The short answer is I liked it.

On Monday night I was invited to a special IMAX test screening of Warner Brothers Watchmen movie that will be released this coming Friday to a theater near you.  Why did I call it a “test screening?”  Because it’s one of the longest IMAX movies ever attempted and it barely fits on the projection platters.  They literally have to wind the film extra tight and work on the humidity in the projection booths to make sure this all works right. Warner Brothers has requested that the new Harry Potter trailer be attached to the IMAX prints and even just that minute and a half of extra film on the platter is causing concerns for the IMAX theaters.  It’s such an issue that there are different, shorter credits on the IMAX version of the movie than the regular prints.   It turns out there was an issue in the screening I saw where the film had to be stopped for about five minutes.

 

So, back to the movie: As I said, I liked it.  It was exciting and well done and there were some excellent performances.  

Was it perfect? No. 

Did it NEED to be made into a panel for panel glorified motion comic of the original comic?  That will be up to you to decide. 

If you haven’t ever read the comic/graphic novel should you read it before seeing the movie? Abso-freakin’-lutly!

 

I collected and read the original Watchmen comics back in the 80’s when they first came out.  I was young, and didn’t get it all back then, but I liked it.  I’ve re-read it a couple of times, including over the most recent holiday break so it’s pretty fresh in my mind. My girlfriend Abby also went with me and she just read Watchmen for the first time last month.  So we went in as fans that were looking forward to a translation of this work.

For me, I really enjoyed seeing huge chunks of the story come to life on the big IMAX screen in front of me, but much like the Harry Potter films it’s condensed and feels a bit like the “cliff notes” version.   All the major beats are in there (except for the Tales of the Black Freighter segments/parable that runs through the book, but that will be released as a motion comic on March 24th on DVD).  Unless you been on a media black out for the past three months you’ve probably read some web story about how painstakingly Zach Snyder has recreated scenes and panels. He goes so far to even capture the covers of the issues in most of the transitions.  For me, as someone that knows the work that was fun to spot.  It’s so true to the art of the comic that Rorschach even has that one epaulet on his coat that sticks up and is never buttoned down.

There is a few times where Mr. Snyder breaks out on his own, and one the most effective instances of that is the opening montage set to the music of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these images serve as a sort of short hand to the “Under the Hood” and other supplemental materials at the end of each issue.  The stylization of his directing I think works well for this material and didn’t bother me at all, but I can understand if it’s not everyone’s bag.

There was a tremendous amount of practical sets so it didn’t feel like the whole movie was shot in front of a green screen… with the exception of the Mars scenes.

One thing you should know is this movie is a HARD ‘R’.  There is a lot of blood, shattered bones sticking through skin, a rape, and various other graphic things so if you were thinking of taking the kids, think it’s a date movie, or are squeamish about that sort of thing you might be better off seeing Madea Goes to Jail this weekend.

I really think the stand out performance is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.  He completely transforms himself between Rorschach and Walter Kovacs.  The physicality of his masked and unmasked personas is so interesting to watch.  He really nails it and is just what I was looking for in a live action version of this character.

I also enjoyed Patrick Willson’s Dan Dreiberg/Night Owl II performance as the “everyman” and Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer really stood out in his few scenes as Moloch. The CGI Dr. Manhattan performance didn’t always work for me, but I appreciated it for its attempt.

There are some things that will really stick out to you if you choose to see it in IMAX like Veidt and Silk Spectre’s wigs are pretty obvious in that scale.  But many of the sequences and the sound is just awesome in that setting.

I really don’t know what the general public’s reaction will be to this movie as I think Warner Brothers has really hyped it as “wall to wall SuperHero Action!” and it’s not. There are huge chunks of the movie that are just regular people talking.

I’m sure the changed ending will split the fans, but it made sense as a substitution to me.

 

Overall I’d give it a B+ and would most likely see it again.   I’d love to hear your thoughts on it after you see it.

 


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