30 seconds into this movie I was sold.
I literally don't know where to start with this review, there just so much to say. If you can find me a film that starts off more flawlessly than Watchmen I'll eat my ticket stub. As soon as The Comedian's signature smiley face flashes across the screen and the opening credits sequence begins, you will be engaged with this film. The inundation into the story happens so quick and smooth that you don't even notice. And pay attention, because in that 5 minute period, director Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) magnificently manifests a solid 40 pages worth of backstory art and detail in a beautiful and near flawless adaptation. There are an amazing amount of shots that are EXACT interpretations of the graphic novel frames. Fans will be furiously tapping their buddies in excitement as Dave Gibbons' art quite fantastically comes to life on screen. I know I was.
Then Rorshach started his first journal entry narration, and the hair on my body stood up straighter than Jon Ostermann's when he gets trapped in the molecular converter. I had shivers down my spine and it was only then that I realized I was pushing myself back into my seat as hard as I could. Perhaps this extreme reaction was because I was absolutely astounded at the dedication this movie was showing the novel. I think everyone had a shadow of doubt, maybe even fear, that this movie couldn't possibly do the story and art justice no matter how great the hype.
And you know what, it doesn't. But my god does it try. The fact that someone who has never read Alan Moore's book can sit down in a theater and become tapped into the Watchmen's universe in any capacity at all is a breathtaking achievement. Even more impressive to me is that as a fan I had to struggle to find real problems with a cinematic version, and I know I wasn't alone. You really have to hand it to Zack Snyder for pulling this off.
To further emphasize the level of achievement Watchmen reaches are the performances of the actors. Patrick Wilson breathes life into Dan Dreiberg/Nightowl so well he is almost more enjoyable in the movie than in the novel, which is saying something because there are no changes made to the character or his dialogue. I absolutely loved Billy Crudup as Jon Ostermann/Dr. Manhatten. For a character that is essentially devoid of emotion, Crudup lays waste with his performance, including his soft voice which was getting a lot of negative hype before the films release. The real showstopper though, was Jackie Earle Hayley as Rorshach. There is nothing I could say about his performance that would do it justice, he was simply perfect. His voice gave me chills and his final scene was without a doubt my favorite of the movie (its even more powerful than the book, if you can believe that). Even Malin Akerman delivered a worthy performance as Laurie/Silk Spectre II, although she was not nearly as intense as the aforementioned (but she was smoking hot).
Of course, there are things that I didn't appreciate about the movie too. For one, while The Comedian certainly is a cynical bastard, they really banged him up good here. His character is villainized almost to the point that he's unrelatable in any capacity, for the meager price of distracting the audience from the real 'villain'. I thought it was unnecessary. Further exacerbating me was Snyder's interesting choice of music. At some points I found his choices odd yet intriguing, but there were times when the song choice almost seemed to poke fun at the action. And I'd like to say that the big sex scene between Laurie and Dan was over the top, but after seeing 300 it's obvious that dramatized, passionate sex is Zack Snyder's guilty pleasure. And who am I to to begrudge a brilliant director if he wants to tease every guy in the theater? (Truth be told, I think that after all the scenes where Laurie teases the camera with her breasts, the audience would have been up in arms if we didn't get to see them in this scene. Plus they had to compensate in some way for the necessary but unnecessary complete nudity of Jon)
Also important to mention is my original distaste for the ending. I say original because my distaste has changed. Originally I didn't like the ending because they changed it from the book, which I thought was unnecessary considering what they changed it to. However, after long conversations with fellow viewers, I have decided that the ending they chose was more appropriate for a film. What my distaste now concerns, is the psuedo happy tone Watchmen ends on. Don't get me wrong, this is not a happy ending by any means. But it feels like it could eventually, which is not the tone the story is supposed to end on. Fans will understand what I mean. To everyone else, the ending is a great cinematic ending which will satisfy you.
This movie is impressive in every aspect. Its shot beautifully, its acting is powerful and Snyder sacrificed very little to achieve his end result. The thing is, the best part of this film (and certainly most admirably) is that if there are any flaws to be found, perhaps the blame can be laid with the transition to film. But there are almost no issues with the movie itself. Look for Watchmen to be in all kinds of Oscar categories, especially cinematography and visual effects (even 300 can't compete with Watchmen's darkly vibrant, comic book style). Watchmen is an achievement, and that alone makes it worth your time. I really wish that creator Alan Moore could have seen this movie, because its so damn good. It's too bad he's such a pretentious asshole ("It's not meant to be a film, it's a graphic novel"...blah blah blah, shut up dude)
I give Watchmen a 5 out of 5. It's not because I think it was perfect, although it certainly tried. And it's not because I'm a complete comic geek, although I am. It's because if this was on a classic 1-10 scale, Watchmen would be a 9, but on a 1-5, giving it a 4 would be a highly underrated phenomenon.