Watchmen: Director’s Cut

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Completely entertaining and dripping with fan appreciated details, Watchmen is a gift to comic book nerds and film enthusiasts alike.

Watchmen: Director’s Cut

Directed by Zach Synder

Trying to determine the value of a film based on a book (or graphic novel in this case), is a dangerous undertaking. Separating the downfalls and offering credit can be near impossible when deciding on who the recipient is: director or writer. Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) Watchmen has the same age old battle of book vs. film. Beginning with the untimely demise of the Comedian (played by Jeffery Dean Morgan) and his smiley faced symbol, there are thematic devices imperative to the plot line that will gently float under the bridge of perception of those who have not read the graphic novel. This applies throughout the movie, as Snyder provides the Watchmen faithful with details that will have the uneducated swarming with unanswered questions.  My plight is vain, however, as Snyder succeeds thoroughly in bringing an epic, passionate and deeply adored graphic novel to the big screen.

n588156813_1746538_8099We are introduced to the doomed, apocalyptic world of Watchmen with the Comedian’s death. As the slow, romantic music orchestrates the beautiful struggle between masked assailant and former vigilante, we are immediately prepared for the level of disparity to come, with scenes of a TV set spouting nuclear destruction and impending apocalypse. Set in a bleak world, Snyder uses constant pathetic fallacy, throughout the film, to ensure the audience understand the gravity of the situation. While the characters operate in a streamlined, plot-progressive manner, the world at large remains generally the same: an uproarious panic-determined to escape fate. The impending apocalypse in which this world exists is zealously reinforced by Snyder. The omnipresent Doomsday Clock originating in the graphic novel, combined with Snyder’s epic long, wide sweeping helicopter shots of the city, huge dark frames completely center lit, dark color scheme, and innovative shadows, provide a very complete imagination of the New York intended by Alan Moore.

comedian-edward-blake-watchmen-120Following the Comedian’s murder, comes the best credits I have seen in a while. Slow-mo scenes are shown, credits appearing randomly, while Snyder gives us a brief history of the Minutemen and some events leading to that moment. If you have not read the graphic novel at this point, the information is complete enough that you might begin to piece together the Watchmen world. Snyder does not relent from his use of slow motion, as the credits is his second time using it, and continues to showcase pivotal action moments with the slow motion effect. Usually I am not a fan of this cheese-ball tactic; however, Snyder chooses the perfect moments in order to employ it. . In the scene when Nite Owl II (played by Patrick Wilson) and Silk Specter II (played by Malin Ackerman) are freeing Rorschach from jail, they must fight their way through a hallway of enemies. Snyder uses quick, high cuts as well as allowing the film to slow for the final seconds of punches, kicks and leaps; Snyder really emphasizes the power that exists in these superheroes. Although we are introduced to each as a mere human, their true physical power is intensely amplified with that slow-mo effect. Gliding between long, high camera angles and quick, close cuts, Snyder beautifully animates the vision laid out by Moore.

exclusive-watchmen-images-01-800-75Of course Snyder is given the themes, messages, setting and dialogue in the graphic novel, however, the rest is left in his capable hands. What Snyder is truly accomplishing with his film is not in the creation of, but in the portrayal of Moore’s world. Every detail, from the graffiti on the walls, to Ozymandia’s genetically modified purple lynx, is present. Snyder did not overlook a single purple whisker in recreating New York circa Nixon. The Tales of the Black Freighter’s pleasant side-story are not included in the film but we do see the recurring newspaper sales-man and the young black kid reading a copy of it. The fact that Snyder includes all of these minuscule specifics is what will immerse you; this kind of dedication is what is truly to be admired about Watchmen.

exclusive-watchmen-images-800-75The attention to details does not stop with the writing on the wall. Snyder has cast this movie as flawlessly as the actors have performed it. The height of this compliment goes directly to Rorschach. Played by Jackie Earle Haley, there is no character as well-defined and deep as Rorschach. From the grating guttural voice to his shady, trench coat look, Haley really brings his talents to the forefront. Coming from other disturbed characters (Ronnie in Little Children) Haley feels very natural behind Rorschach’s constantly shifting face. From his psychological interview, to his journal entries, Haley focuses on the twisted past of Rorschach, and embodies the torn vigilante perfectly. Fortunately, Snyder’s casting was quite excellent over-all as I enjoyed the performances by Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan) and most of the other cast. One performance I noted, however justified by her extreme sex appeal, is a rather lackluster effort by Malin Ackerman. She is extremely sexy in this film, assisted by the tight leather costumes, but her line delivery leaves something to be desired. As far as the other costumes are concerned, everything is as it should be. Snyder modernized, to a small degree, the costumes drawn in Watchmen, but the mise-en-scene is very reflective of its parenting graphic novel.

watchmen_14The poor line delivery may not be entirely Ackerman’s fault though, as Snyder adhered fairly strictly to the dialogue originally recorded by Moore. As a graphic novel from the late 80’s some of the dialogue is dated, but Snyder and his cast does an excellent job of making their characters believable. Which applies to every aspect of this film. It’s realism. This might sound silly, as I am describing a superhero movie filled with flying devices named Archimedes, giant blue time-traveling men and latex costumes, but Watchmen leaves you with an eerie feeling that this world exists just behind the veils of our current one. Snyder’s gritty visuals and the great performance by the actors definitely add another layer to the believability of an already timeless graphic novel.

As a film trying to live up to its insanely popular graphic novel fore-bearer, Watchmen can not be called a failure. Completely entertaining and dripping with fan appreciated details, Watchmen is a gift to comic book nerds and film enthusiasts alike. Snyder’s adaptation centers on, without distorting the important themes, inventive world and deep characters of the graphic novel, all the while dazzling the audience with his beautiful camera work, amazing details and great casting.

– Tim Buschhaus

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