Sunday, March 8, 2009

Watchmen Review

First off I want to point out that the image at the head of this review is from the Watchmen soundtrack which is most excellent. The music in this movie is down right perfect. Songs like The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan and All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix and The Sound Of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel pull you back in time and ground you in the world of Watchmen.

Overall I think the movie succeeds in translating the book to the big screen. After watching the film I find myself wondering why so many people thought Watchmen was unfilmable. Watchmen is a good film but like any film it isn't for everyone. If you like superhero movies with plenty of action laid over a solid story with good characters then this movie is for you. Fans of the book, I would say to you, think about how much you like the book. The more you love the book the more likely you are to dislike any and every change made. If you can set aside you preconceptions of what this movie 'should' look like then you have a better than even chance of liking this movie.

Turn back now ye who have not read Watchmen, there be spoilers ahead.

There aren't too many but you have been warned, now on with the review.

I went into this movie with high expectations due to all the hype I had seen online and off. From the opening logos to the ending credits this movie does not disappoint.

I felt the movie stayed true to the graphic novel, keeping everything important while trimming out the not so important stuff. I haven't read the book in awhile but there are a few places where the dialog felt different. When it comes out on DVD I'll probably sit down with my copy and see exactly what got changed or dropped.

The film seemed very violent at times but I don't think they added anything that wasn't in the book. Fights are bloody and brutal. When Dr M blows people up, they literally blow up in a spray of blood and organs. The rape scene is shown and violent and the rapist is definitely not shown as sympathetic in anyway.

There are three scenes featuring sex in the movie, only one featuring full on screen nudity, which is in keeping with the book. I thought the scenes were well shot and didn't shy away from what was in the book.

On the subject of nudity, I liked that they let Dr. Manhattan walk around nude. I was sure that they would have him wearing shorts the whole movie. In his first scene of the movie he's naked but they keep from showing his crotch by having him facing away from the camera and cutting to another shot just before he turns all the way around. When I saw that I thought, "I guess they're going to play hide the penis," then they showed it later and I was like, "Oh cool they had the balls(no pun) to show it." I personally am not bothered by nudity but think it's a good thing when characters can be nude outside of a sex scene and have to hide their genitals.

One thing that bothered me was Silk Spectre II's costume. I don't care that they changed it from a see through kimono and swimsuit to skin tight latex. What bothers me is that her costume provides her with the least protection than any other superhero. Unless it's like bulletproof latex then even Rorschach with his two coats is better protected. Ozymandias got sculpted body armor when his costume in the book was just cloth. Nite Owl's costume was upgraded to body armor. So why not the Silk Spectre?

One other thing that bothered me was the lack of people of color and women in speaking roles. All the main heroes are white as are most other speaking roles. The only person of color I can remember with a speaking role was the psychiatrist that interviews Rorschach in prison. As for women, we have only the Silk Spectre among the heroes and her mother with speaking roles. There was another woman hero, Silhouette, but she didn't have any lines. I'm hard pressed to think of another woman who had a speaking role. Of course all this is exactly the way it is in the book so there isn't much to be done about that without making affirmative action like changes. I did notice that the background characters were nicely diversified which is at least something.

While I'm thinking about it, Silhouette is one character that I wish had gotten more time in the book and maybe a different ending. I'm not saying they should have changed it for the movie, I'm saying I wished the book, that the movie is based on, had been different. I really liked her costume because it wasn't skimpwear like most female heroes are forced to wear in comics. It is stylish and sexy without being revealing and featured pants, a rarity among female costumes. In the book, she was forced out of the Minutemen, the group of heroes from the forties, when her status as a lesbian became public knowledge and was later killed for the same reason. In the movie she is mentioned once by a main character but her story is told in the opening credits through a pair of scenes, the second of which showing her dead with her lover is gut wrenching.

The ending... well do you remember that episode of the Outer Limits where they change this guy into this pseudo alien and then drop him in a populated area so that the world can unite against a common enemy thus ending all war? Well the ending is kind of like that. In fact towards the end they show the opening of the Outer Limits on a tv which I think is a nod to the show. Not terrible, not great but it works well enough.

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