'Watchmen' is more like a soap opera than an action movie

Thursday, March 12, 2009
In this movie still released by Warner Bros., Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as The Comedian in a scene from the film, "Watchmen." (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Clay Enos) ** NO SALES **

When you spend $130 million to make a movie, and then another $60 million plus to promote it, one of two things must happen for the film to be considered a success: Everyone has to go see it, or a large majority have to go see it again and again and again.

"Watchmen" is moody, well-made, has tremendous visual effects and is about an hour too long. It's going to be the first flop of 2009. In a short quip to a friend, I said that compared to last year's "The Dark Knight," "Watchmen" is a slow-paced soap opera.

I haven't read the graphic novel, which I understand is one of the most admired -- if not loved -- graphic novels in history, and I understand for 23 years filmmakers have been trying to get it to the screen. The audience is built in, which is good for the studios, but, as said, the audience is built in, which means bad word-of-mouth is built in. Will the fan base and utter anticipation outlast the reality that "Watchmen" is just a mediocre movie? Lots of people will have their fingers crossed.

While trying to give you a sense of the story, without giving too much away, "Watchmen" takes place in an alternate 1985 America where costumed superheroes have become part of our society, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union is at its hottest point in history.

With so much at stake, Richard Nixon has continually been re-elected, and crime and fear rule the day. For the superheroes, antipathy and hopelessness have put them out of business. In fact their once fabulous celebrity turned out to be no different from that of a fleeting Hollywood star like Britney or any other flavor of the week.

When one of the aging superheroes is murdered, the masked superhero/vigilante Rorschach tries to expose a plot to rewrite the grand superhero history into one of avarice, crime and selfishness. One by one he reconnects with his group of retired superheroes to once again rejoin their mission to watch over humanity. But, really, who will watch the Watchmen?

With all the intense hype, and the fabulous trailer with its glorious music, even I sat down in the theater with high expectations. The opening credits are classic and almost worth the admission, but not too long afterward, probably an hour into the film, I thought maybe I had been wrong about the subject of the film. I thought "Watchmen" was an action flick, a graphic novel brought to the screen. Two hours into the film I was sure I had made a mistake.

Alan Moore wrote the original "Watchmen" graphic novel. He also wrote "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "V for Vendetta." Moore hated the movie adaptation of the former and demanded they not associate his name in any way with the "Vendetta" movie.

Moore has demanded the same thing with "Watchmen." He is not credited in the film. I'll let Moore's decision be the final say.

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