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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.82%
Worth A Look44.86%
Just Average: 4.67%
Pretty Crappy: 23.36%
Sucks: 10.28%

7 reviews, 65 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"A group this size seems like a publicity exercise..."
4 stars

Full disclosure: I'm a fan of "Watchmen," the groundbreaking graphic novel written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. I've read it dozens of times since it came out over two decades ago; I know it like I know my own face. That said, I tried to go into the new movie version as blank as possible -- to bring neither high hopes nor cynicism, to give it a shot as its own beast.

What I found was a strange and gorgeous beast indeed, not without problems, a mesmerizing epic folly of the sort hardly anyone attempts any more. It is absolutely sick with ambition, each frame jammed with detail and eye candy. I know that Alan Moore has disowned it -- disowned the very idea of it -- but I don't have the heart to join him.

The spine of this epic is a murder mystery. We're in an alternate 1985, where superheroes are real, or were until they were outlawed years ago. One of them, a retired black-ops spook named Edward Blake, or the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), has been thrown out of his high-rise window. Who did it? Another masked avenger, the stubbornly unretired Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), suspects a conspiracy to do away with costumed heroes. His thesis is met with skepticism by Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson), the former Nite Owl, now softly and nostalgically retired; Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode), or Ozymandias, now an immensely prosperous corporate bigwig; and Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who used to be physicist Jon Osterman before a lab accident turned him into a glowing blue superman with godlike powers.

I didn't expect much from director Zack Snyder, who made the passable but hollow Dawn of the Dead remake and the oafish 300 (to be fair, the oafishness was transcribed more or less intact from the Frank Miller graphic novel). But his work on Watchmen, while perhaps not "visionary" as the ads claim, has the feverish quality of obsession. Like Peter Jackson with King Kong, Snyder has undertaken this massive effort with a mix of geek gratitude and the privilege that comes with having made gobs of money on past films. Often, the result is refreshingly soothing; many scenes, driven by dialogue or exposition, have a confident echo-chamber quietude only found in big movies that aren't afraid of losing your attention. (The young audience I sat with remained hushed throughout.)

Clearly no expense has been spared (except in the old-age-makeup department); this story ranges from Rorschach's filthy street gutters to the splendor of Mars, where Dr. Manhattan transports former lover Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman) to discuss why he may or may not be interested in saving the world from almost-certain nuclear holocaust. Each stop on this journey is lovingly rendered and detailed, with some full-fledged dramatic performances to match. Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach is a right-wing mad dog deformed by childhood abuse, full of sadness as well as rage; Patrick Wilson gives us a Nite Owl made flabby by enforced rest but eager to get back into the game. And for the second time in a Zack Snyder film, Matt Frewer turns up in a small but indelible turn as a man with a bitter acceptance of his impending painful death. Others aren't so fortunate; when one character says "I'm not a comic-book villain" -- well, to paraphrase Rob Rodi's Comics Journal review of the original Watchmen, all I could think was, he sure acts like one.

The mood here is paranoia and dread, spiked with the exultation and disgust of gory -- sometimes extremely gory -- battle. Watchmen is not your father's superhero-team flick, unless your father was collecting the original series back in 1986. There's always something going on; much of it made me wince (Rorschach's brutality isn't slowed down a bit when he's briefly sent to prison), some of it made me cringe (of the actors who'll get a career bump from this film, the inexpressive Malin Akerman will probably get left out), none of it made me bored. I called it a folly: it's deeply problematic at times; Snyder's reach sometimes exceeds his grasp. But at least he has reached, and has not disgraced himself or the book. (Which, by the way, remains intact on shelves everywhere, so the changes didn't bother me.)

The only true tragedy would be if this film and "The Dark Knight" -- like the original "Watchmen" and Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" in the '80s, conceived as grand statements and summings-up on the subject of the superhero -- led not to the medium moving on from caped crusaders but to a bunch of grim, gritty superhero ripoffs, which is what happened in comics.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17536&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/07/09 11:32:40
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User Comments

10/29/16 morris campbell DONT believe the hype its a dull overlong piece of shit 1 stars
6/19/16 Ken Despite Malin Akerman being hot, this film is not that good. 2 stars
2/10/13 Langano Pure crap, one of the worst films I've seen. 1 stars
9/16/12 roscoe overlong shit. only haley's rorschach is great, and that's not enough to sustain this shit. 1 stars
8/11/11 larsen Graphic Novel was ahead of its time as was this film. Some just need to catch up. 5 stars
7/23/10 bagwell5 I was a big fan of the comic & the movie is pretty faithful. Extended DVD cut is better. 5 stars
4/22/10 millersxing The unfilmable becomes the unwatchable. 1 stars
3/28/10 Charles Tatum Too long a film to sit through for such an awkward payoff 3 stars
1/26/10 Jerome C. OK movie great effects. pins right too much peter indeed. 4 stars
1/11/10 mr.mike It just wasn't my cup of poison. 2 stars
12/28/09 matt what happened is this is the best movie of 2009. 5 stars
12/13/09 mwilde What happened to sucks all ass? 1 stars
11/30/09 Silkworm Hard work - A film trying to be stylish but failing 2 stars
11/16/09 matt great story, great performances, great style. the new animated stuff is great too 5 stars
9/17/09 TreeTiger Let's cut it short - this is a good movie! 4 stars
9/05/09 Black Leather Rain Huge fan of the comic, Lukewarm fan of the movie. Disappointed in the changed ending. 4 stars
8/26/09 Laurey Martin I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. Loved the look of it! 4 stars
7/27/09 vesta brilliant 5 stars
7/14/09 michael mann eww. Like being hit with a sledgehammer for its atrocious running time 1 stars
7/04/09 Gristle Has its moments, fairly blah overall though 3 stars
7/01/09 pantera overlong, boring , bad acting from that hot chick. Pretentious 1 stars
6/22/09 Rorschach Hrrnnh 4 stars
4/25/09 matt I've never read the comic but I liked the movie 4 stars
4/16/09 Total Crap Very unintelligible if you haven't read the graphic novel. The acting was crap IMO. 3 stars
4/09/09 farrow please a terrible disjointed incoherent movie. Only Jackie Earke Haley was good 1 stars
3/21/09 james obrien a fantastic movie long time coming 5 stars
3/19/09 The Comedian Jeez, can you give more of the movie away? Why don't you buy "spoileralert.com" 4 stars
3/18/09 Craig D. Replaces "The Dark Knight" as the best comic book movie ever made. Simply fantastic. 5 stars
3/17/09 jim knew nothing of the graphic novel, loved the art direction, the retro styles and the jokes 4 stars
3/15/09 Brian Mckay Better than the source material. More action, less meandering, better ending (yes ,fanboys) 4 stars
3/15/09 Honolulu Bitchslap Only 2 groups will be disappointed- 1, the 'uninitiated' & 2, fans of the graphic novel. 2 stars
3/14/09 Gil Carlson A monumental work. Read the book. THEN see the movie. If you like the book, you'll love it. 5 stars
3/14/09 geetus Too many unfinished subplots.Good, but left too much unanswered.Another hour wouldve helped 4 stars
3/11/09 Brandon Allin Beautiful visuals. Wonderful movie. 5 stars
3/11/09 Grandmaster T A flawed though impressive endevour. Good bashings. 4 stars
3/11/09 aliceinwonderland I was bored at times but I think it is worth a look. Good characters, good conversations. 4 stars
3/10/09 Jonathan I really wanted to like this film. But I didn't. Too convoluted. 1 stars
3/10/09 Ayrie Keep to the story 5 stars
3/09/09 karamashi Just Awful and Souless. 2 stars
3/09/09 Raul Valdez Jr another blockbuster year 4 stars
3/09/09 Nessus A lot better than the haters are willing to admit 5 stars
3/09/09 ES Impressive highs dampened by disappointing lows, Rorschach was excellent throughout 3 stars
3/09/09 Aesop After the fanboy filmgasms die down, what you're left with is a really mediocre flick. 2 stars
3/09/09 Mishyana ending robbed of a lot of punch due to a lack of bodies, but still good stuff. 4 stars
3/09/09 Jedimasta Never read the novel, but smart enough to 'get' the subtext AND have fun with the action. 5 stars
3/08/09 jason unfortunately i think the ending in the movie was better than the books 5 stars
3/08/09 KingNeutron Very enjoyable and complex, even for a complete newbie that doesnt know the backstory 4 stars
3/08/09 Pokejedservo A somewhat flawed but very interesting movie based on the famous graphic novel. 4 stars
3/08/09 Alan Moore It sucks ass. 1 stars
3/08/09 Jeff Light flawed, ambitious...probably best enjoyed by intellectuals not familiar with the comic 4 stars
3/08/09 Sn0wCrash Unbelievable! A Milestone for comic book movies! 5 stars
3/08/09 cpbjr very unsatisfying 2 stars
3/08/09 M Had people walking out throughout the movie and found story messy but still worth a look. 4 stars
3/07/09 Chris Actually, it's determinist nihilism vs. existentialism, Shortt. Nihilism loses mostly. 4 stars
3/07/09 belike Compared to most superhero films it was really good. 4 stars
3/07/09 Ickabod 13 If you're thinking about seeing this movie, DO IT! You will not be displeased! 4 stars
3/07/09 bubastis619 better than I thought it could be 4 stars
3/07/09 Darkstar Amazing! Never seen anything like it. As close to the graphic novel as you can get. Awesome 5 stars
3/07/09 blah blah amazing paul shortt die of cancer cunt! 5 stars
3/07/09 Adrian I was never bored. Stylish execution. Story still worked. Hopefully people will read it now 5 stars
3/06/09 malcolm would've been much better as a cable mini-series 3 stars
3/06/09 pin good stuff, not the "regular," and not perfect either. also, too much peter. 4 stars
3/06/09 Raul Valdez Jr its up to your own personal taste guys i think you should give it a look. 5 stars
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  06-Mar-2009 (R)
  DVD: 21-Jul-2009


  DVD: 21-Jul-2009

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