Thursday, 5 March 2009

Watchmen - Review

Hollywood has not been kind to Alan Moore, after the failures of V For Vendetta and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one would forgive the man for not being positive about this, to the point of having his name legally taken out of the credits. It's been a very long journey for all, in 1986 Alan Moore created a graphic novel, some even say it's the graphic novel. Having sold the film rights roughly not long after the book was published and after a colossal array of cock-ups in development involving about 4 different studios, 5 screenwriters and 6 directors (including such heavyweights as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass all attached at separate points respectively) over 20 years later we finally have the comic book adaptation many geeks (including myself) have been waiting for, Watchmen: The Movie. Succeeding where, frankly, more established and creative directors have failed, Zack Snyder at the directors chair has delivered one of the most astonishing and ambitious film projects undertaken in recent years. For those who haven't had the pleasure of reading the book (which is highly recommended), Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 where due to various events tensions are higher then ever between the USA and Soviet Union, history has been changed greatly, America won in Vietnam, Richard Nixon won a historic third term and, as you would expect, superheroes (until recently) for a time had roamed free without the worry of being considered vigilantes or outlaws.

The film opens with the murder of one of the main characters of the piece, Edward Blake (played by seemingly the bastard love child of Robert Downey Jr and Javier Bardem, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who went under the superhero name of The Comedian. Investigating the murder is former superhero turned vigilante, the mysterious Rorschach, through his own paranoia he uncovers a plot that is intent on killing and discrediting all past and present superheroes. Reconnecting him with members of his former crime-fighting legion, including Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre II and the god-like Dr. Manhattan. Visually the film is comparable to Snyder's previous comic book adaptation 300, with extremely vivid imagery and hyper violence that you would only be likely to find within a comic book. Unlike 300 however this film and story has a level of substance to it, with an intelligent take on the story that some consider too complex for the screen, this is only amplified by the actors' performances. Jackie Earl Haley's turn as Rorschach is brooding and intimidating almost as if he was lifted straight from the pages of the book itself (however you would be forgiven for thinking it was Christian Bale under that mask with the Bale era Batman voice he puts on which is a little off putting initially). Probably the most established actor of the ensemble, Bill Crudup's performance of Dr. Manhattan was an interesting take on the character and quite different to how I imagined it in my head, instead of a booming god-like presence and voice to match he plays the role somewhat timidly as a curious soul interested in more obscure matters like the formation of molecules than being intimate with his girlfriend Laurie (aka Silk Spectre II, played by newcomer Malin Akerman). Akerman unfortunately is the weakest of the cast, not because she was necessarily bad but her character was written poorly, purely on show as the tits and ass of the piece and really nothing more. Matthew Goode's performance as the villain (or was he? Up for debate that one) of the story Ozymandias was pretty much spot on to his comic book counterpart, arrogant, all knowing yet completely conflicted, however for me personally the stand out performance is Patrick Wilson's Nite Owl (which has nothing to do with my love for Batman) who acts as the conscience, the most human character of the film, and the hero the audience is bound to feel the most for, he wants to save the world the right way, he wants to get the girl in the end, all classic comic book material for the good guy of any story.

On a technical level I found this film hard to fault, the visual effects were awe inspiring (Rorschach's mask was done perfectly and Dr. Manhattan was blended seamlessly into the film, though was there any need to be exposed so many times to ALL of him? Watch and you'll get what I mean). Something that was brilliant but questionable the same time about the time was the score/soundtrack, personally I thought it was a great move from the film makers to add pieces of music from the 70s and 80s into various scenes, referencing of course the book itself (the opening credits with Bob Dylan's "Times They Are a-Changing" gave me goosebumps) however the choices of tunes during Silk Spectre and Nite Owl's more intimate scenes were down right cheesy, verging on cringe worthy. Snyder translated the key scenes from the book perfectly in my opinion, and what he changed and left out is nothing for fan boys to cry about. Without risk of getting hate mail, I personally think the ending of the movie is a lot more plausible than Moore's original one. That's right Moore you fucking heard me! That squid idea was dumb! There I said it... Ahem... I digress...

Overall though I do feel that anyone who read the book and loved it should enjoy this film (unless you are Alan Moore...), however to the newcomers experiencing Watchmen for the first time without reading the book may not necessarily get all the tiny bits and pieces of the story which holds it all together, such as the Under The Hood book or Tales Of The Black Freighter posters/comic book etc. Due to the editing of the theatrical version it did skip about leaving it feeling a little disjointed, however I am fairly confident it will make more sense in the Director's Cut DVD which is due for release in the summer with an added 40 minutes worth of footage making it a titanic length of roughly 3 hours 30 minutes, and as far as I know that's without the upcoming Tales Of The Black Freighter animated feature spliced in also. For now though, Watchmen is an extremely enjoyable film that anyone with a love for the comic book genre will definitely enjoy which, along with The Dark Knight as the perfect genre film for the post-9/11 age, questioning the nature of why one becomes a hero, and the grey areas in between that defines a villain. Is it as good as the comic book? Probably not. Is it the best possible adaptation of one of the most complex graphic novels ever published? Honestly...yes.


Stand Out Scene...
Rorschach in prison, demonstrating the film at its most gritty and most violent level.

Stand Out Quote...
Rorschach "The world will look up and shout "Save us!"... And I'll whisper "No.""

See This If You Liked...
The Dark Knight, V For Vendetta, Hellboy, 300, Nightwatch etc etc.

1 comment:

Lee Munroe said...

I thought this was a great show too. had never read the comics before so probably didn't 'get' everything, but still a good show.

"played by seemingly the bastard love child of Robert Downey Jr and Javier Bardem, Jeffrey Dean Morgan" - was thinking exactly the same thing :-)