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Ryan Watches the Watchmen

Published March 7, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of Warner Bros
Watchmen Poster Watchmen

Oh how to describe Watchmen. If you’ve read the book, then you are in no need of explanation. But, for the majority of you that haven’t, let me ponder some facts.

What if I told you that you were about to see a movie whose villain might not be a particular person, but instead reason, probability, quantum mechanics and the side effects of being disconnected? Strange, huh? Well, what if I also told you that the film’s most psychotic characters – I’m talking confirmed crazy – follow the strictest of codes about justice, redemption and humanity?


Review: Watchmen


Just when the premise sounds difficult, Watchmen explores other complex topics as well, including:

1: How best to handle a Cold War that only has one outcome, impending doom.
2: What Quantum Physics means for the human race, if, in the end, it applies at all.
3: What sort of personality it takes to become a masked vigilante.
4: A complete breakdown of the anti-hero.
5. A brief evaluation of ‘God’.

To tackle so many subjects in Watchmen’s 163-minute running time, we are given a collection of characters. Even in the opening credits, which I remember running for about ten minutes, it is time to begin paying attention. Zack Snyder demands the most from his audience, so be prepared to remember names, their current situation and their explored history. To top it off, this story is taking place in an entirely alternate reality.

It’s the mid 1980s, and Nixon is still in office thanks to Dr. Manhattan’s help in ending the Vietnam War; he’s obviously doing more than the maximum two terms. Not the history you remember? Exactly. This is a new world, but with very similar issues. In this alternate reality we have a collection of characters, all of whom have been related to or part of the fraternity known as the Minutemen, which later became Watchmen. Now broken up, thanks to Nixon making it illegal for the population to practice masked vigilantism, we arrive at the current state of our er, heroes?

Guess we can’t call them heroes, save for the fact that they have a knack for doing heroic cliché’s like fighting crime in capes and masks. Oh, and you would never ever want to fight a single one of these people, as each seems incredibly trained in hand to hand combat. Now here comes the big twist: Plenty of these same heroes have committed their own crimes, including murder. So what to call them? Watchmen.



Which brings us to the film’s tagline, “Who watches the Watchmen?” A simple question, as these same people who once claimed to protect citizens could also, in the long run, do more harm than good. Don’t worry, this is a major topic approached in the film too.

Oh man, there is a lot here! Well, let’s get away from that and talk about what everybody will like.

The action sequences. Now, there aren’t as many as you’d think, but every punch breaks bone and every kick splinters doors. The fight sequences are choreographed with precision and are incredibly violent. Just wait for the opening segment, which just became one of my favorite fight sequences ever to appear on film. A great introduction to the story and the unrelenting moments of violence to come.

Zack Snyder. I know some people laughed at the idea of calling such a new, forgive me, fresh director ‘Visionary.’ After seeing Watchmen, I have no problem backing the statement. Not only does Snyder show his love for the material, it’s evident in every shot, he show’s his love for being behind the camera. There are so many cool camera tricks that he employs I’m not even going to try listing them off, just pay attention. Snyder, in the short run of two years – two months of March really – you’ve quickly become one of my all-time favorite directors. I’ll watch anything you put out. You could take a dump, wrap it in tinfoil, and sell it like gold.

The characters. Oh man do I love the characters. Whether it’s Nite Owl II’s impotence, he’s suffering a Batman-like identity crisis, or Jackie Earle Haley’s perfect, and I do mean PERFECT portrayal of Rorschach, you will rarely see a film with such character development. As you’ve seen in the trailers, plenty of Watchmen takes place in flashbacks. Remember, this is just as much a character piece as a single streamlined story. But Snyder makes sure not to burden us with flashbacks all at once. The opening six minutes, which comes at us with film credits, does enough to setup the base of characters and the current setting, but the later flashbacks are what help us dive into the psyche of each character. If you feel that the flashbacks in the first season of LOST were pointless, then you are going to hate this film. If you are a person who cares about characters, their development and their eventual arcs, then you will be so relieved to find that Watchmen is not only the least generic comicbook movie, but without a doubt the most unique.

This ‘uniqueness’ is exactly why you’ve read reviews both praising and hating Watchmen. Just in case you’re confused on which direction I’m heading, I loved this film. Part of why I love it is the same reason on why it is getting mixed reviews. A spectacle it is, nobody should argue about that. How you feel the story was delivered in the course of 163 minutes is another matter. People will debate this film. You will not leave the theater and forget about it like the usual fare of theatrical releases out there. You can discuss topics, one being Quantum Physics and its application in the film. It’s going to make you think. It demands that you listen and, therefore, pay attention. Sadly, a lot of moviegoers don’t like that.
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