Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 10
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THIS IS LIKE DESCENDING INTO HELL: Superhero Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman) is on her way to help her fellow Watchmen comrades defeat the enemy who is bent on destroying the planet Earth.

Watchmen: Graphic Novel Adaptation Is an Underwhelming Disappointment

In 2008, Hollywood treated us to a quartet of outstanding comic book hero adventures, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, and The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, that impressive string came to an abrupt end with the release of the Watchmen, an underwhelming film that is bound to be remembered for its excessive depiction of gore.

Based on the popular DC Comics series of the same name, this eagerly anticipated adaptation was directed by Zach Snyder, who had followed his spellbinding debut, Dawn of the Dead, with the critically acclaimed 300. Here, however, he took a giant step backwards with an overambitious production that is filled with a plethora of characters, and has a convoluted plotline that takes almost three hours to introduce, thicken, and resolve.

The story is set in 1985 in an alternate reality universe where Richard Nixon is still president, America and the U.S.S.R. are at the height of the cold war, and are teetering on the brink of mutual nuclear annihilation.

The plot begins with the discovery of the mysterious murder of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a retired member of the Watchmen, who are a confederation of superheroes who once worked for the U.S. government. The Comedian’s body is discovered by Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a superhero who wears a mask that has a constantly changing symmetrical ink blot. Rorschach realizes that its time to reassemble the old gang in order to get to the bottom of the crime, not realizing that this will embroil them in a subplot in which they will be called upon to save the planet from extinction.

Most notable among the watchmen being brought back into service are brainiac Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), techno-wiz Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), beautiful Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), her lover Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and her mother, Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino). One can’t help noticing two things about the scene stealing Manhattan: one, he’s blue, and two, he always appears naked. He has the amazing superhuman ability to bend matter with his mind — an ability that resulted from his exposure to radiation in a lab accident. However, whenever the camera shows his entire body, we see that he is completely nude, which distracts the viewer’s attention from the story.

Equally offensive is director Snyder’s unnecessary displays of violence. For instance, in the comic book, Rorschach killed a kidnapper by handcuffing him to a pipe, setting the house on fire, and walking away. However, in the screen version, Rorschach has become a sadistic vigilante who takes glee in hacking away at the kidnapper’s head with a cleaver.

The film is a morally ambiguous parable that is homoerotic, and is full of gore and violent behavior.

Fair (1 star). Rated R for full frontal nudity, sexuality, profanity, and graphic violence. Running time: 163 minutes. Studio: Warner Brothers.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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