Monday, March 9, 2009


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.


Breedlove said...

Really looking forward to seeing it. Looks awesome.

Did a doubleheader yesterday of TAKEN and THE INTERNATIONAL. I was surprised; I loved TAKEN. Just completely entertained me for some reason. I think Liam Neeson is a big part of why the film has been such a surprise hit. Hollywood has been underrating how much audiences like the guy...I feel like if it was the exact same film with Nic Cage or somebody it would not have been nearly as enjoyable. Neeson is just a guy you like sopending 90 minutes with, and the cheesy story and non-stop action just worked for me. I guess I should watch B-13 or whatever it was called.

THE INTERNATIONAL was solid, maybe a B-. Spectacular acion setpiece in the Guggenheim Museum was worth the price of admission alone.

I think I might watch BREACH tonight, have you seen that one?

Actionman said...

Breach is a **** thriller for me. Does everything right, even getting a very solid performance out of Ryan Phillippe.

I thought Taken was extraordinarily average. The dialogue was HORRENDOUS and the plotting was so inane and predictable that I was groaning out loud. Also, are you kidding me with casting Maggie Grace as a 17 year old? Truly retarded. Now, having said all that, Neeson was all steely-machismo and the fight sequences were suitably brutal for a PG-13 actioner. Taken has got nothing on District B-13 (Piere Morrel's previous movie). I'd give it **, maybe **1/2 simply becuase Neeson is so watchable. And I will say that I am happy for him to have such a big hit this late in his career.

Really wanted to see The International, if for no other reason than for the much-talked about museum shootout. I love Owen and I love the director (Perfume is an extremely underrated work of deranged madness). I will get it immediately when it hits DVD.

Watchmen was something else. It's not a perfect movie but the more I think about it the more I like it. Looking forward to viewing #2. But don't listen to that chimp over at Chud -- see it in Imax. It's stunning.

Joel said...

I LOVED Breach. It was one of 2007's more overlooked treasures.

Breedlove said...

Yeah, looking around a bit I see lots of raves for BREACH. Pretty psyched to check it out.

TAKEN was incredibly stupid, implausible, and far-fetched, and I loved're right, Maggie Grace acting like a little kid was bizarre. And the fact that Liam Neeson was SO in love with her at the start of the movie was so over-the-top and awkward, he would be the most annoying dad ever. Dude, we get it, you love your daughter, can we talk about something else now?

So laughably cheesy, but I guess I was just in the mood for 90 minutes of violence. There was something very simple and primal and effective about Liam Neeson as this superhero one-man army getting his daughter back, it just worked for me for some reason.

I don't think I'd be much of a movie reviewer because I think my mood really effects the experience so much...I hadn't been to a mindless, entertaining action flick in the theater in a while and I think I was just primed to enjoy myself yesterday. And I don't think I really realized before how much I like Liam Neeson.

Actionman said...

Here's the thing -- I enjoyed Taken for what it was. The revenge motivated violence was certainly fun to watch. And yes, Neeson is da man. And it's very sweet that he got his first ever (right?) true leading-man blockbuster. But compared to other genre entries like Man on Fire, it's got lots of catching up to do.

DEFINITELY see District B-13. The sequel will be hitting DVD soon and I hear it's as good (or better) than the original.