Early Word on “Watchmen”

Only two days until the release of the film that for some has been the most anticipated in years and early word from critics is already very mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes Watchmen now sits at a respectable-but-not-astounding 69% rating. However, on Metacritic, the film is at a dismal 44%. Now, everyone has known this movie was going to split audiences and the critics are already literally all over the spectrum. It seems that those vehemently against the film are louder than those that sing its praises at this point, but as the reviews pile up and audiences will soon weigh in their opinions, we do not yet know how history will view Watchmen.

Check out two snippets from the first two reviews that I happened to read, from two critics whom I admire, with wildly opposing viewpoints:

Emmanuel Levy only gives the film a B+, but his 2000+ word review hails the film as innovative:

“Watchmen” is nothing if not ambitious, fresh, and challenging, a work that commands our attention by delivering various pleasures, from the most visceral to the most cerebral. Here is an ensemble-driven picture that contains so many stories, and stories within stories, that it may be hard to follow for viewers accustomed for more conventional and linear mainstream entertainment.

A key to the success of the film is in its unusual casting. There are no major stars, not even actors of the caliber of Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr. and Tobey Maguire. Instead, the roles are cast with talented character actors on the order of Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, and Matthew Goode, actors who literally disappear within their ever-shifting identities and masks. (the handsomer Patrick Wilson is deglamorized and at first barely recognizable). View the full review.

Then I read Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter‘s review which pans the film saying it’s another shallow superhero film and predicts its box office failure:

There is something a little lackadaisical here. The set pieces are surprisingly flat and the characters have little resonance. Fight scenes don’t hold a candle to Asian action. Even the digital effects are ho-hum. Armageddon never looked so cheesy.

The film seems to take pride in its darkness, but this is just another failed special effect. Cinematographer Larry Fong and production designer Alex McDowell blend real and digital sets with earthen tones and secondary colors that give a sense of the past. But the stories are too absurd and acting too uneven to convince anyone. The appearances of a waxworks Nixon, Kissinger and other 1980s personalities will only bring hoots from less charitable audiences.

Looks like we have the first real flop of 2009. View the full review.

I expect audiences to be divisive in the same way. Check out the new poll to the right and offer your opinion on the reception of Watchmen. All I know is regardless of how well or poorly it is received, I will be there opening night, giddy with boyish excitement.

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