THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
Since this post has already mentioned the well thought out and impressive opening credits, I will not be including them on this list.
3. THE OPENING FIGHT SCENE
I will concede that most of the actual fight scenes in this movie are over stylized and silly, but the detail of this opening scene is the perfect attention grabber for new and old fans of the comic. As the Comedian watches TV, John McLaughlin clucks his famous phrase “On a scale of 0 to 10—with 0 representing zero possibility and 10 representing metaphysical certitude—what is the chance of [nuclear war]?” He’s portrayed as middle aged, so we can assume the time period is around the 1980’s (as he is 85 as of this post). We learn about Dr. Manhattan and Russia’s continued efforts to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, the audience is even given the famous countdown clock.
The real fun begins when a shadowy figure in stylish black clothing (Veidt) breaks down the Comedian’s front door. He begins to beat up the Comedian, all to Nat King Cole’s incredibly soothing “Unforgettable.” The Comedian shoots his television, stopping the ad he was watching for a split second before it dies.
The rest of the film is about as heavy handed as it gets, but this hint is so small it’s almost subliminal. The fight scene takes a turn for the worse here with some of the most forced fighting in the movie, but even that has its own unique intrigue. Veidt moves as if he’s practiced every punch over and over until it meets the Comedian’s face with the most affect. Again, the subliminal hints of a choreographed fight link to later scenes in the movie with similar movements from Veidt.
2. THE MUSIC
This film has an incredibly diverse and interesting soundtrack for a movie about costumed superheroes. (Again, this is excluding the Opening Credits, which have already been discussed in the post linked above.)
During Jon Osterman’s transformation into Dr. Manhatten, Philip Glass’ “Pruit Igoe” (from Koyaanisqatsi) is playing. The placement and timing of the music is so perfectly snyched that the drama is heightened to a level the comic could never reach. The subtlety is absolutely beautiful.
On a slightly less subtle note, there is also the breathtakingly heavy handed reference to Apocalypse Now when Dr. Manhatten and the Comedian are fighting in Vietnam. It’s so brash and fumbling that it makes you pay attention after the sobering funeral of the Comedian, which is another great musical moment, directly before this scene.
Overall the movie jumps from musical number to musical number, almost amounting to Hollywood’s most expensive and impressive music video.
1. THE ACTING
For me, the most outstanding acting came from Jackie Earl Haley (Rorschach/Walter Kovacs). Haley masters the mask he wears and truly makes it, as Rorschach would say, his face. He uses body posturing and well placed head tilts to perfectly express his characters feelings. Haley wore a gauze mask during filming, but his voice is still clear (as clear as Rorschach’s voice can be).
Of course, Rorschach wouldn’t be complete without Nite Owl II (actor Patrick Wilson). All of Wilson’s scenes are filled with palpable awkwardness and self deprecation. He grasps the character of Nite Owl II so well, it’s almost painful. Haley and Wilson create an amazing on camera report between their characters, making this film about costumed capers highly believable.
Matthew Goode (Ozymandias) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian) do great jobs making the most unlikable characters in the movie layered and, almost, approachable. They seem to get bogged down with a lot of the more stylized fight scenes, but it never becomes bulky (like it sometimes does with Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II).
That being said, Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre II) is charming, but can never manage to conquer her sillier stunts. She’s part of two scenes that could have used some cutting. Her handling of Billy Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan is quite impressive. She always seems to know where to look and how to deal with someone what would be either not in the scene with her or in a motion capture costume. On the same subject, Billy Crudup does wonderful voiceover work and makes Jon Osterman seem like a character I’d like to meet in real life. He brings life to the utterly unfeeling Dr. Manhattan.’
Overall, the acting makes up for the more drawn out sections of this movie and, even though some fans think otherwise, makes the movie a highly entertaining adaptation.
All images are screen caps from the 2009 Director’s Cut of Watchmen, directed by Zach Snyder. YouTube videos belong to their respective owners.