Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watchmen Review : The Movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Masterpiece

I saw the Watchmen movie this morning - it was the French press screening - and as promised, here is my review.

Watchmen is one of the most awaited movie of the year, and as i did explain in my previous post there is good reasons for that. Since it was published in 1986 all the fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons absolute masterpiece are waiting for a movie adaptation. The graphic novel has been acclaimed by almost everybody who've read it and TIME magazine put it as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century. I, personally am a huge fan of the Watchmen and i even read it again this week-end to make sure i will have the story in my mind when i saw the movie today.

Sooo, is it good or not? Is it faithful to the graphic novel or not? Yes it is good and faithful to the original graphic novel at, let's say, 90%. Zach Snyder is may be not as visionary as the movie trailers keeps repeating it, but he have enough vision - and love for Moore and Gibbons work to do a pretty good adaptation of the Watchmen.

The script adaptation of the original story is pretty incredible as it succeed to put almost everything which is in the 416 pages book in a 2h40 minutes movie. And this is done pretty intelligently. The only problem is that Zach Snyder didn't forgot too that he has an ego and authorized himself to change a major part of the plot - at the end of the movie - and, frankly, it is a big mistake which prevents the movie to be totally perfect. Let's see all this in details now, and i will tell you when there is spoilers so you can avoid them.

First, I must say that the casting is pretty good. The actors playing the Comedian, Rorschach and Nite Owl - Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson - are just perfect, they have the right kind of "energy" for each of their character. Dr Manhattan - play by Billy Crudup is fantastic. Although Manhattan's voice doesn't sound like the one i imagined in my head when i've read the story, his voice is great. And Malin Akerman who play Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II is pretty good too. Most of the actors playing supporting roles are also okay. Then we have the Ozymandias character play by actor Matthew Goode. Matthew is doing his best, there is no question about that, but physically speaking - and also because Snyder's has "pushed" probably too much the homosexual side of the character - he is the one who looks the less to the Ozymandias we remember.

Almost all of the major scenes of the book are in the movie, brilliantly recreated, with the same "frames" one can see when he read the graphic novel. The dark side of Alan Moore's story is still there and Snyder had also the intelligence to keep the "sex scenes" of the book including Dr Manhattan full frontal nudity. Once again the first 2 hours and twenty minutes should fill with enthusiasm all the Watchmen fans. At least until we arrive in Ozymandias Antartica fortress.

WARNING! From now, there is spoilers ahead. If you've never read the book and don't know the story, it's better you stop reading my review here.

In the original storyline - which for a big part is a typical whodunnit story - the Ozymandias character try to save the humans from an inevitable nuclear war. Ozymandias incredibly sophisticated - and machiavelic - plan includes the teleportation in New York of an alien monster that will explode - and half of the city with him - when he'll arrive "at destination" in NY city. The monster - built in fact by a team of scientist and artists had his brain created from the cloning of a powerful medium's brain. His teleportation in New York created mechanisms inside the huge creature's brain and the psychic shock wave was killing half of the town. Mediums all around the Earth would have nightmare for years and everyone on the planet would not doubt that Earth had encounter a so dreadful force that nations will unite forever to fight it.

Now, in Zach Snyder's version, no more alien monster, it's Dr Manhattan who is supposed to be responsible of the destruction - not only of New-York but also Paris, London, Moscow, and the world major cities. He don't really do it, it's Ozymandias who did it and he did it in a way that the world think it's Dr Manhattan who is responsible. No more "cloned" brain, no more psychic shock wave and no more years of nightmare for mediums!

And this is where is the problem. Alan Moore's genius is coming for a big part of his knowledge of the world of the thought. Alan Moore KNOW that it is not "money" or even human being which are really ruling the world, but MENTAL IMAGES. And all the genius of Ozymandias plan was there. What was happening in the original story was going to create mental images so frightening that it would change the world forever. Because in fact it is the ONLY way to change the world, even in our real "reality". The depth of Moore vision made the beauty of the story.

Unfortunately, Zach Snyder decided to change all this. In interviews, he keeps repeating that the "giant squid" look of the monster in the original story was too "kitch" for a 2010 movie. Okay, so why didn't he create another look for the alien creature? Hollywood is creating tons of them each year for other sci-fi/horror movies and everybody like them, right? Also, why being so faithful to the original script during 2 hours and 20 minutes and suddenly change his way? I suspect there is an ego problem somewhere. Snyder could have done a perfect and humble movie adaptation of the graphic novel but he had to "exist" somewhere. And Alan Moore's script and vision is so precise that there was no way for Snyder to exist without changing the script at some point. God damn', Snyder: when you have a perfect story, you don't change it! It could have been a perfect movie if he didn't screwed the end. If he had been totally humble. Watchmen is without any doubt the best adaptation from a Moore novel and i had pleasure to watch it 90% of the time, but Watchmen fans will scream about this new ending on the forums for years, and this time it will be because a huge alien monster DIDN'T explode in New York!

Snyder is a talented director, no doubt about that. And some of the changes he did are not all bad, but I'm sorry Zach, you can't compete with Alan Moore's vision.

Picture: copyright Warner Bros


Brandon Starr said...

Man, I was really really looking forward to seeing the giant monster, my favorite part of the book. Thank you for preparing me so I won't be completely devastated when I see this movie next weekend.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a load of pretty crap. Thanks for the review, I'll pass on this overblown piece of hype.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you didn't really understand the ending of the book. I haven't seen the film yet but from what I've read, the squid is just replaced with another, more realistic threat which makes more sense in a movie which is not the same as a comic book.

Alain Littaye said...

I'm sorry, but i think i've perfectly understood the ending of the book. Instead of an alien monster/attack the new threat is supposed to be Dr Manhattan which is an "ally" of the western world during 30 years and suddenly becomes a threat for the whole planet!?!

And there is so little explanation in the movie about this "change" that, frankly, it doesn't have any sense...

welcome_to_my_deathlist said...

Anonymous said...

The ending made perfect sense. Manhattan freaked out and left the planet. He abandoned his country when they were counting on him the most. His energy signature was all over the event and to their knowledge, he was the only person on the planet capable of doing what happened. Do you really think that makes less sense than a giant squid appearing in the middle of the city without warning?

Anonymous said...

Yeah except he left the universe right after that and eventually the wold would realize he was gone and be back exactly where they were before and everyone really would be screwed.

coffee said...

Rorschach was an especially well developed as a character; i hope the actor that played his role is nominated for some kind of an award (when that season comes around again)