First up, a little context: I have read the graphic novel, and I’m a fan, despite some people saying that it drags on a bit. Naturally, I was excited for Watchmen to come out when I first saw the trailers, and in fact, we saw it opening night.
The quickest review I can give you is that this is a 2 hour 40 minute movie that should have been 90-100 minutes at most. When you keep in mind that we’re talking about an action movie, that means either a lot of unnecessary dialogue, side-stories, slow-motions, or all of the above.
The good stuff:
I liked that they kept rigidly true to the book. The characters are pretty much all there, and the important bits of the story are maintained.
I also like the filming. It was full of stark angles and a little jagged at times, which I kind of like in my comic book movies. I like being reminded of where the story comes from.
The bad stuff:
Did I mention it was long? Unnecessarily so? Right. The reason it was so long was because they kept fleshing out different parts of the story with different characters’ viewpoints. This works really well in a book or a movie like Clue, but in an action movie, it just means spending more time than necessary elaborating on a plot (which isn’t that complicated to begin with) in order to give the characters more depth.
Personally I would have kept Rorschach as the main narrator (since he’s the one the movie opens with), and let the other characters flit in and out of the story accordingly. The dialogue was alright (just, as I said, unnecessarily wordy) but the acting (Malin Akerman, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Goode, I’m looking at you) was what really pushed Watchmen over the edge.
You know how the only thing anyone remembers from Star Wars Episode III is Hayden Christensen’s wooden acting and Padme’s bondage gear outfit? No one ever seems to remember that of the three pre-quels, III is the one with the best plot, the most important story-moving aspects, the movie that really explains how we got from baby-racecar-Anakin and a Senate-run galaxy to Luke Skywalker running away from home in a universe suddenly ruled by the Sith.
In the same way, all of the good aspects of Watchmen, even for those who can sit through the whole thing, are completely overshadowed by the poor performances of some of the main characters. Given good acting, their characters would have been 3-dimensional with half the dialogue — my example for that is the elder Silk Spectre: I thought she was great, even with something like 10 minutes of screentime in the whole movie.
I’d watch it if it were on tv. Even with the amounts they’ll cut out, you’ll still be able to follow the story, although you’ll probably miss the nudity everyone seems so shocked by.
For the die-hard fan of the graphic novel, I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’ve heard good things about this, so consider that an alternative. (Although who am I kidding? You guys were probably the ones in costume sitting behind me on opening night.)
Due to sentimentality, I can’t give it the 3.5 it really deserves, so old system score: 4/9