I saw “Watchmen” during the weekend, and I think the filmmakers did a good — almost great — job of turning this deconstructionist comic series into a movie.
The essential elements were there. The Alan Moore technique of plunging the viewers into the story and letting them sort things out for themselves was there. The iconic visual imagery employed by comic artist Dave Gibbons was there. The moral ambiguities were all there.
If you enjoyed the comic series, I think you’ll enjoy this movie. It is quite faithful to the source material.
The downsides? Number one has to be Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II. She certainly looks the part of a butt-kicking hottie in spandex, but other than faking an orgasm she shows no ability to act at all. This is a huge problem, because Silk Spectre and Nite Owl II (portrayed decently by Patrick Wilson) form the emotional center of the story. Akerman’s inability to be believable as that emotional center is what makes “Watchmen” fall short of its potential.
All of the other costumed adventurers in the story are detached from humanity. Rorschach (portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley, who nailed it) has been swallowed by the dark side of fighting crime; whatever heroic aspects he might once have had, he now is far more interested in punishing people than in saving anyone. The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) ought to have been put down like a dog a long time ago; convinced life is all a big joke, he behaves precisely the way many a Christian seems to think all atheists should naturally behave — he does what he wants, when he wants, and he laughs off the harm he does in the process. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is so far beyond humanity that he scarcely recalls his own human nature. Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) thinks he’s God.
With all that going on, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre have to be our “entry point” characters. They have to be the ones who are human enough for viewers to connect with. I thought Patrick Wilson did a decent job of this; Akerman made me cringe with almost every line delivery. And because Silk Spectre and Nite Owl are supposed to be that ray of hope in an otherwise pretty damned bleak story, the filmmakers needed to cast someone other than eye candy as Silk Spectre II.
Other than that, I thought it was an amazing movie.
If you are not familiar with the graphic novel, you should realize this is NOT “Spider-Man” or “Superman Returns.” In terms of darkness, the story makes “The Dark Knight” look like a Shirley Temple flick. The violence is graphic, there are no fadeouts before the sex scenes, the language is not so tame as “Holy buckets of badness, Batman!” The heroes are not particularly heroic. And if the idea of seeing a big blue dong bothers you, um, stay away, because you’ll be seeing quite a bit of it.