‘Watchmen’ Reviews: Major critics all over the place

03.06.09 9 years ago 2 Comments

Zack Snyder’s much hyped new thriller “Watchmen,” which you should be well aware opened today unless you live on, um, Mars, is finally getting reaction from the dying profession of critics in the mainstream media.  HitFix’s own Drew McWeeny may have chimed in about the adaptation of last week, but now the likes of the LATimes’ Kenneth Turan, the NY Times’ A.O. Scott (sigh, we wanted Dargis), Time’s Richard Corliss and Roger Ebert have weighed in.  Needless to say, the response has been decidedly mixed.  Here are a couple of plum reactions, from best to worst to consider before or after you check the film out this weekend.

Richard Corliss, TIME
“Maybe there’s no way the rest of the film could match this opening, and for sure it doesn’t. Snyder spends much of the movie’s 2 hours and 40 minutes on the splatter of crushed limbs, the chatter of Strangelovean science fiction and the nattering of the obligatory romance. He also encourages a little festival of tone-deaf acting. Yet Watchmen has moments of greatness. It proves again that the action movie is where the best young Hollywood brains have gone to bring flesh to their fantasies.”

“Other directors shake the camera to instill excitement. Snyder meticulously choreographs action scenes and thrills audiences with his inventiveness. Other directors go in for brutal realism. Snyder goes in for brutal surrealism, adding little visual grace notes that comment on the action and allow for audience distance. These touches, some of them genuinely odd but strangely right, show an unconscious engagement with the material, the work of a director not going through the motions but pulling from all sides of his brain.”

“The film is rich enough to be seen more than once. I plan to see it again, this time on IMAX, and will have more to say about it. I”m not sure I understood all the nuances and implications, but I am sure I had a powerful experience. It”s not as entertaining as “The Dark Knight,” but like the “Matrix” films, LOTR and “The Dark Knight,” it”s going to inspire fevered analysis. I don”t want to see it twice for that reason, however, but mostly just to have the experience again.”

“Watchmen isn’t boring, but as a fragmented sci-fi doomsday noir, it remains as detached from the viewer as it is from the zeitgeist. B-“

“Although the ending has been somewhat modified from the novel’s, let it be said that Watchmen doesn’t lack for self-confidence or even entertainment value. Its failure is one of imagination-although faithfully approximating Dave Gibbons’s original drawings, the filmmakers are unable to teleport themselves to the level of the original concept. Perhaps no one could have, but it would have been fun to see what sort of mess Terry Gilliam (who hoped to make a movie version back in the ’80s) or Richard Kelly (who surely took inspiration from Watchmen in conceptualizing his no less convoluted comic book saga Southland Tales) would have made of Moore’s magnum opus. Snyder’s movie is too literal and too linear. “

“Alan Moore was right. There isn’t a movie in his landmark graphic novel “Watchmen” — at least not a really good one. What we get instead is something acceptable but pedestrian, an adaptation that is more a prisoner of its story than the master of it.”

“The title sequence – in which Mr. Moore”s name, at his insistence, does not appear, leaving Mr. Gibbons listed, somewhat absurdly, as a solitary “co-creator” of the graphic novel – seems to acknowledge the project”s anachronistic, nostalgic orientation. As Bob Dylan sings “The Times They Are A-Changin”,” familiar images from the past are altered in ways both subtle and outrageous. Tableaus evoking Andy Warhol, the Zapruder film, Studio 54 and Weegee-style crime scenes commingle with snapshots from the lives of several generations of costumed crusaders. There is a witty pop sensibility evident in these pictures that gets the movie off to a promising start, even though such breeziness works to undermine the ambient gloom of the source material.”

Michael Phillips, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“The brutality is pretty numbing in “Watchmen,” and while the graphic novel poured it on as well, Snyder’s a lunkhead and a lingerer when it comes to using that violence for storytelling purposes. We’re supposed to be wrestling with moral conundrums throughout “Watchmen,” as the weakest and most sociopathic of the protectors incinerate and destroy for the good of humankind. But the film’s dour viciousness is a lot less inventive than the graphic novel’s. The tone is set at the beginning (as it was on the page) by Rorschach’s journal, in which he cranks off on “all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth talkers” that have wrecked the nation. You wonder if Rush Limbaugh is starring in a remake of “Taxi Driver.” And you wonder if Snyder, whose earlier graphic novel adaptation, “300,” was more engaging than this fetid item, will ever learn to imagine his own brand of cinematic miseries, rather than plunking someone else’s on the screen.”

Anthony Lane, THE NEW YORKER
“”Watchmen,” like “V for Vendetta,” harbors ambitions of political satire, and, to be fair, it should meet the needs of any leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex, and whose deepest fear-deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation-is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along. The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon. The result is perfectly calibrated for its target group: nobody over twenty-five could take any joy from the savagery that is fleshed out onscreen, just as nobody under eighteen should be allowed to witness it.”

“Unless you’re heavily invested — as countless fans and fervent fanboys are — in the novel’s flawed superheroes, its jaundiced take on heroism and its alternate vision of American history, watching “Watchmen” is the spiritual equivalent of being whacked on the skull for 163 minutes. The reverence is inert, the violence noxious, the mythology murky, the tone grandiose, the texture glutinous. It’s an alternate version of “The Incredibles” minus the delight.”

[The poster review is from artist and designer Kyle Cummings who we have to thank for the clean and sleek HitFix logo.  Check out Kyle’s work here.]

What did you think of “Watchmen”?  Share your thoughts below.

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