Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Year: 2009

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David Hayter and Alex Tse
DC Comics: Based on the Graphic Novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Stars: Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Stephen McHattie, Matthew Goode
Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup

Who’s watching the Watchmen? To answer that tag line, just about everybody who’s interested in the wonders of contemporary cinema, or comic books, or sci-fi. But not everyone will be pleased by what they see here. That’s according to the majority of reviews you’ll find on-line. Opinion seems to be split right down the middle.

It’s taken many years for this to be brought to the big screen, deemed unfilmable by certain studios and directors, but after a bit of legal wrangling Warner Bros. finally got the green light on arguably one of the most controversial genre films of the decade.

Apparently, if you believe everything you read, American audiences have been fooled into thinking this is a ‘kids’ movie, due to the comic-book reference and Superhero tag. But we know how easily they are fooled across the Atlantic. A film with an adult rating does what it says on the tin. You know what you are about to see is going to be ‘inappropriate for children’, and inappropriate for a lot of other reasons as well.

Watchmen is, according to the ‘experts’, a faithfully rendered foray into comics writer Alan Moore territory, being an almost frame-by-frame recreation of the 1980s graphic novel, and directed by Jack Snyder, responsible for that other graphic novel adaptation '300'.

The influence of Snyder’s former stylistic efforts can clearly be seen in Watchmen. The screen fills with colour and panache, like a Rockwell painting coming to life in front of your eyes…a warped Di Vinci pastiche is a taste of what you’ll see… for a short while anyway, ‘till it all starts to go horribly wrong.

If graphic-novels are your thing then you're going to love Watchmen, with its extended sequences of silence. If you prefer your superhero stories the traditional way, then the pedestrian dialogue may not be the only thing that turns you off.

There’s a sort of love – hate relationship going on between the viewer and the viewed, that’s you and the superheroes you’re watching. Characters begging to be liked, occasionally getting their way before doing something unspeakable and forcing you to re-evaluate your allegiance.

Personally, I loved the pop-culture style, the vivid colour, the political satire and the obviousness. I hated the in-your-face violence and 'world peace' message. I didn’t mind the giant naked blue guy, or grown-ups playing dress-up in shiny latex suits, but I detested the prosthetic nose on Nixon, and the out of place, unnecessary voice-over.

The acting is superb and believable all round, and the choice of music compelling genius, but the non-linear structure, the flashbacks, and horror, may lose you half-way in. The characters are intriguing and beguiling, but if you can’t empathise or understand their motivations, and their ridiculous and contradictory ideals, then what is the point of Watchmen?

For the ‘non-believer’, it has to be seen in a purely satirical way – to come out of it thinking there is a moral to the story, a reason for being, only means that Snyder and his cohorts have successfully manipulated you . I guess that’s what good cinema should do? You may see it differently, so watch Watchmen if you must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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