In anticipation of the new HBO series launching later this year, I wanted to go back and revisit the 2009 big screen adaption of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel, WATCHMEN.
Director Zack Snyder (Justice League, Man of Steel) was hot off of "300" at the time and brings his unique visual style to the film, but the credit really goes to Dave Gibbons for his original artwork on the page. Snyder just breathes life into it, with sporadic moments of inspiration within the nearly 3 hour running time.
The opening credits sequence is excellent, leaving the hour that follows it feeling rather flat until Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup glowing blue and mostly 40' tall and naked) steals every scene he's in and Jackie Earle Haley (Lincoln) has time to dive into Rorscach, a fascinating anti-hero.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is terrific as the Comedian, Malin Akerman rocks as Silk Spectre II but Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) feels miscast as Nite Owl and Matthew Goode is out of his element as Ozymandias.
It's a long tale, never less than interesting, but not always engaging either.
These are not your typical superheroes. Flawed, with wide ranges of moral codes and often an incredibly self-serving view of their powers and how to use them, the R rating allows the story to explore the darker side of each of them as they ramble across an alternate universe 1985.
The best parts of the film spin this world into our own, with countless references to events like the Kennedy Assassination, the Vietnam War and cultural milestones.
I can't help but think that the long format of an HBO series will serve this complicated story much better than the big screen, allowing us to delve deeper into each of these characters, whom often feel slighted here.
This is the last film that Snyder's made that I really liked. For me his Justice League film and Batman V Superman are ponderous bores.
This may be the best film he's made considering the roles of superheroes and anti-heroes. It's certainly more entertaining than those post Christopher Nolan-Batman bombs he keeps turning out.
I liked WATCHMEN, especially Haley and Crudup. They OWN the screen anytime they're on it as either side of their character.
Still, I'll take interesting over bloated any day of the week, so WATCHMEN gets a B-, drifting hard toward a C.
Bring it on HBO.
For Batman Fans from IMDB: In the beginning, during the opening credits, we see the original Nite Owl stop a thief. There are Batman/Fledermaus posters hanging on the wall of the alley. We can assume the people he rescues are Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Bruce Wayne, coming out of the theater. Thus, there's no need for Bruce Wayne to become Batman in the Watchmen's Universe.