Watchmen redefines the word epic. I don’t know what the new definition is, but it’s definitely different. I did not read the book and all I knew about it was the research I did throughout the film’s development. I think the movie is a magnificent work of art, a beautiful film.
The opening credits sequence will be studied by film schools for years to come. It sets up the film as a period piece for superheroes, like Oliver Stone for comic books. It’s a gripping alternate history portrayed like a total reality. This is thick, dense filmmaking throughout the whole film.
We’re having political and metaphysical debates in the midst of this visual spectacle. That’s not as new a thing in films today but it’s always admirable. I can even admit I don’t follow all of it, but I’m happy to let it wash over me. It’s a social commentary through this alternate history and present, which I’m sure is from the source material but plays wonderfully on film.
What makes it so gripping is that the actors and filmmakers sell this world. A Doomsday Clock sounds ridiculous but it informs real political stakes so you buy it. The costumes are silly yet they represent political movements and the performers take them seriously. The intensity is adult and the actors commit to the reality. They may speak simply but they deal in complex ideas so you believe this is how they deal with them. Also it’s just plain awesome.
It’s 300 times 10. The personal moments are most awesome to me, seeing how these super powers impact intimate things. There are images I’ve never seen before. Being naked on Mars is beautiful and sexy. It will look fantastic on Blu Ray without any of that crappy film projection getting in the way.
Seeing 300 style action on the New York City streets is cool. There’s slow motion again but perhaps that’s the motion picture equivalent of graphic novels, forcing you to pay attention to the frame.
You won’t want it to end. Whether it’s action, intimacy or just visual settings, you’re not just waiting around. All the elements are equal. It’s 2001 with meta-sensory exploration in visual spectacle. I also love Dr. Manhattan’s big blue schlong hangin’ around all over the place.
Some of the visual effects are mediocre, but I didn’t care because the ideas behind them are magical. The ink moving looks great and Dr. Manhattan is a special creature, so fake blood splatters are expendable. Old age makeup doesn’t look right. It’s too pretty but old age makeup always looks fake in real historical epics, so that’s part of the genre. The real world figures don’t quite look right, JFK, old Nixon, but again, lots of real epics have day players in makeup so you get it. They don’t hire Frank Langella to be background Nixon.
All this is to say Watchmen is just plain awesome. I loved it just as a film experience. I don’t care what happened in the book, what parts I don’t understand, what flaws it may have. I’m just glad it exists.