Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (As if no one's used that as a title)

Having had nearly a week to ruminate on Watchmen, I believe I can properly dissect its qualities.

Partially for the sheer awesomeness of it1 we saw it in IMAX2, and the movie lived well up to the $15 price tag. Visually, Zach Snyder did a fantastic job of bringing the images off the page and onto the screen; many scenes are virtual shot-for-shot remakes of the book. Snyder, who is alternately lauded and harangued for his strict adherence to source material, appears to have been an infinitely wise choice for the role - he obviously brought 300 to glorious, blood-splattered life, and a strict following of the Watchmen was exactly what fans would demand. The (very) few changes that are made actually serve to improve upon the story - in terms of simplifying some of the more convoluted portions. Even the opening credits did an excellent job of burning through several pages in the book to give us much of the necessary backstory (Richard Nixon is still President as term limits have been abolished, the US and USSR are on the brink (not metaphorically at all) of nuclear war, the Watchmen are the second incarnation - after the Minutemen - of masked heroes).

There is very little backstory about the individual characters (there's really not that much in the book, either), but each of the characters is so defined by their personal conflicts, demons, motives, and needs that very little is actually needed - you can understand what drives the characters more often than not simply by knowing who they are now. Even Adrian Veidt - who we see for only a small portion of the movie - makes decisions and displays methods that seem perfectly inline with his character.

Nite Owl's impotence when not in costume, Rorshach's black-and-white view of the world, Silk Spectre II's inner turmoil with being a hero, Silk Spectre's inability to understand why her daughter doesn't love being a hero as she did. Oh, right, and there's the big blue guy. The character of Dr. Manhattan could easily have devoled into an emotionless, detached demi-god, but Snyder's direction and Billy Crudup's acting lend the movie's only true superhero a depth and perspective that is only matched by his development in the book. You can see how conflicted he is as he contemplates his role in the movie's climax and the decision he ultimately makes for the betterment of everyone.

Finally, from a guy's point of view, it's excellent. The fight at the beginning with the Comedian is drawn out and brutal, a true beating if ever one has been seen. There are gadgets, plenty of violence (Rorshach's jail break, for instance), superheroes and even a boob or two.

I don't know if I liked it quite to the level I liked Dark Knight, but at the moment, it will take one hell of a film to top it during this calendar year.

1 - I warned Meaghan, Jenn, and Anita that I could not be held responsible if we were awesome'd to death
2 - But we only arrived 35 minutes early and we sat close

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