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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’ a stylish, slick adaptation

HRM.  Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) in Zack Snyders adaptation of the popular graphic novel Watchmen.
HRM. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) burns 'em all in Zack Snyder's adaptation of the popular graphic novel "Watchmen."

A doomsday clock ominously ticks towards midnight. An ex-superhero, the Comedian, is brutally killed to the tune of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.” These images, along with a montage of a parallel universe of 1985 where Nixon is elected for a third term and Vietnam is won, set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” starts off “Watchmen,” directed by Zack Snyder (“300”).

Though there are some signs of Snyder’s signature style, like the slow motion fight scenes and abundance of blood splatter, the film remains extremely faithful to the graphic novel which was named one of Time’s 100 Best English-language novels. The elements that were taken out, like character backstories and some alterations to the ending, don’t detract from the film itself. Though the film definitely hints at connections or plotlines in the graphic novel, knowledge of the book isn’t required to enjoy or understand the film.

The film mainly follows Rorschach, the paranoid masked man played by the outstanding Jackie Earle Haley, as he investigates the   deaths of ex-superheroes. All the while, the Cold War rages on and the issues of these tortured superheroes come to the forefront and culminate as nuclear war ticks closer and closer.

Not having read all of “Watchmen,” I can’t comment on how faithful it remains to the graphic novel, but it’s impressive how much Snyder managed to cram into a three hour film while allowing the film to move along at a brisk pace (though the third act drags a little), swiftly jumping back and forth in time and space (literally –– the radioactive Dr. Manhattan who is the United States’ nuclear deterrent takes a few trips to Mars).

“Watchmen” is beautifully filmed, with stylized violence, and bleak yet iconic images, such as a smiley face pin with blood drips, and Rorschach standing on the roof in the rain looking down at a city so villainous that he isn’t sure he wants to save it. Snyder never forgoes his own personal love for the slow motion fight scenes, especially in the Comedian’s murder, yet the violence seems to fit the nature of the characters rather than to be gratuitous (with a few exceptions).

The greatest strength of “Watchmen,” however, is its casting. By choosing lesser-known characters actors such as Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson and Oscar-nominated Jackie Earle Haley (fantastic in “Little Children”), the performances come off as believable, elevating the film to a higher level than just another comic book movie.

The sole female protagonist, Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), falls flat at points with a ridiculous hairstyle and bad acting, but her relationship as Dr. Manhattan’s last connection to the human world anchors the film with emotions like love that are sometimes missing in such a bleak story.

Although “Watchmen” aspires to be a dystopian tale of fallen superheroes and Cold War paranoia, it does still remain a comic book film, and falls into the trap of having the final revelation with the villain’s overly long spiel.

Yet the flaws of this film are overshadowed by what it does achieve: It’s an audaciously filmed, fast-paced and faithful adaptation of the ultimate ‘unfilmable’ graphic novel, prime and ready for both cinema and IMAX screens everywhere.

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  • K

    kunderempMar 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Snyder is not faithful. There are a lot of innovation on the movie. Some of the innovation are hit and others are miss.

    The opening credit was definitely a hit. The slow motion was definitely a miss. The action scene was definitely a miss. Some of the fans love the extreme violence exceeding the graphic novels and the other fans believed the violences are unnecesary and believe Nolan’s TDK approach are better and more comfort to the graphic novel version.