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Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Time Event
4:28p
WATCHMEN
I see everyone else is using review titles like "We Watched the
Watchmen," so I guess I don't have to.

I and a number of friends caught the movie Sunday afternoon. Georgie had
to work, and I wasn't sure about the violence level, so I would "screen"
it for her--a good choice as it turned out. The "R" rating for this film
is earned much more for blood than sex, in my opinion, so Georgie
probably won't see it until we can get a DVD and skip scenes such as the
prison riot sequence.

Even with a couple of quite shocking scenes, the movie is powerfully
good. Alan Moore's grumblings aside, I thought the adaptation was
startlingly faithful, both in tone and in content. Picking up the
graphic novel again after the movie, I was struck to see details such as
signs copied directly from the original art. I expect having the graphic
novel's artist, Dave Gibbons on board with the project was a great help
in that regard. In addition, many of the cast members look uncannily
like the comic characters, notably Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter (Silk
Spectre II), Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Patrick Wilson as Dan
Dreiberg (Nite Owl II), and Matt Frewer as Moloch . Billy Crudup as Dr.
Manhattan is largely CGI and thus can look like anything, but appears
accurately to the comic as well. Such attention to detail continues down
to casting of minor characters like the man who runs the news stand and
the young black man who frequents it; and to even casual costuming such
as the red tunic outfit Akerman wears in her first scene. (The hero
costumes for both Silk Spectres are an exception, but in both cases are
better looking than the comic versions--.) Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt
(Ozymandias) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake (The Comedian)
aren't quite like their comic namesakes, but still very, very good and
the right types. Large portions of dialog are taken directly from the
comic, so I think that purists can see the movie with confidence.

The script preserves and even builds on the comic's sense of Cold War
paranoia and secrecy, building good tension as the world moves to the
brink of nuclear war, and the heroes who might avert it are being killed
or driven into exile.

There are, of course, some deviations from the comic script, which are,
on the whole, actual improvements, such as the ultimate secret plot,
which is a bit far-fetched in the comic as compared with the movie
version. Bringing some of the violence that happened "off camera" in
the comic on screen is questionable, but, again, looking at the very
violent prison riot sequence, nothing really happens on film that didn't
happen in the comic, but having it presented live action of course adds
substantially to the effect.

I would say a very nice job by the director, Zack Snyder, the production
team, and all the cast, who played it exactly straight as they should.
Well done all around. Some critics thought the Eighties music in the
sound track intrusive, but I and those with me did not, and that is one
area where there might be said to be the occasional ironic comment on
the action. I would say the standout acting job of the film belongs to
Haley as Rorschach, channeling "Dirty Harry" gone a bit over the edge.

I think this film is every bit as good as last summer's "Dark Knight"
and almost as harrowing in many ways.

I thought the sex and nudity in the movie was well done and tasteful. I
don't think I'm giving anything away by mentioning that Dr. Manhattan
walks around fully naked a lot, but he's a glowing blue post-human, so
who really cares? The violence is very ugly, but not too protracted, and
justified by the plot (the characters generally find it shocking also).
DEFINITELY not for children, even if you could sneak them past the "R"
rating. They won't get the plot, anyway, and there are too may other
adult concepts, such as Silk Spectre I's (Carla Gugino) ambivalent
relationship with The Comedian, to explain.

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