When I was in high school, I was able to read Alan Moore’s seminal comic book series, The Watchmen. This was 2002, and from the first page until the end I felt like I had entered a new world, a world that said fuck you to your typical superhero clichés and saw them as morally corrupt, pessimistic, uncaring, egomaniacal and psychotic. I would recommend it to anyone I knew and everyone thought the same, that it was awesome. I knew they had been trying to make a film out of it for many years, but I really couldn’t imagine the movie working. It’s such an epic story, and such a downer, that I couldn’t visualize the typical Hollywood moviegoer going and watching the damn film. In 2009 the adaptation finally came out, adapted by a director I was half and half about (love 300, hate the Dawn of the Dead remake). How did it fare?
Well, half and half. The movie is definitely not as epic as the comic book, but then again I was expecting the adaptation to be different. Otherwise, what’s the point of making the film? From comics to movies there are always changes, and fanboys always take it overtly seriously, and I never understood why. The script is solid, able to take it’s central theme, that of a killer targeting superheroes and the living ones investigating it, and able to flesh it’s most psychologically complex elements, like the relationships and psyches of the characters, without sacrificing the most important aspects of it. Zach Snyder is on top of his game as a filmmaker, able to replicate a lot of what the comic features while adding his own flavor at the same time. His use of editing and music is particularly effective, from the excellent opening credits featuring Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’ Changin’, the funeral sequence featuring Simon And Garfunkel’s Sound Of Silence, and the arrival to Ozymandias’ pyramid home to the tune of Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower”. These sequences are as good as editing gets.
The casting is spot-on, for the most part. The main stand-out is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, the psychotic vigilante with the ever-changing face. His portrayal is truly frightening but sympathetic enough to make his rants relatable, particularly when he narrates the event with the pedophile. Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) and Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl) are all excellent as well, making their performances as faithfully to the comic counterparts as possible. Many have criticized Billy Crudup’s performance as Dr. Manhattan to be dull and lifeless, but like it or not, that’s how the character is. The only way to create and uncaring character is to make an uncaring performance, and he did it well. The only flaw in the film is Malin Ackerman, who is pretty good at comedies but can’t act in dramatic roles at all. I still don’t understand why she gets top billing. She looks hot so she did her purpose. I just wish they had used Carla Gugino for the role instead of Ackerman.
The movie changes some things from the comic, such as the apocalyptic finale created by Ozymandias, but honestly, seeing an alien invasion wouldn’t have worked in a film the way it did in the comic book, and I was glad they changed it. As far as adaptations gom, this is one of the best to ever come out, being able to stay faithful to the material while being original at the same time. Highly recommended.