I watched the Watchmen

Antonio Hernandez / Roundup

Since its creation, “Watchmen” was proclaimed as being the one graphic novel that could never be translated into film. So it was no surprise that when Hollywood announced it was bringing it to the silver screen, fans across the globe gave a collective groan. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Zack Snyder was appointed as the “visionary” director.

Snyder, director of the slow-motion-heavy “300,” seemed to be the final ingredient to a perfect storm of horrible. Surprisingly though, Watchmen isn’t horrible and considering its source material, it does a commendable job of translating the comic into a fun ride through the dark world its author, Alan Moore, created.

This is all set up through the opening credits, which plays like a motion comic to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.”

The credits depict a variety of history-changing moments, each modified by adding superheroes to the mix. Honestly, if the Academy Awards had an Oscar for best opening sequence, this would immediately take the cake.

But we don’t judge movies solely on their opening scenes. Thankfully the movie doesn’t disappoint. The plotline centers on the death of one of these superheroes, the Comedian, which sets off the search for a killer who is systematically picking off members of the Watchmen superhero group.

Leading the investigation is Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a hero who goes beyond ethics to get the job done. He is joined by others including the enticing Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), the batman-esque Nite Owl II ( Dan Dreiberg), and the physics-bending Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup).

Haley nearly steals the show with a rough voice that embodies Rorschach’s distaste with the world he has chosen to protect. From the narrative that accompanies certain scenes to the brutality he performs on-screen, Haley projects a very believable character.

Crudup also does an exceptional job at portraying Dr. Manhattan’s growing detachment from humanity due to his abilities (he is the only one with powers). It doesn’t hurt that the script does an exceptional job of putting the novel to the screen.

Many of the characters are painfully investigated by use of flashbacks, usually accompanied by a monologue. It serves as a method of character development that is usually a toss away in most films, and demands that the audience get to know these fallen heroes.

Words of warning: If you want and expect to see a cookie-cutter depiction of a hero, do not see this movie. Many of the heroes are only superheroes by name. The world they reside in is dark, perverted and filthy, and as a result the people who don these masks carry the scars of their world on them.

The responsibility to bring this world to life lies on the shoulders of Zack Snyder. Somehow, in between “300” and “Watchmen,” Snyder learned how to properly direct a film. There are still Snyder’s trademark slow-motion action sequences, but they are used sparingly and in a tasteful manner.

As expected, the action sequences are over the top, bringing into question whether these people actually have powers. Honestly, how do you punch through a granite table without flinching?

But surprisingly, Snyder does an overall good job with this depressing world. The soundtrack is also a work well done. From tracks from Jimi Hendrix to “Ninety Nine Red Balloons”, the collection is eclectic and appropriate to the timeline of the movie.

A problem that Snyder does have, though, is in elongating scenes. The first half of the movie is plagued by an overabundance of dialogue.

It may be necessary in order to set the stage for a complex plotline, but it seems like Snyder simply refused to cut certain parts; perhaps blinded by his devotion to the novel.

While not the epic that Warner Brothers claimed it would be, Watchmen proves that the un-filmable can indeed be filmed. So take that, Alan Moore.

(Warner Brothers)

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