Friday, 6 March 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen? (Spoiler free)

Well, the long awaited answer to the question in the header above turns out to be "Me, actually"---funny old life, innit? I managed to sneak in a 5.00pm viewing of Watchmen today as it was pretty convenient, so what were my thoughts?

Well, I should start with the graphic novel, which I love. I've read it a few times so while I'm not obsessive about it, I'm pretty familiar with it but was also not bothered if it was never filmed. As Moore says himself, the story itself wasn't particularly exceptional, it's the telling of it that makes Watchmen so impressive. I also realised that I'd seen NO clips from the film, only the trailer, so I went in with an absolutely open mind. So:

Trailers: while cinema ads drive me up the wall, I love the trailers and was treated to brand new Star trek and Wolverine trailers. Wolverine looks pretty sure to be enjoyable (despite Cyclops not being in this trailer, boo!!) and I'm more confident about enjoying Star Trek now. One bit of dialogue, "James T Kirk was a great man---but that was in a different lifetime" makes me think this is either a time-travelling reboot or an alternate timeline.

The opening credits: Unusually silent credits before smoothly expanding out into the memorable first scene. After a little reference surreptitiously slipped in, Snyder soon proves himself an able director and I actually think this is perhaps the ultimate comic movie. "Why so?" you may ask but this benefits from adapting (and adapting is different from translating--I'd say 300 was a translation as it was essentially an image by image version of the comic) a finite story rather than cherry picking various elements from years of stories to create a solid plot. (This isn't all good though, as while the film is good, I don't know how absorbing the plot will be to non-fans as like the comic, it takes the necessary time to tell its story and isn't another testosterone-laced action flick). The other thing that elevates this film above its brethren is that it truly feels like a superhero comic because it features characters in costume but in a realistic setting.

This means that it's more satisfying than the ponderous Batman films, which take pains to set itself in reality. Well, Watchmen is realistic but isn't so po-faced and is all the better for it. The plot is pretty faithful to the original and there are plenty of familiar images, although less slavish to the original than 300. Yes, the squid is gone but the new finale is actually an improvement over that maguffin as the new ending ties things up more tightly. While you know you're looking at prosthetics much of the time (check out Nixon's conk!), it's mostly pretty good and the digital effects are also pretty well done. The film looks pretty good overall. While the choices of tracks played are a bit literal, they're all pretty decent tracks and add up to an interesting soundtrack.

Does it deserve the 18 certificate? Yes yes yes. While it's not relentlessly grim and brutal, it doesn't shy away when it is. However, balancing that out is the great prison break scene, washing away all memory of Nolan's anemic action scenes in the Batman films.

So, how do the characters fare:

The Comedian: One of the most accurate screen depictions of a comic character ever, this is exactly like I imagined the character.

Ozymandias: Y'know, I still can't figure out Ozymandias' Charlton analogue, but I'd suggest Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt over Judomaster. As with the GN, this character receives much less attention than his teammates but the actor plays him with an icy aloofness just this side of ponciness.

Silk Spectre: She could have been played as a bitch but she comes across as strong rather than cold and is pretty decent. Watch the scene during the prison riots where she and NiteOwl have just kicked major arse for a subtle but real spark off sexual energy between them.

Dr Manhattan: Everybody's gonna be focusing on his knob and at first, it's pretty indistinct but then there are clear shots and you can't help but look. Thankfully you soon take no notice and just accept it as you do with the GN. Generally the below the waist sections of Dr Manhattan are not as good as the upper body (and the rear shot of him when he's building his doohickey on Mars is pretty atrocious--- a shame as the rest of the shot is great) but overall he's pretty good, helped by his light effect and inner glow. His face, initially a little stiff, soon becomes quite expressive, particularly through the eyes and the sensitive voice characterisation by Crudup add alot too.

NiteOwl: When I first saw head shots of the actor and shots of the costume, I thought this looked too heroic and good-looking for NiteOwl. While the costume is pretty spiffy, the actor is actually the spitting image of Dan Dreiberg and is great in the role. As the book's everyman, NiteOwl becomes the emotional centre of the film...

Rorschach: Everybody's favourite sociopath played to perfection. While I think the mask is a little bulky, the moving inkblots are great and this is another unsurpassable performance. Some of the scenes of him just walking are great (particularly like him and dan trudging through the snow to Ozymandias' lair)

Overall, a great satisfying experience: despite the narrative's weakness showing up slightly on film, the film progresses steadily, features great performances, characters and imagery and is well worth checking out at the cinema rather than just at home.

Also, check out the link below:


kelvingreen said...

I think it's more or less confirmed that the new Trek is a time-travel/alternate universe thingie. The word is that if it's a success, they can put away the tired old universe they've built up and start it all again.

I still think they should have had the courage to do the Federation in Flames idea, but that's just me.

Nige Lowrey said...

I think a new set of Star Trek books have just wiped out about 40% of Starfleet or something in a huge Borg battle.

Alternate universe Trek is fine, rewriting 40 yeras of cherished coninutity will drive Trekkies nuts...

Tone said...

You got Star Trek and Wolverine trailers? All I got was blinkin Transformers and some crimey Britflick.

I'm looking at the new film as Ultimate Trek, with a non fanboy open mind. You can't wipe out what's already been written dude. You'll always have Shat.

Rol said...

Maybe they should call it Brand New Trek?

(Ducks to avoid the shoe Kelvin throws.)

Nige Lowrey said...

Although I can't think of a gag to shoehorn in, I like Ready Trek...