Directed by: Zack Snyder
Premise: An adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. In an alternate 1985 where superheroes work for the United States government and Richard Nixon is still president, someone is assassinating the heroes while tensions rise between the United States and the USSR.
What Works: Watchmen is another extremely well crafted film by Zack Snyder, whose previous directing credits include 300 and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. The visuals are top notch and successfully preserve the look of a graphic novel and translate it into cinema. There are some very interesting characters here, namely Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, a sociopathic detective, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, an assassin with a corrupt past. Watchmen presents its best moments within the scenes involving Rorschach and The Comedian as these two characters present an interesting question to superhero lore: why have we always supposed that these characters would use their talents for good?
What Doesn’t: The trouble with Zack Snyder’s filmmaking to date is that he understands form but not function; Snyder is able to create extremely interesting and aesthetically appealing images but it would seem that he does not understand what those images mean. Like 300, Watchmen uses techniques like slow motion and unusual camera angles, but the use of these techniques does not serve any thematic or narrative purpose. The uneconomic storytelling is exacerbated by the weaknesses of the film’s script. Although it sets up a detective story and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, neither is handled very well and the middle of the film is rather aimless as it ignores the main conflict to focus on a love triangle between Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson). The love affair between this batch of middle aged superheroes is rather bland and their story has no payoff, nor does it contribute to the other major conflicts of the film.
Bottom Line: Watchman is ultimately a middle-tier comic book film. While it is certainly not a debacle like The Spirit it does not match the intensity or intelligence of The Dark Knight or even Iron Man.
Episode: #231 (March 15, 2009)