Filming the unfilmable. That was the title of an article by Wired.com regarding probably the most (or at least eagerly) anticipated film adapted from a comic. Boasting Alan Moore’s name who once again refused to put his name on the screen and the only comic that made Time Magazine’s list of top 100 novels of all time, the title of the article is apt and reflected the entire sentiment of those who are familiar with the comic against the prospect of filming it. This article was dated two months ago when “Watchmen” made its official N.A. release. Two months is also the time *I* have to wait to see the film here in Indonesia.
It was 1985. It was an alternate universe where Richard Nixon is P.O.T.U.S for his fifth term and the U.S.S.R is still U.S.S.R with impending nuclear launch threat which is just a nudge away (figuratively speaking, 5 minutes to midnight). In this world, superheroes are exists but has been forced to bury their secret identities under Keene Act. Save for few individuals who was either listed under government’s service or rebels against the Act and still lurking around in shadows as a vigilante. These individuals, masked or otherwise are used to band under a superhero society called “Watchmen” and for the duration of the film (which is an overwhelming two and forty minutes) the “Watchmen” are trying to save the world from nuclear annihilation. Each with their own way.
Okay, first of all, “Watchmen” is certainly made with the “Watchmen” fan in mind. Even Zack Snyder admitted it himself. Just look into the first few minutes up to the opening title sequence. It was clearly a fan service meant for us, who had read the comic at some part of their life, as these are the faces we would recognized right away. For the uninitiated, or those who haven’t read or even heard of “Watchmen” however, these sequence is probably the height of the film even though the opening title would probably only acts as a visual treat and depending on your mind set when you bought the ticket, it’s either going steadily downhill or straight with slight upward hike from here.
The film was dense, busy, heavy with flowery monolog, and sometimes burden its viewers with moral implication of one’s act. It requires an extra attention to absorbs the film especially more given the length of the film. When I read the “Watchmen” comic many years ago, I was often flipping back a page, observed a panel and read the words carefully as to not lose anything. With films, you can’t do that. Not in front of a bunch of strangers sitting with you in a dark theater, you can’t. Now if you haven’t read the comic, it is possible that most of it will lose its meaning and in the end, you’d just see the film as a dark, boring drama with an occasional visual treats involving the masked avengers. However, if you’ve read the comic, you might ended up lauding the film for its bold attempt to film the unfilmable. Zack Snyder style is palpable here, a slow-cut there, a saturated color here, but sometimes the film was too loud and his choice of background music is ranging from awesome (“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole at the beginning) to cliche (“The Ride of the Valkyrie” during the Vietnam War scene) to awful (I’m sorry but I can’t name the song, but it was during the Nite Owl II scene). More or else, however, I’d say that Zack Snyder did quite a decent job in translating the comic.
All of the casts are perfect save for Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II but I don’t like Silk Spectre II in the comic book as well, so it’s probably just my imagination. Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl II is decent, but just like Silk Spectre II, I don’t particularly liked Nite Owl II in the first place. Mathew Goode’s Ozymandias was good enough, believable at least, and it is all that mattered. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach however, is brilliant. His end scene is swell. Billy Crudup’s Dr.Manhattan is well, I must say detached. But it’s either because he is really uncomfortable for being naked most of the time or it’s because his character required him to be. I hope it’s the latter. And finally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian. In the comic, he steals every scene he was in. So was in the film, I found myself craving for more Comedian before long.
Zack Snyder is quickly becoming one of my favorite emerging director. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw his remake of “Dawn of the Dead” five years ago expecting nothing but earns more than I would’ve imagined out of it. Then, came the cock-full of testosterone Spartans “300” which even if some say “style over substance” is still a damn entertaining flick. Now, this. Still three full-feature films under his belt and he’s already put his name on the map. Definitely a man whose future projects are deserved more than just an eye.
My rating: ***1/2 / **** Just because I’ve read the comic. This film is a perfect companion to the comic book. This is not a typical comic film. So, if you expect something similar to the other superhero films out there, you might ended up like the dude who sits next to me. Sleeping for most of the time. You have my sympathy if you do sleeping during this film.
P.S.: Oh, I don’t really mind the way Zack Snyder altered the ending. It works just as well.