Film Version of the Famed Graphic Novel Hits the Mark
Admittedly, I knew nothing of the much loved series of graphic novels, "Watchmen." Whenever a film is done from a fictional depiction of humanity, or a science fictional depiction of a supposed humanity, many humans complain that the book was much better. Since I have never read the novelette, I do not have that wide basis of vision.
I do, however, understand what combined ingredients are necessary to build a fine film, and Director Zach Snyder's "Watchmen" is a fine example of taking the fantastic, and then laboriously working those unequal parts into a film that resembles the possible in the wild realm of science fiction. "Watchmen" succeeds because it is dares to take itself seriously, and has the temerity to never consider the alternative of science-fiction-super-hero as kitschy shtick. The film never laughs at itself, and it dares the audience to take its super-hero realty seriously.
To accomplish this feat, period staging of relative timed actual events woven into the supposition of a Franklin Delano Roosevelt style presidency of Richard Nixon in some parallel realty renders one a sense of its possibility until this fantastic event can be reasonably explained later in the film. It appears that in 1971, with the essential help of the Watchmen, President Nixon ended the Vietnam War with the unconditional surrender of North Vietnam. Therefore there was no Watergate Crisis, and, obviously, the American people through their congress, and the respective state legislatures suspended the 22nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, allowing Nixon to remain in office under the guise of popular support.
The Watchmen are an eclectic collection of characters, with a variety of specialty powers and sometimes - not so much. Reminiscent of society as a whole, these super-heroes are in unequal parts a team that is in total disarray, and can only assimilate their respective positions of power when it is an absolute necessity and even then it is most difficult.
The Watchmen began as an entity in 1940, as the seeds of World War II had blossomed into a full frontal conflict of good versus evil. Understandably, in a larger sense, this turbulent era gave birth to the enormity of the superhero genre, with Superman introduced by DC Comics, and the bulk of this new literary phenomenon finding its footing with the public during this terrible war.
The 1940 collection of Watchmen were the originals that found some measure of success fighting crime and Nazis, but began to unravel, as a group, around the turn of the next decade. They were replaced by their offspring, or other extraordinary like minded members from society. The one exception is the Comedian, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a brutish amoral killer. He began with the original group of Watchmen, and served with the second group until it was retired. The story begins with his murder.
Walter Kovacs also known as Rorschach, a merciless vigilante, ardent investigator, and oddly, the conscience of the second group of Watchmen, revered the Comedian and is diligent in determining the culprit in his murder. Rorschach, ably portrayed by diminutive former child actor Jackie Earle Haley; masked by a gathering nanotech garment that changes into black on white Rorschach inkblot test shapes (hence the name Rorschach); uses the motivational imperative that someone is killing off members of the second group of Watchmen, and therefore they need to reorganize to combine their individual skill sets to apprehend the murderer. The problem is: none of the other members have the initial inspiration of Rorschach, including the Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl, played by Patrick Wilson, Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias (smartest person in the world), played Matthew Goode, or Laurie Jupiter a.k.a. Silk Spectre II, played by Malin Akerman.
Silk Spectre's love interest Jon Osterman a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan, played by underrated actor Billy Crudup, has been genetically and spiritually altered by an accident in the intrinsic field experiment test chamber within his research test facility. Jon's altered ego, Dr. Manhattan, has the capability to access an unlimited array of powers: His repayment for such uninvited power is his increasing detachment from the human race. The straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back is when the good Doctor morphs into a number of clones and instructs the two clones to make love to his needful lady, Silk, while he continues to work on his project of building an antiballistic missile shield for the continued posterity of humanity.
And while these characters, excepting the malevolent Comedian, all strive to protect humanity, moreover, all these characters, including the Comedian, are interesting individually and in their interpersonal relationships within the group. These characters are both so well written by screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse, and fleshed out so brilliantly by all the actors, respectively, but most especially Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup, that one cares about the collective group and each individually, and therefore we are drawn into this fantastic tale.
The film is quite long at 162 minutes, but so worth the time. Remarkably, three of the four best films were made from comics / graphic novels in 2008 / 2009: "Iron Man," "The Dark Knight," "Watchmen." They are the three best films of all time made about super heroes. The fourth is "V for Vendetta" made in 2005.
Do you suppose I liked the film, "Watchmen?" I may even read the novelette.
Rated R. Released on DVD July 21, 2009.