Who Watches the Watchmen,...well, I did.
There are several versions that exist of the Watchmen movie (Theatrical cut, Ultimate Cut, Motion Comic Version), but this review applies to the Director’s Cut. I had seen the shorter theatrical cut in (obviously) the theatre when this film first came out, and I was not too impressed with it. The pacing and structure of the story was not well handled and was such an uneven movie. But the Director’s Cut which runs just over 3 hours is surely an improvement. I couldn’t tell you what is added to this version, but overall it seems more complete and all parts of the story are given enough time to grow and conclude at their proper rate.
Watchmen is a nearly literal screen adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. I have not read this novel, but it is often referred to as THE greatest comic book ever and also one of the best 20th century novels. The story takes place in an alternate 1975 America, where the Watchmen (a group of masked vigilantes) have given up on helping to save people after being banned from society. Once one of their members is murdered, the Watchmen begin to reunite and attempt to solve the crime which may be linked to the escalating nuclear tensions between USA and Russia.
The style of this movie is somewhat similar to Sin City with regards to how shots are framed, coloured and its use of narration. This is an obvious comparison since that movie is also adapted from another one of the most beloved graphic novels. It is also similar to The Dark Knight in terms of dealing with the responsibilities a vigilante gives himself or owes to society.
Now for an actual review, this is a truly compelling film. The length flies by, and the incredible visuals and details of the environment keep you fully immersed in this world. Since it is a direct adaptation, the film is virtually divided into separate chapters that each focus on a certain character’s background and personality. This can be viewed as good (for its originality) or bad (for the resulting pace of the film). Personally, I don’t think this choice works very well, but it is nevertheless a deliberate choice that honours the original novel and helps to deeply establish each of our masked heroes and the outlook on vigilantism that they represent.
The acting is nothing special, and the directing is fine since he is just replicating the novel shot for shot. There are numerous song choices throughout that can be really cheesy or cliche, but some of them work. Specifically Bob Dylan's "Times are a Changin" over the beautiful opening credits fits perfectly. The real genius and fascination behind this film is the source material and subsequently, the story. Although the plot is simple, this is a thematically complex story that has tons to say about the state of the cold war in the late 70s, vigilantes, rebellion, god-complexes, one’s responsibility to society, and so on and so forth. Therefore most of the credit of this film goes to Alan Moore’s graphic novel.
Summary: I haven’t seen the even longer Ultimate Cut, but the Director’s Cut is a definite improvement on the original release. Watchmen has a lot to say and a lot to show you within its world. This is not a happy movie, but will definitely pose many complex questions in your head. Bringing the graphic novel alive, this movie becomes #243 out of the 1478 movies I’ve seen [courtesy of flickchart.com].