Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Film Review : Watchmen*****

There will be spoilers ahead.

Zack Snyder, all is forgiven. Having seen two of Snyder's previous films, the awful Dawn Of The Dead re-make and 300, which whilst rather good as a comic based film, didn't exactly fill Watchmen fans with glee as to what the film version of Alan Moore's comic would be like. Rejoice though comic geeks, Snyder has obviously read the book, and liked it so much that he didn't muck it around too much.

There are changes of course, Moore writes with a singular density, the book containing the three distinct threads of the main plot, the comic within a comic Tales Of The Black Freighter, and Moore's reams of additional material presented as chapters from the first Nite Owl's autobiography and other book and magazine excerpts. To trim this down and make the book filmable, Snyder has ditched the background material and the pirate comic, and the film still has a run time of over two and a half hours.

To a long term fan of the comic, the film is stunning, hardly a line of dialogue is missing or changed, the film unfolds beautifully and at not too forced a pace. The actors playing the various costumed heroes are brilliantly suited to their roles, The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is as nihilistic and amoral as you could hope for, Jackie Earle Haley plays Rorschach perfectly, for me this was the crunch character of the film, get Rorschach wrong and the film would be spoiled, but he is the book character made flesh.

Billy Crudup puts in a good performance as Dr.Manhattan, and he can't have been at all displeased at the size of his animated genitalia, Patrick Wilson's portrayal of Nite Owl as equally as good as Rorschach, the listless ex-superhero living an aimless life of retirement was superbly realised.

Where Snyder has made some changes are probably just where you would expect him to, the fight sequences are a bit like 300 all over again and are slightly too long. Snyder has also made some changes to the plot at the end of the film, but, they do work, perhaps in order to bring the film to a more manageable length the build up to the 'alien' plot has been dropped, but the alternate holocaust fits nicely.

How the film works to someone who is not familiar with the book I can't say, to me it seemed to contain enough of the background information to make sense, but I do know the book inside out so it is hard to make a judgement on this. Watchmen certainly is a fan's film though, a very hard to film comic brought lovingly to film life. It has an 18 rating, and deservedly so, the violence is graphic, the rape scene and the murder of the pregnant Vietnamese girl are very scene uncomfortable viewing. The only thing that Snyder didn't manage to pull off really well was Moore's depiction of the fracturing of society in the face of imminent nuclear holocaust, but I suppose there is only so long you can expect someone to sit in a cinema seat for.

This might just be the best film realisation of a comic yet filmed, Snyder could have made all sorts of mistakes with the lengthy and complex plot of Watchmen, but he has deftly avoided nearly all the pitfalls and created a visually stunning movie.

Now that my faith in film director's has been renewed, is there anyone out there who can step up and have a go at that other famously unfilmable comic, Sandman ?

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