Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who watches the Watchmen? Umm . . . me?

So I finally found time to watch Watchmen (ah, the joys of a new baby). I remember thinking the graphic novel was unfilmable when I first read it, but Zack Snyder just about managed to pull it off, after many tried and failed to get the project going over the years (including Terry Gilliam).
The film opens with the murder of the Comedian (which, in one of the few concessions to popcorn audiences, has been turned into a big slow motion fight scene). After a closeup of the classic bloody smiley face the film moves into an alternate history montage over the opening credits. This is one of the most inspired sequences in any recent movie and Snyder expertly sets the tone for the rest of the film. Among others things we learn that the Comedian was the shooter on the grassy knoll who killed JFK and Ozymandias liked to hang out with David Bowie. We also get a kiss between Silhouette and the famous WWII nurse.
Once the plot starts proper we are introduced to Rorschach, soon to become everybody’s favourite character. His growling voice over gives his scenes a nice film noir feel. Jackie Earl Haley gives an award-worthy performance, fully inhabiting the character in and out of the mask. His investigation of the Comedian’s death is interspersed with our introductions to the other “watchmen” (superheroes who have all retired or now work for the government) as well as flashbacks to the Comedian’s life, where we see what a right old bastard he was.
The other characters are all clearly defined. Dr. Manhattan’s blue CGI wang has proved distracting to many, but Billy Crudup’s invests this detached superman with a soul. Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II make a good team, with Patrick Wilson doing a fine job as the one “nice guy” member of the team. Malin Akerman looks the perfect part as Silk Spectre. Finally, Ozymandias is the enigma of the group. We don’t learn much about him until the end and Matthew Goode’s performance adds to the ambiguity.
The action scenes are cool, but it’s the quiet scenes between them that make the movie worth watching. The visual style is more subtle than 300’s, but with enough flashy camerawork to wow the kids. The 80’s setting is also perfectly captured.
The ending has been slightly changed from the book (“No squid” as many angry Alan More fans have screamed) but it still works just as well if not arguably better. Overall, the films goes by quickly despite its almost three hour running time. It’s that are blockbuster that requires the audience to think. Highly recommended, for fans and non-fans alike. They’ve done Alan More proud.