Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen (2009)
  • Time: 162 min
  • Genre: Action | Mystery | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Cast: Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino


In a gritty and alternate 1985 the glory days of costumed vigilantes have been brought to a close by a government crackdown, but after one of the masked veterans is brutally murdered an investigation into the killer is initiated. The reunited heroes set out to prevent their own destruction, but in doing so discover a deeper and far more diabolical plot.


  • Watchmen is the first official Hollywood blockbuster to hit the theaters. The timing is unusual because March is generally an infertile period for the release of major blockbusters. The screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s landmark graphic novel of the same name had been in the pipeline for nearly two decades. It is finally envisioned by Zack Snyder, after being rejected by leading directors Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem For A Dream), Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Brazil) amongst others.

    After the mega success of the swords-and-sandals epic 300, selecting Snyder to helm Watchmen was initially a very tantalizing choice. Well, that is until you have watched the actual film. Watchmen is 2009’s first (but definitely not last) colossal disappointment for a blockbuster that is so highly-anticipated. Critics are divided over the film and I happen to be part of the unforgiving half. On a more positive note, Snyder’s vision of Watchmen is faithful to its source material. This will please most hard-core fans whose patience is duly rewarded.

    For the rest of us who are constantly scratching our heads during the film, it is extremely difficult to immerse oneself into the universe of Watchmen without prior knowledge or insight. Not that being armed with the prerequisites will allow one to enjoy the film much more. Watchmen has a frustrating narrative structure that is an incoherent synthesis of poorly-paced sequences and ill-timed flashbacks. With the exception of Rorschach (who is brilliantly realized by Oscar-nominated Jackie Earl Haley), the other superhero characters appear as paper-thin portrayals of their novelized version. Furthermore, their costume and makeup is at best, amateurish. I do not see a band of genuine heroes but rather, a group of young adults attempting to live out their Watchmen fantasies on screen.

    The visual effects are average, sometimes even weirdly laughable, especially scenes of Dr. Manhattan with his exposed penis in desolate Mars conjuring up what seems like an enormous mechanical set of spinning gears and shafts in a bid to build his dream domicile. Slow-motion CGI action is a hallmark of Snyder, but it does not work well in a film that is already unnecessarily lengthy and abysmally-paced.

    Filmmakers must understand that great films (Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining etc) are mostly loosely adapted from its source; more focus is channeled to direction, editing, acting, and finally the need to entertain audiences. Zack Snyder showed that understanding in 300, but apparently lost it when making Watchmen. In an attempt to satisfy critical fans, Snyder has alienated the rest. Being loyal to one’s spouse is not enough; there is still that intrinsic need to entertain him or her. Watchmen will be a cult favorite, but it is unabsorbing and pretentious filmmaking.

    GRADE: F (4/10 or 1.5 stars)
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  • With the creation of superheroes and comic books, the imagination of various artists and writers has endless boundaries. Once Hollywood proved to people and fans that adapting such works to film was doable, more and more studios began to hop on the gravy train looking for the most profitable opportunities to franchise. Whether it was mainstream or indie related, more and more comic book properties are being adapted to film due to the sheer craze that is consuming the movie business. For the majority of these cases however, very few productions involved adapt a graphic novel by the page. When it comes to this group of loyal fans, Watchmen (2009) is probably one of the few fans will say played it by the book (literally). Fresh off the critical and financial success of the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake and 300 (2006), director Zack Snyder took on his second comic book adaptation (the first being 300 (2006)) and it performed just as well as Snyder’s other projects.

    Lots of fans and critics were pleased with Snyder’s visual direction and the writing handled by Alex Tse (his first theatrical credit) and David Hayter (X-Men (2000), The Scorpion King (2002) & X-Men 2 (2003)). There are a number of good parts but for the average viewer, this film is just as confusing as it is watchable. The setting is in an alternate universe in 1985 where Richard Nixon was voted president for a third term. All superheroes must remain hidden and the cold war between the US and the USSR has escalated to where a count down takes place for when everyone fires nukes at each other. It’s definitely new because honestly where would the world be if Richard Nixon continued his presidency? The plot is a crime mystery about a superhero named The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is killed by unknown assailant. Upon discovering this, the angry ink-faced detective Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) makes his mission to find out what happened while talking with his partners Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) and Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson).

    Now, if this were just a crime thriller or a superhero Vs government debacle or a cold war fight, then the story structure to this would be a lot easier to follow. Unfortunately Hayter and Tse’s writing tries to infuse all these giant plots together and it becomes quite difficult to follow for a number of reasons. A big problem is a constant shift in focus. There is nothing wrong with having multiple main characters as long as they are properly developed, and they are in this film. The issue is, the way each character is developed is so detracting from one another, and it begins to get confusing on what the main point of the scene was all about. Another flaw is the unequal tone in its storytelling. Frequently the way at which scenes and characters are shown dramatically swap between serious and comedy in almost surrealist like viewing as if the audience is supposed to laugh. Was this supposed to be a partially black comedy? Some of the sick humor is clear while other times not. The continuity related to time feels all over the place as well.

    There are certain main characters that have a picture taken in 1940 and at that point they look like they’re in their 30s. Jump to the current period and some of them look no different while others aged. How is it that some aged and others not? This can throw off viewers because they can’t tell if they’re watching the current or past time. It’s not even that frustrating that the film is 3 hours long. It’s just that with all this run time, perhaps something would feel in order? There are some areas that pick up for these errors. A big plus is the acting by all actors. The actor who looked like he had the most fun and who many people enjoyed was Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. The trench coat, fedora, the Rorschach ink blot mask and the gruff angry voice is makes the character so memorable. All the costume designs are unique in their own way as well. The special effects to Rorschach’s mask and Dr. Manhattan look great too.

    The action is another important key note. For most mainstream comic book movies that belong to logos like DC or Marvel, most are kept PG-13 for the sake of wider audience distribution and better ticket sales. By 2009 Marvel had a number of R rated films in their library like the Punisher, Blade and Man-Thing features. As for DC, this would be their first R rated superhero film and it is gloriously graphic. Maybe not bucket loads of blood are dropped but some scenes can make the viewer wince at just the thought of what is displayed. The cinematography by Larry Fong is decently crafted. Being that he worked with Snyder on 300 (2006) only seems familial and his work is well integrated in with the CGI. Sadly the film score composed by Tyler Bates and the soundtrack was disappointing. For one, Bates does not have a main theme for the protagonists so that’s a bit dumbfounding to start off with. Any other tracks in between aren’t really developed and mostly overshadowed by all the soundtrack songs that include various 1980s artists. Again, the music adds to that strange offbeat tone that shows its face time and again. Is it supposed to be hilarious?

    It has well designed special effects, gory action set pieces, effective acting and good-looking camerawork. However, its good doesn’t make up for the bad. The film score is minimally empty, the soundtrack library of songs and part of its writing don’t mix well and create an uneven tone in overall seriousness. There are timeline continuity errors and the focus alternates too much with an overabundance of main plot lines.

    Points Earned –> 5:10

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