nuclear war.

A ban on masked vigilantes has forced superheroes in the shadows, which is ironic since this sounds like a good time for them to save the world from total annihilation.

Some of the heroes choose to hide, while others continue to work for the government. Nevertheless it doesn’t stop the superheroes from caring about humanity.

After a mysterious death of one of the original Watchmen, the Comedian, fellow Watchmen Rorschach comes out of hiding to find out if someone is killing superheroes. After another attempt on Watchmen Ozymandias, the only hero without a secret identity, the group returns to their costumed ways to try to stop the killer.

Director Zack Snyder creates New York, similar to the gritty buildings and graphics of the films “Dark City,” “Sin City” and “Max Payne.” Most of the events take place in the darkness of New York City.

The action sequences are the film’s high points. Filmed similarly to Synder’s “300,” the fight scenes are choreographed with great detail and give some of the best fight scenes produced in recent years. The only downside is that most of the stunning sequences can be viewed in any of the “Watchmen” trailers, taking out some of the surprise.

But be warned, “Watchmen” is not for people with weak stomachs. The film is based off the graphic novel, so there are several gruesome and bloody scenes.

The actors do their best with the material they have. There are no outstanding performances because there is no outstanding dialogue to work with. Rorschach whose unique mask replicas a moving Rorschach inkblot test, is the only character worth examining. Played by Jackie Earle Haley, Rorschach is rebellious and paranoid about the unexplainable occurrences, at the same time he is intriguing and interesting in his philosophies and beliefs.

Billy Crudup’s character, Dr. Manhattan, is the only superhero with superpowers. After a freak accident, his particles are ripped into pieces and somehow after days are reconnected in a blue human form, though he is far from human. His disconnect with humanity leads to crucial moments in the film.

There are other characters such as Ozmandias who is the world’s smartest man, Nite Owl II, the more sensible one in the group, is good with gadgets and Silk Spectre II, whose only talent seems to be her sexuality. But unlike Rorschach, it is hard to feel any since of connection with them because it’s hard to care for them.

Overall, some parts of the film are entertaining, but soon the film stalls and can’t seem to get out of the mud.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it stands at 2 hours and 42 minutes, and is too long to keep that lasting impression. The ending does not play off from the beginning and makes you wonder why you have invested any time in the film at all. With the graphic novel reaching 12 comic books, it would have been wise to make two films. There seem to be too many back stories and side plots.

There is nothing wrong with long movies. Many of the greatest movies have the actual running times similar to “Watchmen” or longer. But the difference is that those great movies are compelling from start and finish. “Watchmen” has compelling scenes but not enough, which might lead you to watching your watch instead of the film.

Jonathan Smith can be reached at

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