movie film review | chris tookey


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  Watchmen Review
Tookey's Rating
1 /10
Average Rating
5.37 /10
Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II - Malin Akerman , Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman - Billy Crudup
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Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse , based on the graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Dave Gibbons [and written by the uncredited Alan Moore]

Released: 2009
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 161

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100 million dollars — that’s what they spent on the Watchmen film which nearly didn’t come out because of the lawsuit, that’s what they spent on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which shouldn’t have come out but did anyway. Do we need any more shitty films in this world? We have quite enough already. Whereas the 100 million dollars could sort out the civil unrest in Haiti. And the books are always superior, anyway.
(Alan Moore, writer of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
The movie is ultimately undone by its own reverence; there's simply no room for these characters and stories to breathe of their own accord, and even the most fastidiously replicated scenes can feel glib and truncated.
(Justin Chang, Variety)
Watchmen is a bore. Sad to say, after a wait of more than two decades, the much-anticipated adaptation of the world's most celebrated graphic novel is long, dull and subject to what might be called the Lord of the Rings problem: It sinks under the weight of its reverence for the original.
(Philip Kennicott, Washington Post)
Director Zack Snyder races through the story, faithfully reproducing this bit of dialogue from Moore and that bit of imagery from Gibbons but never pausing to develop a vision of his own. The result is oddly hollow and disjointed; the actors moving stiffly from one overdetermined tableau to another.
(Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader)
Speaking as an admirer, but not an apostle, of the graphic novel, I thought the Watchmen movie was confusing, maddeningly inconsistent and fighting a long, losing battle to establish an identity of its own.
(Devin Gordon, Newsweek)
The appeal of the film version, such as it is, relates almost entirely to eye-for-an-eye, severed-limb-for-a-limb vengeance, two hours and 41 minutes of it, with just enough solemnity to make anyone who thought The Dark Knight was a little gassy think twice about which superhero myth THEY'RE calling gassy.
(Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)
The film's storytelling and image-making lack originality and vitality. Nothing sticks to your memory unless you come in with recollections of the book.
(Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun)
This kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed.
(David Edelstein, New York Magazine)
Watchmen, like V for Vendetta, harbors ambitions of political satire, and, to be fair, it should meet the needs of any leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex, and whose deepest fear - deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation - is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along. The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon. The result is perfectly calibrated for its target group: nobody over twenty-five could take any joy from the savagery that is fleshed out onscreen, just as nobody under eighteen should be allowed to witness it. You want to see Rorschach swing a meat cleaver repeatedly into the skull of a pedophile, and two dogs wrestle over the leg bone of his young victim? Go ahead... Incoherent, overblown, and grimy with misogyny, Watchmen marks the final demolition of the comic strip, and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?
(Anthony Lane, New Yorker)
Snyder and writers David Hayter and Alex Tse never find a reason for those unfamiliar with the graphic novel to care about any of this nonsense. And it is nonsense... There is something a little lackadaisical here. The set pieces are surprisingly flat and the characters have little resonance. Fight scenes don't hold a candle to Asian action. Even the digital effects are ho-hum. Armageddon never looked so cheesy. The film seems to take pride in its darkness, but this is just another failed special effect. Cinematographer Larry Fong and production designer Alex McDowell blend real and digital sets with earthen tones and secondary colors that give a sense of the past. But the stories are too absurd and acting too uneven to convince anyone. The appearances of a waxworks Nixon, Kissinger and other 1980s personalities will only bring hoots from less charitable audiences. Looks like we have the first real flop of 2009.
(Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter)
The movie is ultimately undone by its own reverence; there’s simply no room for these characters and stories to breathe of their own accord, and even the most fastidiously replicated scenes can feel glib and truncated. As Watchmen lurches toward its apocalyptic (and slightly altered) finale, something happens that didn’t happen in the novel: Wavering between seriousness and camp, and absent the cerebral tone that gave weight to some of the book’s headier ideas, the film seems to yield to the very superhero cliches it purports to subvert.
(Justin Chang, Variety)
When I read that Zack Snyder (300), the director of the movie, had vowed to stay true to the original’s spirit by moving the camera as little as possible (because, you see, comics are laid out a frame at a time), I had a Dr. Manhattan–size premonition of doom. Moore and Gibbons used every tool they could invent to push their medium to its limit — and their work is in the hands of people who’ve decided to cast off many of their own medium’s tools in a misguided attempt at fidelity. How could Watchmen not be dead on the screen? It is, at least, an awe-inspiring corpse: huge, noisy, gaseously distended by its own dystopia. The martial-arts action scenes are full of CGI slooooow motion capped with hyperfast smash-and-splatter. Fanboys will be pleased that the characters appear to have leaped from the page, while the novel’s (dis)order of events has been meticulously preserved... Elements come to fleeting life, but numbness overtakes all. Alan Moore refused (in advance) to put his name on the amovie, which must have hurt Snyder and company terribly; they’ve made the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed.
(David Edelstein, New York)
A work that's easier to ponder than enjoy.
(Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel)
Snyder has appropriated Moore's doomsday themes without any sense of how to animate them. That's the trouble with loyalty. Too little, and you alienate your core fans. Too much, and you lose everyone - and everything - else.
(Devin Gordon, Newsweek)
Its failure is one of imagination - although faithfully approximating Dave Gibbons's original drawings, the filmmakers are unable to teleport themselves to the level of the original concept.
(J. Hoberman, Village Voice)
Alan Moore was right in detaching himself from the project, maintaining his integrity.
(Lee Grant, San Diego Union-Tribune)
Watchmen features this year’s hands-down winner of the bad movie sex award, superhero division: a moment of bliss that takes place on board Nite Owl’s nifty little airship, accompanied by Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. (By the way, can we please have a moratorium on the use of this song in movies? Yes, I too have heard there was a secret chord that David played, and blah blah blah, but I don’t want to hear it again. Do you?) The sex may be laughable, but the violence is another matter. The infliction of pain is rendered in intimate and precise aural and visual detail, from the noise of cracking bones and the gushers of blood and saliva to the splattery deconstruction of entire bodies. But brutality is not merely part of Mr. Snyder’s repertory of effects; it is more like a cause, a principle, an ideology. And his commitment to violence brings into relief the shallow nihilism that has always lurked beneath the intellectual pretensions of Watchmen. The only action that makes sense in this world — the only sure basis for ethics or politics, the only expression of love or loyalty or conviction — is killing. And the dramatic conflict revealed, at long last, in the film’s climactic arguments is between a wholesale, idealistic approach to mass death and one that is more cynical and individualistic. This idea is sickening but also, finally, unpersuasive, because it is rooted in a view of human behavior that is fundamentally immature, self-pitying and sentimental. Perhaps there is some pleasure to be found in regressing into this belligerent, adolescent state of mind. But maybe it’s better to grow up.
(A.O.Scott, New York Times)
Ponderous, self-important, unpleasantly violent and, quite frankly, kind of silly. Let me confess that I’m not a groupie. I have read Watchmen, but more out of a sense of duty than devotion, and while I appreciated Moore’s attempt to re-imagine the psychological underpinnings of the entire costumed-hero mythology, it didn’t quite come off—partially because the mystery at the heart of the plot was obvious, but also because the freshly-minted characters didn’t have the lived-in familiarity of the super-heroes who’d inhabited the comic pages for decades. They were pale imitations of the “real” thing. And frankly Moore’s political views represented—like those in Vendetta—a sort of radical chic that felt more like a pose than a deeply held belief. These weaknesses are exacerbated in the film. The urban landscape is impressively created, but it’s the same sort of forbidding, rain-soaked, gloomy place we’ve seen in lots of earlier pictures. The “whodunit” part of the plot never grabs us, because the victim, the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is a brutish, vicious thug and the shamus who’s obsessed with tracking down the truth — Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a vigilante who wears a white mask on which black blotches continually change shape—is as psychopathic as the villains he tracks down.
(Frank Swietek, One Guy’s Opinion)
I can't say I was ever bored while I sat through 161 minutes of Watchmen, but I can say I was never really entertained. In keeping so faithful to the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons celebrated graphic novel director Zack Snyder's adaptation (or should I say damn near page-for-page reproduction) flat lines with barely a heartbeat to speak of. So much attention was paid to visuals and creating an accurate reproduction of the source material the film forgets to connect to the audience as the characters in Watchmen mumble, grumble and groan from scene to scene as the multilayered '80s comic is now a paint-by-numbers fanboy fetish film.
(Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon)
Watchmen isn’t a superhero movie, it’s a pretentious turkey that thinks it’s better than the genre.
(MIke Sage, Peterborough This Week)
The plot is lost in translation and it’s one big three hour mess, a long and unpleasant string of flashbacks, subplots, bloody violence, and overall an exhausting jumble of different things that never work into any sort of entertaining narrative.
(Craig Younkin, Lee’s Movie Info)
Hey, fanboys. Yeah, you guys, the ones who flooded my inbox with e-mails after I trashed Zack Snyder's 300, wishing birth defects on my unborn children and suggesting that perhaps my husband isn't — ahem — keeping me satisfied. Yes, I've read Watchmen. I understand why it matters culturally, why it's considered revolutionary in its exploration of flawed superheroes, why it moved you. It moved me, too. And still — or, rather, because of that — I found director Snyder's adaptation hugely disappointing, faithful as it is to the graphic novel.
(Christy Lemire, Associated Press)
Watchmen presents a different side to superheroes than we’ve ever seen before, and it’s not a perspective we really needed to see. What a grim, dark and ponderous movie this is, a bold exercise in visual flair that lacks cohesiveness and heart... When a 163-minute movie lacks an antagonist for the first two hours, something is desperately wrong.... Watchmen will likely satisfy fans of the novel, if for no other reason because they know what they’re getting into. But if you’re not familiar with the source material, don’t bother – the movie doesn’t live up to the hype.
(Dan Hudak,, Australia)
Shorn of context, the very human heroes of Watchmen, with their mixed up personal lives and mental problems, are about as complex as soap opera characters, the type of caricatures that Alan Moore parodied in his original. This problem is compounded by Snyder's directorial style. His work is loud, brash and shouty, which worked perfectly for the mythical histrionics of 300 but feels utterly wrong for the brooding, melancholic nihilism of Watchmen. The intense, theatrical acting style of the protagonists actually makes the whole thing feel a bit camp. Maybe it's unfair to compare the film to The Dark Knight, but Watchmen could certainly have done with Christopher and Jonah Nolan's ultra-serious approach to the source material. In a film that includes blue naked men meditating on Mars, a character who has a moving Rorschach test for a face and a villain who has a horned pet tiger, it takes considerable skill to make such events feel serious. And while this is never in question in the graphic novel it's certainly an issue in the film, with Snyder's pumped-up, brash technique making much of the film feel somewhat ridiculous. This overblown style extends to many aspects of the film, from the visuals and the action (more below) to the choice of music. The scene in which Nite Owl and Silk Spectre make love after rescuing the family from a burning building - a fairly pivotal moment in explaining the bizarre, psychosexual dynamic of vigilantism - is reduced to a fetishistic comedy moment through the use of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which drew guffaws from the audience. What's more, it's not the only moment that gets a laugh when it really shouldn't... This movie is a shallow interpretation of Watchmen, shorn of sophistication or literary density. Worst of all, watching the film makes you wonder whether the source material was actually any good to begin with.
(Orlando Parfit, IGN Movies UK)
Just another disappointment to add to the 'too good to be true' pile.
(Robbie Collin, News of the World)
“What has happened to us? What has happened to the American dream?” a character asks. The answer might be: “You, Zack Snyder. Man-boy directors, blessed with skill but no soul, content to peddle enervatingly reverential treatments of soft porn for kidults.”
(Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph)
Sour, kneejerk nihilism that sees society, people and politicians as only so much lying scum. The film has nothing to offer its viewers as its own disgust... It aims to be a thoughtful film for adults, not some infantile caped-crusader saga, but it panders to the comic-book crowd, giving classic bish-bash-bosh stuff in numerous fight scenes. What’s more, Snyder seems to think that you can establish your adult credentials by getting down, dark and dirty. So we have a gratuitous sex scene and plenty of severed limbs, nasty violence and fountains of blood. Yes, it’s not suitable for the young - and not that suitable for squeamish adults, either. Come back, Clark and Lois, all is forgiven.
(Cosmo Landesman, Sunday Times)
After two and a half hours of this sanguinary spectacle it wasn’t catharsis I felt; it was simple weariness.
(Anthony Quinn, Independent)
The more the film drifts towards blockbuster spectacle, the more banal it is: by the end, it might as well be a below-par X-men episode.
(Jonathan Romney, Independent on Sunday)

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