Watchmen | Film Review

Cheese and Bacon
Michael C. Riedlinger

            At midnight on March 6, 2009, thousands of comic book fans and blockbuster filmgoers alike filled theaters across the country to see if Zack Snyder’s Watchmen could live up to the hype. For some, it was a question of purism. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work of graphic fiction has become a sort of sacred cow in the last two decades. For others, it didn’t matter if the subtleties of the book translated faithfully, this was a chance to see the first high-octane adrenaline film of 2009. In either case, it was a tall order to fill. So how did Snyder do?

            As far as capturing the small strokes and nuances of the book goes, Snyder couldn’t have been more ham-handed if he had been fisting two sows while making this film. From the beginning, he hammers viewers over the head with the themes of Watchmen. For those that might miss it, this is a deconstruction of the American superhero. See, no one is perfect, and the folks that fight crime as masked vigilantes must have bigger problems than the rest of us because they’re bigger than life. Actually, that’s about as close to the theme of the book as Snyder gets. The book is much more than that. Alan Moore explores ideas like humanity as a state of being, and the ways in which we react to crises individually and as a people. Snyder opts for the simpler, Joel Schumacher style “superheroes are cool” idea.

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            Don’t get me wrong; the superheroes really are cool in this movie. The visual element of this film is stunning. That said, Snyder goes hokey with the fight scenes. The jerky movements and bullet-time ballet are meant to remind us that “this is a comic book”, but all he succeeds in doing is detracting from what could be phenomenal action sequences. Moore’s fans will point out that his work was meta-fiction, and thus Snyder doesn’t need to remind us that the story is about comic book characters. Those new to Watchmen will ultimately find Snyder’s stylization to be distracting, and those that do not, will be browbeaten by Moore fans worldwide. All the style in the world, despite what Bukowski says, can’t save the clumsiness that Zack Snyder presents here.

            What this film truly lacks is a sense of subtlety and grace. How Snyder could think for a second that his film wouldn’t be compared to the book when he’s spent the last few years adapting other people’s work is beyond me. He should have been paying attention to the text as closely as Peter Jackson or Robert Rodriguez would. Up until now, I’ve been a fan of this director, but on Watchmen, Snyder’s sense for kinetic editing and explosive action sequences falls short and feels like immature fantasy. Compare the film to the book, and this sense only doubles. I’ve seen three-legged dogs with more grace than this film. In light of the $100,000,000+ price tag on Watchmen, Snyder had best hope that it makes a killing opening weekend, or he may not have another chance to make a name for himself adapting the works of more creative people.

Final Verdict (out of 5):