For this film review, I went with a 'Love / Hate' list of pros and cons for the film. There are some spoilers, but I don't summarize every little detail or throw out nearly as many spoilers as my comic book reviews. My only request is to not start counting the number of pros or cons in an attempt to gauge whether the film was good or bad because that wasn't my intention. The film was amazing and I loved just about every minute of it and I'm sure you will, too.
Hit the jump for the full breakdown.
The Intro - After watching the intro for Watchmen, I believe they need to make a new Acadamy Award for opening credits. Not to undersell the rest of the movie, but I'm almost (almost) tempted to say this is the best five minutes of the film. If you don't intend on seeing the film or just want to take another look at the intro, feel free to check it out in the embedded video below.
Rorschach - I don't think it's any small stretch to say that Rorschach stole the show here. Jackie Haley, while a tad small in stature, nailed the Rorschach character and his voice was spot on, right down to the trademark 'hiss'.
One thing that was odd, though, was his mask. I always imagined it as warping around based on moisture and sweat. In the movie, it simply changes shape at random. Maybe I misinterpretted the description of it in the comic.
Nite Owl Witnesses Rorschach's Death - I thought this was an excellent addition to the film as I felt Daniel and Rorschach were fairly close and probably each other's only friends. In the comic, Daneil went off to have sex with Silk Spectre and it was designed mostly to show that Rorschach had no place in this new world anymore. It also mirrored Comedian's solitary death in the opening of the book.
However, I always felt cheated we didn't get to see Daniel's reaction to his friend's death and it was something I really enjoyed. I only wish the film had taken more liberties while adapting the comic to film.
Manhattan Did It - Another great change to the source material that I completely agreed with. While many claim to love the alien squid plot from the comic, I thought it was the weakest part and the use of Dr Manhattan as the scape goat for Adrian's master plan.
The Soundtrack - I rarely ever notice the musical score of a film, but from the opening credits' Times They Are A-Changin to 99 Luftballons, the use of sound in this film was amazing and set the tone for many of the scenes.
Good Use of Slowmo - Snyder really toned down his use of slowmo for this film. While it worked well for the ultra violence of 300, I was afraid he'd give a similar treatment of Watchmen. Thankfully, his limited use of it was actually quite well done and added to the film instead of detracted, as I had feared it might.
No Compromises - Zack Snyder did a commendable job adapting arguably the greatest graphic novel ever produced to the silver screen and should be praised for not allowing such ridiculous executive decisions as the proposed cutting of the entire Mars or Rorschach interrogation scenes as well as sticking to his guns on not reducing the length of the film or dropping it to a PG-13 rating.
However, the film's major problems arise from the fact he simply could not divorce himself from the graphic novel and failed to see that this is a different medium. Some things work better in the comic format and shouldn't be adapted panel for panel as Snyder was wont to do throughout the film.
Adrian Veidt is the Villain - It was was quite obvious this was going to happen from the very first promotional images of the film. Adrian Veidt is simply painted as the badguy from the minute we see him and I've yet to find anyone unfamiliar with the comic that did not realize he would be the villain from the first time we see him.
I don't blame this on the acting, though. It was purely the writing aspect. Matthew Goode did as much as he could with what he was given. Despite the fact we had a three hour long movie, it was inevitable something would be cut and it seems that any development or subtleties from the comic for this character was left on the cutting room floor. As far as I'm concerned, they basically plastered a giant neon sign above his head with blinking text stating, "I'M THE BAD GUY!".
"I triggered it 35 minutes ago." - I didn't mind the change from Republican to supervillain, but "triggered"? Seriously? Try saying it yourself. It just lacks the same impact that the original, "I did it 35 minutes ago.", had.
Nite Owl / Silk Spectre Street Fight - I'm not sure what to think about this. It is one of the most brutal fight sequences in the film, consisting of Silk Spectre breaking one guys neck and stabbing another in the neck with a knife while Nite Owl follows it up with his own street vengence. They later go to a prison with convicted felons rioting and simply kick or punch them, similar to the comic interpretation of the riot and in stark contrast to the previous street thug fight scene. It was as if they mixed up a Rorschach scene with an Nite Owl and Silk Spectre one.
Fine, Give Them Their R-Rating - What the hell was up with the Nite Owl/Silk Spectre sex scene? By far the longest and most awkward sex scene I've seen in anything short of porn. It was so jarring and immediately broke up the pace of the film and felt as if Snyder was throwing people a bone for the R-Rating. "Ya, ya, it's an R-Rating. Here's your softcore porn for 5 minutes.". I know they had sex in the comic, but this was just overly gratuitous and unnecessary. Worst part of the film for me.
Manhattan's Big, Blue Dong - In the comic, Dr Manhattan's manhood is on display throughout, just like the movie. However, in the comic it is artistic and similar to something you'd see from a classical painting or statue (think the statue of David). In the movie, it looks like they went out and found a male porn star with a big, flaccid, circumsized penis to stunt double for the nude scenes. I would have preferred they stuck with a more modest interpretation, like the comic, or simply gone with him wearing the underpants he wore during his superhero days.
Bullet Catching - While I enjoyed most of the final showdown with Veidt, the entire Laurie / bullet catching scene was terrible. One minute, we've got Veidt 'killing' Manhattan and the next cut, Laurie's got a gun and shoots him. He catches it and rolls down some stairs. It's just so abrupt and felt like half the scene was cut for time restraints.
We didn't even get Veidt's, "didn't think that would work", line. He just gets up and we move along to the return of Manhattan. I hope this is fixed in the eventual director's cut. A similar problem is with Ozy's pet lynx, Bubastis. Just shows up in one scene and then gets fried with little reason or explanation for a film version.
Verdict - Must See. Don't let the amount of red fool you, this was one of the best comic book movies you'll ever see. However, much like Rorschach, himself, the Watchmen film is an unapologetic and uncompromising attempt at adapting the graphic novel to the silver screen. Snyder does his best at replicating every scene with painstaking attention to detail to the source material. Some of this is amazing, like many of the Rorschach scenes, while some falls flat, like many of Adrian Veidt's scenes.
In the end, Snyder has done what many deemed impossible - adapting Watchmen to film - and has done a better job than anyone could have imagined, myself included. However, as I said above, if he had just tried a little harder to adapt for film instead of simply to film, this movie may have achieved a similar level of recognition as the graphic novel. As it is, we simply got a very, very good comic to film version that fans should love and non-fans should still be able to enjoy.