Have you ever heard that old saying, “the book is always better”? We’ve seen plenty of literature receive the big screen treatment. Whether you’re talking about classics like To Kill a Mockingbird or Psycho. Or even more modern day fan fares like Lord of the Rings trilogies, the Harry Potter franchise and Stephen King’s It duology. Even now, we’re just getting out of this phase of adapting young adult series into franchises. Here’s looking to you Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent & Maze Runner. Even some of our biggest franchises have taken inspiration from books. Look to moments in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Captain America: Civil War – just to name a couple. When you’re talking about the comic book and graphic novel as a medium, there are fewer titles that have experienced the praise, legacy and longevity that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen has. It is the only graphic novel featured on the Time Magazine top 100 books you should read list. It has been studied for its’ themes and ideologies over the years.
For years, the book was called un-filmable by numerous directors and even co-creator, Alan Moore. Yet, in 2009, thanks to Zach Snyder – the famous hero finally hit the silver screen. Watchmen tells the story of an alternative 1985 where superheroes exist but have been outlawed. Yet, one vigilante is investigating the death of another and stumbles upon a bigger conspiracy that reunites his old teammates. That hero who starts the path to reunite his old teammates is Rorschach. Rorschach is played by Jackie Earle Haley. While hero, Doctor Manhattan, may be the strongest force of nature within the confides of this film – its’ Haley’s turn as the unapologetic and uncompromising vigilante, Rorschach, that is the strongest performance. Haley delivers an intense performance with gut-punching conviction. He is almost Shakespearian in his deliverance. Even in the quieter scenes, Haley gives an emotionally charged response to every scene he’s in. He is the definite stand-out of the film.
Rorschach aside, we’re also given Billy Crudup’s Doctor Manhattan. As previously mentioned, Manhattan is the strongest force within the universe of the movie – though, he is the second strongest performance following Haley’s Rorschach. Even still, Crudup delivers an emotional arc of a man turned God searching for humanity once again. Looking to two specific scenes in general: the climatic ending of the villain’s plan and that of Manhattan’s mars journey. Able to convey two different aspects of emotion – one by words and the other by facial motions. Crudup is one of the strongest factors to the film.
Haley & Crudup, alone, are worth the watch of the film. It’s not without its’ defects. Watchmen is no doubt an ensemble film. Combining two different generations of superheroes with the Minute Men of the 1940s and the Watchmen of the 1970s. We only meet but two of the Minute Men throughout the course of the film – Carla Gugino’s Sally Jupiter aka Silk Spectre & Stephen McHattie’s Hollis Mason aka Nite Owl. They are, at best, glorified cameos. Yet, even in cameo format, they deliver performances that are a bit better than some of the larger roles. Matthew Goode’s Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias can sometimes come across as campy and a bit out of tone for moment’s within the film’s darker tones. Malin Åkerman playing Laurie Jupiter aka the second Silk Spectre feels a bit flat during moments of the film. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few moments where Akerman can deliver and hit the emotional mark in just the right way. However, those moments are far and few between. Much like Goode, she can feel a bit out of tone for some of her scenes. Then there is Patrick Wilson’s Daniel Dreiberg or Nite Owl II. Wilson’s performance is fine – nothing that stands out like Crudup or Haley – but also nothing as bad as Goode or Akerman. He is still a few years away from the electrifying performances we’ll come to know of him in The Conjuring and Aquaman.
Rounding out the cast, is another strong performance from Jeffery Dean Morgan. Morgan plays the Comedian, or Edward Blake. Blake is the link between both teams of heroes. Morgan delivers on a strongly convicted, sometimes sadistic hero – he’s one of the most entertaining performances within the confides of this film. Watchmen is a film that breathes – with nearly a three-hour run time. Throughout it’s entirety, there are only a handful of scenes that feel forced. The mystery of the film and pacing come hand in hand to continuously leave viewers as to what to anticipate next. Equipped with a stellar soundtrack, Watchmen makes brilliant use of its’ time through storytelling and awesome action sequences.
Overall, Watchmen, is a near three-hour film filled with strong themes, performances and music. Making brilliant use of its’ time to unfold a story with depth and history. Performances by Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup alone make the film worth the watch. However, then you have performances by Matthew Goode & Malin Akerman that feel tonally out of sync with the rest of the film. Watchmen is a faithful adaption that will satisfy fans and new comers alike.
RORSCHACH RATING SYSTEM
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