Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Monday

In Watchmen, Zack Snyder directed Alan Moore's highly complex, multi-layered graphic novel into a passable motion picture version. The translation to motion captured the essence of the visual art for of the novel, but left the intricacies of the writing sorely lacking in the film. For once, remaining faithful to the source material was perhaps not the best means of conveying the story.

In a 1985 America where President Nixon is elected for a third term, Superheroes are simply men in masks, bar one (Dr. Manhattan is the only hero with superpowers, endowed upon him by a physics accident). When the Comedian, a hero turned government agent, is killed, his former colleague Rorschach goes about pulling together the old guard in an attempt to seek the killer and exact retribution. This then leads to the discovery of a grander scheme of someone or some group attempting to interfere in the Cold War and possible cause global nuclear war.

Unfortunately for the audience, what translates beautifully in the frames of the graphic novel becomes confusing in a medium without thought bubbles and voiceover text. At almost three hours, the movie seems to say so much, and yet not say enough. Through his adherence to the book, Snyder manages to keep some of the themes that made the novel so controversial for the last twenty years, but without anything new to add to the story, the themes aren't as obvious as they should be, nor as shocking.

The book questions how humanity defines itself, how society allows itself degrade, what truly makes a hero, and what truly makes a villain; it pushes the reader to ask herself those same questions. The film, however, seems to take these base questions and all of their rabbit holes and condenses these motifs into a bland, sanitized query lacking in the same depth it held before. Though the cinematography is stunning and the effects are awesome, this cannot cover up the flaws inherent in the meat of the movie.

One thing is for certain, Watchmen is not for children. The movie is geared toward adults with a healthy appreciation for gore and exposed flesh. This movie is more than your average 'comic book' movie with bright heroes and dastardly villains, but instead brings those childlike attributes into a more realistic, if pessimistic and dark, concept of America embroiled in a cold war. The MPAA rating of "R" is truly well deserved; the stark description given for the rating (for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language) is inadequate given the gratuity of blood accompanying the violence, the maturity of the film's plot and various subplots, and the blatant sexuality.

Buttercup's rating: Where F is a fail so epic, only Ed Wood could produce it, and A is so amazing that people in remote jungles of imaginary places are moved by it, I give it a -B. Definitely above average, but not as delicious as the hype would lead you to believe.

-Thanks so much to Buttercup for writing this review!



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