Considering my brief, vitriolic post which appeared when the first images of this film were released, I thought it best to follow up with some quick thoughts after having seen the finished product.
This film's been 20 years in the making- the book, with it's po-mo take on costumed heroes, was perfectly timed in the comic world and has changed everything since. I'm not so sure how it fits into what is now a full-fledged film genre: we have ten dozen Marvel adaptations coming down the pike that may seem a little flighty after this full-on deconstruction of our Modern Myths; the film, like the book before it, does seem like the last word on the superhero.
Will it resonate with the mainstream? I write this on its opening weekend, so only time will tell. Unlike The Dark Knight, which set up Gotham as an Everycity in a heightened societal moment of Rotten Republicans vs. Dreamy Democrats, Watchmen is set in a skewed 1985 where Richard Nixon rules and nuclear apocalypse looms: it's a rarified, detailed setting that harkens way back to the Reagan Years. Now that we're in Obama-topia, dark social satire is seeming passe for the moment.
Yet as an enduring, effective story, it hits all the right beats and (amazingly, for a director like Zach "300" Snyder) covers every tidbit of the dense narrative. Having lived with the characters for 20 years, I was struck at how fresh they came off onscreen, and how effectively their traits and motivations were captured. Nite Owl & Silk Spectre's shared thrill at 're-entering the game', Dr. Manhattan's godlike enlightenment, Rorschach's moral perversity, it's all there- and in the end, its likely audiences will take these vivid characterizations away with them moreso than the tricky plotline. There's a weakness in the portrayal of Ozymandias, the rogue team member who becomes the story's villain, that takes the piss out of what could have been a more shocking, indelible Villainous Plan: the denoument of the narrative, which on the page played out in a hell of a page-turning final chapter, comes off as slightly lame in the film. But I can forgive a bad ending, since I can't recall a genre film with a bang-up third act offhand (even The Dark Knight mangled its ending a bit, with its protracted encounters with Two-Face). It's seeing these smashingly original characters brought to life that thrilled and chilled me. So I give five points for each of these characterizations (no point for Ozymandias), and one for not completely f**king things up: that's a six out of ten.
Posted by Nate Crawford at 3/07/2009