Saturday, 14 March 2009

Of Watchmen

I really, really wanted to love this movie. In the end however I just didn't. I am sat here after having got out of the theatre like 40 minutes to go and I can't help but feel immensely disappointed that this film that I've been psyched for, for almost two years, just fails to live up to all the hype I and many friends have given it. However out of the ten or so friends who have seen it I'm the only one who didn't see it as being "unbelievably awesome" and the only answer I can give is that I am the only person who read the Graphic Novel. Three times in fact. Now a few friends have skim read it, seen the pictures and have had a better experience than I did, but I've read it cover to cover and whilst I had some fun in the film, it just didn't compare to the experience that I had with the novel.

Before I start the review proper I want to say I'm not being one of those purists who thinks that the book is always better, because honestly I'm not. Lord of the Rings is about as good as the books if not slightly better in some respects. No Country for Old Men is a better film than novel and there many others where I don't think the original is necessarily the best. However Watchmen is not one of them. Watchmen is probably the most highly acclaimed graphic novel of all time along with Sandman, and it should be. The story is amazing and characters like Rorschach have gone down as some of the greatest characters of all time (deservedly so). In fact Watchmen would safely rank in my favourite books of all time, sadly the film doesn't

Alright I'm going to start off with the parts I enjoyed. For starters, Rorschach is great, perhaps not as great as the book version, but still he is almost perfect. The character makes the transfer almost perfectly. As does Dr. Manhattan who is played brilliantly by Billy Crudup. He really manages to get the soullessness of the character and his voice is a brilliant monotone throughout. Also note to all those people who complained about the penis, get a fucking grip. Yes it's a penis, grow up its on screen for all of a minute and doesn't detract from the film at all, it's not a valid complaint, only for people too immature for their own good or who are uncomfortable with their sexuality. In fact that him being naked is a perfect example of his disconnected nature from the human race, the only time he ever wears clothes is when others dictate that he should.

The film is also shot wonderfully. Zack Snyder is a very visual director and it helps in the realm of comics. It's fun to spot shots in the film that mirror those from the graphic novel, however that also makes it more painful when scenes are moved or changed. I know that it's impossible to have a direct copy of the book, the fact that scenes have moved, in my opinion takes away from some of Alan Moore's brilliant story telling in the first place. He put things in a certain order and here in some cases it is completely shit on. But still the film is gorgeous to look at, even if it does tend to rely on slow motion a bit too much.

Now complaints. For starters the music, some of it is the most obvious song possible. Sound of Silence at a funeral? Please, be original!!! Then there is the god awful use of Hallelujah in a sex scene, interposing the word "hallelujah" with Silk Spectre having an orgasm. Turing a strong scene into a comedy moment that is almost bad enough to be in a teen movie. Then there is the use of My Chemical Romance's "Desolation Row" over the end credits. Yes it's in the graphic novel but it just feels out of place to end the movie. If you want to look at how to do credit music please go watch "The Fountain" or "Slumdog Millionaire", they both use music that sums up the movie wonderfully and just add to the emotion of the movie. Not a bad cover of song just because the original was mentioned in the graphic novel, (no offense aimed at MCR, love Black Parade).

Speaking of Silk Spectre, she was shit. She was probably the most wooden actor in the entire film. Possible of all time, if you discount Hayden Christensen. The film seems to have a problem finding actors. Two of the main six were awful (Silk Spectre and Ozymandias), two were solid (The Comedian and Nite Owl) and two were amazing (Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan) . It's a shame because Silk Spectre is the only strong female character and they give it to such a shit actress. She was literally painful at points and fumbled so many lines by the end I just wanted her to fuck off. But she didn't and I knew that because I've read the sodding novel!!!! (no offense aimed at the brilliance of the novel).

Now the main crux of my disagreement with the film. It's leaves so little to the imagination. Part of the fun of the graphic novel is trying to piece together what is happening. But in the movie, everything is painted for us. Stuff that if the audience is intelligent enough will be able to figure out is given away with needless dialogue which explains everything. In the graphic novel it isn't said that The Comedian is Silk Spectre's father until 3/4 of the way into the story. Here it's slammed in our faces in the first thirty minutes and then when we're told in the book, it's backed up by a line of dialogue that isn't needed for anyone with a brain cell.

The movie just isn't deep enough. There's so much symbolism in the book that it would be impossible to put it all to film, and there's good load of it here. What doesn't help is that what we're left with is forced down our throats rather than being open ended and making the audience fell intelligent. My friends said that it had to do that to appeal to a mass audience and yes it does, but Dark Knight did that last year and did so beautifully and didn't compromise at all, making the audience work to find intricacies within. Hopefully the movie will convince more people to buy the graphic novel and they'll hopefully come away feeling more rewarded for doing so, however I have feeling some people won't for one reason....

...the Giant Squid. I'm sort of glad that the squid has gone. It really wouldn't have made sense in the cinema and would have turned off some people. I mean a giant squid and the ending they came up with is more than passable if a little holey (would the Russians really come to peace when the AMERICAN weapon goes rogue?) It is better than a giant alien squid causing the death of everyone in New York. But for me it wasn't that, that was the problem. The problem was that visually that ending wasn't as good as the graphic novel. In the novel the twelfth chapter begins in the wreckage of New York with dead bodies hanging out of the windows, covered in blood with characters we've come to know littering the landscape (again missing in the movie but coming back in the extending DVD version). In the movie we get a stereotypical nuclear environment which isn't anywhere near as good.

Overall, I would say that this is as close as we're ever as likely to come to a Watchmen movie. Zack Snyder has done his best and you can tell that passion was definitely put into it. What doesn't help is that the movie feels really shallow and is marred by some bad acting. Yes it's a fun movie, the fights are well done and it's decidedly gory. But that's not what Watchmen is about, its the psychological profiles of these "superheroes". Yes it is probably a really good superhero movie, but the source material is so much better. It isn't just one of the best graphic novels ever, but the best novels period. The film is a gallant attempt to film it and I'm glad we got an almost perfect screen version of Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan but sadly it just proves that it really is unfilmable. I'm just glad we got a good version rather than an awful one. 6.5/10

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