Monday, March 9, 2009
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: WATCHMEN
Watchmen is as bold, risk-taking, and ambitious as a major studio event movie is going to get. Or at least that I can remember. Without the runaway success that 300 became, director Zack Snyder was never going to be allowed to make a $150 million hard-R comic book movie. Over the last 20 years, a diverse group of filmmakers including Joel Silver, Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass, and many others have all tried -- and failed -- to bring Alan Moore's wildly revered graphic novel to the big screen. Warner Brothers president Alan Horn deserves a serious shout-out -- this project could have been turned into a watered down version of its incredibly nihilistic source material and it wasn't. Having not fully read the graphic novel (I've skimmed it, thumbed through it, read the various outlines and reviews), I went into my IMAX screening, first and foremost, hoping for a powerful visual experience. And I got that. The fact that the story was so dense, layered, and intricate has caused me to fully realize that not until a second viewing will I be able to form a proper "review" or summation of my overall thoughts and feelings. My first impressions are that I was stunned by the overall sense of design and visual sophistication of the film. Snyder blew me away with 300, a film that was as visceral as it gets, and set out to do one thing: kick serious ass. And that it did. Big time. Snyder seems to love the ability to literally turn a graphic novel into a living, breathing piece of moving celluloid. I am not sure if I agree with the Warners marketing team labeling him as "a visionary director" quite yet, as his resume consists of one re-make and two adaptations. And as amazingly conceived as his work has been thus far, he's yet to create something truly original. I'm fine with filmmakers like Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg receiving the "visionary" treatment, but I think Snyder needs a few more films under his belt to grab that status. But with Watchmen, he's taken the supposedly "unfilmable" graphic novel and has made it -- at least to my eye -- into one of the most uncompromising, demanding, and insanely brutal genre films ever made. There's so much to sift through -- the alternate political timeline, the subversion of the superhero genre, the blending of film noir with science fiction. Watchmen feels like an amalgam of 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Bladerunner, Dark City, Sin City, The Dark Knight, and the works of Raymond Chandler. It's a very heady brew, trippy and surreal at times, ironically campy in a few instances, always nasty, very kinky, and extremely interesting to watch. This is a one of a kind film, and even though it's not perfect, this is the sort of movie that people should really make an effort to experience on the big screen.