11 March 2009

Watchmen - The Spoiler-Free-ish Review

*** WARNING: While I won't be going into plot details, I may spill a hint or two about the movie. If you haven't yet read the graphic novel or seen the movie and you wish to be surprised when you do, you might want to stop reading this review now. But if you don't care, by all means, read away. ***

This past Saturday, after sitting around the condo for most of the day, I got a bit bored and decided to do something I hadn't done in many months - go see a movie. Watchmen had just been released the day before and so I thought to myself, "Self," because that's what I call myself, "let us go watch Watchmen and see if it lives up to the hype or if it's the big disappointment that the pre-release reviews say it is." And so I went on Fandango, bought my ticket, printed it out, and trekked my way to the movie theater.

I arrived about forty minutes early (cutting it close, from what I've heard about the lines). Seeing the parking lot half empty, I felt safe in lighting up a smoke before entering the theater. I walked up to the ticket guy, handed him my pre-printed ticket, and entered the lobby.

I was immediately accosted by some fellow taking a survey on commercials shown before the movies. If you know me or if you're a faithful reader, you already know my position on commercials at the movies, but what was a couple minutes out of my life? What can I say, I was feeling generous.

So yes. Movie.

But first there were the previews, most of which, yet again, disappointed me greatly.

"Excuse me, sir." Ah ... the survey taker followed me into the theater! "I forgot to ask your age." I told him my age and, slightly startled, he replied, "Do you mind if I put you down as twenty-four years old? I didn't realize you were outside of the demographic."

Sure, dude. Knock yourself out.

Disappointing trailers. Yes. Littering my vision like ... well ... like litter, I suppose. Except for one. Where the first trailer was witty (as I commented on my other movie review last year), this trailer got me all sorts of excited. To quote Tuffie, "Finally the Star Trek series is going to be fun and explosive and [...] ENTERTAINING again for its entire fan base!" Amen and hallelujah.

Now to the movie.

I'm not a Watchmen fanboy. I've never read the graphic novel, though I will now to see what was edited or scripted out of the movie, as I did with The Lord Of The Rings trilogy ... as "epic" as a movie based on existing material can be, something important is always left out. Anyway, I was walking into this movie a complete Watchmen virgin, with no expectations other than to be impressed by a good story, neat-o effects, and bone-crunching fight scenes. (Notice I didn't say good acting.)

I wasn't disappointed.

Fantasy movies, by definition, demand the audience to suspend a good deal of belief. Even fantasy movies "grounded in realism" like Christopher Nolan's Batman series. You have to walk in knowing that very little that is about to happen is plausible in any way whatsoever in the real world. I do appreciate the attempt to make it as "real" as possible to allow the audience to connect to it in some real way, though.

I enjoyed seeing the heroes as the semi-realistically flawed people they would be if they truly existed. Seriously, if your soul purpose for living was to fight crime, how could you not be at the very least marginally screwed up? Or if you were the only person on the planet who embodied the definition of superhuman and could see the past and the future and all other planes of existence simultaneously, how could you not help but become apathetic toward humanity and its incessant need to eradicate itself? I understood this side of these characters. I liked seeing this side of these characters.

I appreciated that a character existed who saw the world in absolutes, who refused to compromise despite the ramifications. As much as we are hesitant to admit as much, people like that do walk our earth. I also appreciated that some of these characters needed to be heroes ... they needed that fix as badly as an addict needs a score or some people need attention.

I found the pacing of the movie to be comfortable. It slowed just enough in a couple places to add some back narrative and to allow the audience to catch their collective breath. Of course, it helps to have a character like Rorschach to push it along.

The fight scenes were pretty cool, though nothing I haven't seen before. I think, maybe, they would have been better if Mr. Snyder hadn't relied on his now-becoming-signature slow motion shots. Maybe one day an American director will study Asian action movies and learn how to do action correctly without having to rely on gimmickry.

Oh, but what of the plot, dear Diarist?

The story is pretty solid, as superhero movies go. I don't think it would have been as surprising if I had been watching for the signs that were peppered throughout the story. Yes, there are plenty of clues leading up to the big finale and if you are watchful (HA!) you will see them. I, obviously, wasn't. Frankly, I was so drawn in to the movie. There is so much visually to take in. And the acting, while not spectacular (with exception of Jackie Earle Haley), is strong enough to support the script.

My only major quarrel (which is a minor quarrel, really) is defining Ozymandias as "The World's Smartest Man". "The World's Most Perceptive Man" or "The World's Most Opportunistic Man" or even "The World's Greatest Chess Player", perhaps. But I didn't see anything in the movie that would qualify him as the smartest man on the planet. (Unless you argue that being the most perceptive, most opportunistic, and greatest chess player all at once makes you the smartest. I might concede the point on that argument.)

All in all, a good flick. A long flick. But definitely worth your time. Just make sure you have plenty of it.

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