'Watchmen': Don't check your brain at the door

I've now seen "Watchmen" twice. As an action movie, as a drama, and as a character study (of many characters), it just works.

You might not be able to tell from this picture, but there was lots of excitement in the line to see Thursday night's midnight IMAX showing of "Watchmen." Eric Franklin/CNET

I've now seen "Watchmen" twice. After my first viewing, I did not know what to think. I've been reading the original graphic novel since about 1990, and I've always wanted to see a movie based on a work that had such a powerful impact on me.

So yes, as I left the theater, I did not know what to think. What had I just seen? There was so much changed from the GN, yet so much that was translated verbatim. There were scenes I felt didn't work as well as they did in the GN; conversely, there were scenes that were executed so well, they put the novel to shame.

There's so much for the audience to discover if they are willing to put aside their preconceived notions and expectations.

I did not know what to think, but I knew what I was feeling--that I'd just had a very powerful experience. A day after that first viewing, I could not wait to see it again. Last night, I finally (after three days) got my chance.

This time everything just clicked. Scenes that felt compressed during my first viewing were pitch perfect the second go-round. The first time the movie felt like a collection of scenes in (mostly) sequential order. On my second viewing I saw, plain as day, the narrative structure of the film.

And it works, on so many levels. Some levels I'm not even aware of. What I am aware of is that as an action movie, as a drama, and as a character study (of many characters) the movie just works.

Now I know whatever I say here will not affect your decision to see "Watchmen," and I would not consider this a "review" so much as one fanboy's impressions. How will the guy off the street, expecting to see "Spider-Man 4" or a new "X-Men" react to this? I don't know.

In my humblest of opinions people will be divided. Some will hate it for its unconventional nature as it basically craps all over what most would consider a normal structure of a movie and especially a superhero movie. Others will love it for those same reasons.

Some will not be able to get over Dr. Manhattan's full frontal male nudity, which I'll address by stealing a quote from one of the movie's characters: "Grow up!" Others will be put off by the violence, gore, and sex. If ever there was a movie for mature audiences this is it.

When I say that, I'm referring to more than just sex and violence. No, "Watchmen" requires that you not check yer brain at the door. It wants you to think about why one fight scene is incredibly violent and grotesque, while another, involving the same protagonist is almost lighthearted in comparison.

I won't talk about the acting, which for the most part is stellar, or the effects, which are also mostly perfect. Or even the action scenes that have been choreographed to near perfection. As good as those qualities are, they aren't the reason why I can't wait to see it again.

Yes, I am champing at the bit to see "Watchmen" again--10 hours from now--because this movie has so much to offer. So much for the audience to discover if they are willing to put aside their preconceived notions and expectations. I expect to have an even greater appreciation for things I got and a new appreciation for things I missed my first two times through.

Like I said, this is not a review. Just fanboy musings. For a proper review--from a "Watchmen" newb--I suggest checking out Roger Ebert's review as well as his follow up.

Both are well-written, insightful, and worth reading, even if you don't like the movie.

 

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