Moviegoers last summer were in for an added surprise when they came out in hoards to see the late Heath Ledger’s performance in “The Dark Knight.” After a lame audio-only preview of the next Harry Potter flick, an old Smashing Pumpkins song set the stage for a very dark preview featuring Nite Owl’s Archimedes and Dr. Manhattan’s lab accident. And (gasp) there it was! The movie trailer for the long awaited movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel “The Watchmen.” Could it be true? Someone finally took on the most celebrated graphic novel of all time; the novel that many claimed couldn’t be made into a movie?
Zack Snyder, innovative director of “300,” spearheaded the huge undertaking of “The Watchmen,” a Cold War era film where everyday citizens take on street crime and become superheroes, only to become pawns of the government and victims of the society they promised to protect. In a world faced with an unavoidable apocalypse and growing suspicions that they are being murdered one by one, how do the remaining everyday superheroes save the world one last time? Most importantly, would Zack Snyder do the DC Comic legend justice?
The movie begins with a fantastic montage summary of the history of the “Watchmen.” Each scene of the introduction is brilliant in color, displaying a large array of highs and lows of each first generation Watchmen member. The summary was accompanied by one of the best choices of music for the movie, Bob Dylan’s classic, “Times They Are-A-Changin.” The majority of the remaining music choices had negative results for many of the crucial scenes in the movie, either because the music overshadowed the emotion of the actors and the intensity of the action scenes, or the soundtrack choices were too mainstream for the film’s darkness. The opening murder scene of the Comedian seems out of place with Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” playing in the background, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan is smashed from wall to wall by his attacker. The only “true” superhero, Dr. Manhattan, doesn’t appear menacing to a fleeing Vietnamese military with “Ride of the Valkyries” booming over the theater speakers; it’s actually laughable. The sex scene between Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II becomes that much more uncomfortable with the sleazy lounge version of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
Even though most of the music in the movie doesn’t even come close to the more modern Muse and Smashing Pumpkins hits in the trailers, Snyder does shine in staying true to the storyline of Alan Moore’s masterpiece. Most of the crucial movie scenes are the graphic novel verbatim. Snyder does a great job of bringing the mixed, sometimes confusing novel together in flashback montages. It might have added to Dr. Manhattan’s storyline in the film if they would have noted that the watch he goes back for in the intrinsic field chamber was actually Janey’s, his first love in the movie. The actors, especially Malin Ackerman’s portrayal of Silk Spectre II, are mostly dry and forgettable, with the exception of Jackie Earle Harley, who delivers a heartbreaking, truly tortured rendition of Rorschach. Many moviegoers might also feel alienated by the characters’ lack of superhuman powers, something the Spiderman and Superman comic book crowds are more used to.
The constant nudity may also nauseate the typical DC comic movie fan, even though Dave Gibbons, the novel’s illustrator, pulls no punches with Watchmen anatomy, giving the reader constant flashes of flesh. Snyder does the illustration some justice with the exact replicas of Ozymandias’ fortress in Antarctica and copying Rorschach’s very painful childhood with his hooker mother. Stunning special effects and gorgeous use of computer graphics actually save the film from being a complete flop.
Overall, the movie is a hit-or-miss experience. The viewer is left wondering if Snyder’s attempt at spectacular special effects and dead-on screenplay adaptation is enough to save the rest of the film filled with poor acting and even worse soundtrack decisions.