2009 – Out Now
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Harley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson
‘Hello Mr. Snyder, is that another overhyped mainstream display of laziness in your pocket?’
Adapted from the popular graphic novel of the same name, ‘Watchmen’ delves into the dark emotional mentality of a superhero; but at what cost?
Zack Snyder once again captivates the minds of hoards of fans with his “visionary” directing skills.
The word visionary, is a poor label to slap on Snyder. I would give him credit for it in ‘300’ being that I’ve not read the book for it, but in the instance of ‘Watchmen’, I have read and greatly enjoyed the graphic novel. Whilst reading it I was unsurprised that a movie was being made, and was also unsurprised that Snyder would be directing. But from the point I heard his name, my expectations started to drop. Having seen, and been greatly dissatisfied by, ‘300’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (His biggest previous hits) I couldn’t say I was expecting too much directionally from ‘Watchmen’.
Often when low expectations are in order, they are exceeded particularly easily. However they were matched, and actually having read the graphic novel, I saw exactly what kind of director Snyder is. He is a lazy one. Pretty much for all of his shots, he used the graphic novel as a storyboard. He used practically no creativity in creating his shots; he just took them straight out of the book and slapped them onto the big screen. This does not make Snyder a visionary; this makes him a very lazy boy, as well as a cop-out. I can only assume this was his vague attempt at appealing to fans of the novel, when fans have already been drawn in by the name of the film.
The film also lacked a lot of the depth that the book had. The film had an onslaught of flashback sequences establishing characters psyche, and the way they are in the present time frame. While somewhat necessary to the depth of character, there are many more inventive ways of establishing the same sense of character, and this is once again laziness, but on the hands of screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse. However, while these flashbacks gave great depth of character to the cast members who could act well, it detracted very heavily from the main story, which is where the depth is lacking the most.
In the novel, the story is a very well executed consistently running undertone. In the film it is a poor one. We start with an introduction to the main plot, and then it seems to be practically dropped for all the flashbacks and character establishment. By the end the main plot is wrapped up far too quickly, with minimal and static development which could easily leave new audiences a little bemused and clueless as to what happened, as well as how and why.
The shining performance here is without a doubt, Jackie Earle Haley. Haley plays ‘Rorschach’, the darkest and deepest character, and his performance throughout is absolutely perfect. Not only does he portray the character well from the book, but he simply performs brilliantly as an actor. Billy Crudup also gave a fantastic performance as ‘Dr. Manhattan’, his facial expressions and attenuate display of emotion is executed superbly.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for most of the other cast, in particular Malin Akerman, who plays ‘Silk Spectre II’. Whilst she is without a doubt the most stereotypical character in the novel, this is no reason why she cannot perform well. She is greatly unimpressive. Patrick Wilson lacked something too. He’s not a terrible actor from what I’ve seen before, but it feels as if he is lacking something as ‘Nite Owl II’. It is possible that this is down to Snyder’s direction, but could equally be Wilson’s fault.
Whilst overall depth is lost, with only two exceptional performances, and replicated camera work; it can’t be faulted that the special effects are stunning. The effects are quite thrilling, but the thrill isn’t really felt too much, it’s eye candy with no heart. The fight scenes with gratuitous violence, ‘Rorschach’s unorthodox methods of acquiring information, and almost anything involving ‘Dr. Manhattan’ (in particular, obliterating Vietcong with a single thought), made for a visually pleasing set of scenes, even if the cinematography is just an uninventive replication.
Though, these scenes are simply not enough. Due to the lack of story depth, it leaves most in-between scenes feeling underdeveloped and a little tedious; perhaps not so much for fans of the novel, but especially for new audiences. It feels like they tried to simply replicate the graphic novel as is, whilst taking odd bits out here and there. For new audiences this will create a feeling of emptiness, due to the fact that there are subtle nuances within the book that might not seem valuable, but add to the character as well as story, and are thus actually important.
As a companion to the book, this is pretty entertaining and works well, being that fans will know what is going on and are able to fill in any blanks. But for new audiences, especially those who’ve never heard of ‘Watchmen’ before, this will just seem tedious, undeveloped and perhaps just a little bit messy with some visual high-points around.
Added to this, the soundtrack was particularly ‘try-hard’, including Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ during a notably cheesy love scene. As well as some dreadful rock song over the end credits. This seemed distinctly detached from the rest of the film, especially given the time period.
Overall, this works best as a companion to the book and is mostly fan orientated. But for new audiences I don’t really recommend it, for there will be disappointment and emptiness.
Personally, I must admit that I was reasonably entertained by the film, but I feel this is because I am a fan of the novel, and therefore know the ins and outs of the story. But it doesn’t really do the book much justice to be perfectly honest.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for Jackie Earle Haley, but I won’t be rushing out to see this film again. This is a fairly unimpressive 6 out of 10; an uncreative, lazy, near beat-for-beat replication.