'Watchmen' (Warner Bros.)

Prepare to be bludgeoned. Watchmen is sledgehammer entertainment, an action epic with tremendous production values that acknowledges good and evil but is much more interested in things that go boom.

As director Zack Snyder amply demonstrated in his previous adaptations of other people's strikingly original source material (Dawn of the Dead and 300), he is more than up to the task of creating a multitude of dynamic, viscerally-exciting action sequences. As a bonus, there are small moments in Watchmen that prompt warm, unexpected laughter, skillfully-recreated scenes that inspire pure fanboy bliss, and one lengthy flashback segment that is entirely transcendent, as dazzling, thoughtful, and emotionally-stirring as anything I've seen in recent years.

And then there's the rest of the movie, which crams in a remarkably high percentage of the plot points from the original Watchmen series of comic books by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and faithfully includes tiny details, classic panels and a checklist of characters. Yet it skims over deeper reflections about masked crime fighters, superheroes, the essential nature of man, and the future of the world. It's like someone decided the alphabet was too long: most of the consonants are still there, but Watchmen is missing a couple of vowels.

The film features a bewildering assemblage of performances, with juicy turns by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley, wildly uneven, uncertain performances by Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson, and sleepy monotone pronouncements by Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode. Some of the actors sound as though they're delivering their lines for the first time, reading off cue cards.

categories Reviews, Cinematical