Watchmen

Rating – **** 1/2

Watchmen

Regardless of how the finished film had turned out, I’d always have a reason to be grateful for the existence of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation. The teaser trailer that I first witnessed on an Imax screen last July in front of The Dark Knight left quite an impression. It inspired me to finally pick up the graphic novel that I’d been dismissing mainly because of the simplistic smiley face on the cover. I guess I was literally committing that cardinal sin of judging a book by it’s cover! Anyway, long story short……… I believe, like many others, that this book is a masterpiece. The last time I’d enjoyed reading a novel this much (and it IS a novel, simply one that comes fully storyboarded) I was still in primary school and the novel in question was The Hobbit. So I may only be a recent devotee of Watchmen but the weight of expectation for the film was still considerable. It’s one of those films which generates genuine excitement as the release date draws tantalizingly close. As the lights in the Imax auditorium went down those butterflies in my stomach kicked in.

I’m glad to report that the film is fantastic, repeatedly attaining perfection. Scenes like the opening credits montage, Dr Manhattan’s flashbacks on Mars, and Rorschach’s arrest simply couldn’t have been executed any better. The supposedly butt-numbing running time also flew by. I’ll happily sit through the directors cut on Blu-Ray and I’ll be back at the cinema for a second viewing soon. It’s true that some changes have been made from the novel in an otherwise faithful adaptation. Many trimmed scenes will be reinstated in the previously mentioned directors cut. In some cases the novel has been improved upon. Who wants to see Rorschach tediously nip home to grab his spare costume when he can drop by the prison psychiatrists office and deliver a brilliant new line of quotable dialogue instead?

Watchmen

– SPOILERS AHEAD! – The biggest change is of course that ending. The first time I turned the page of the novel’s final chapter, I was stunned. It’s insane, it’s bold, surreal, and utterly brilliant. But if you’re a Hollywood producer it’s also commercial suicide, hopelessly random and downright weird. In the film, the message remains the same, but the MacGuffin has been altered. It’s easy to see why, in many ways this conclusion is more elegant and logical. I just miss the horror factor of all those mutilated corpses littering the streets of New York. Having them cleanly vaporised robs the event of much of it’s impact……. along with the lack of a half-exploded telekinetic giant alien cloned cephalopod! Since the squid and required back story have been taken out, why is Bubastis still running around Ozzy’s Arctic lair? In the novel he’s there to represent a first dabble into genetic engineering. But without any introduction, many people unfamiliar with the source material will be asking what the big purple cat was all about. It seems nearly all my complaints centre around the finale, in a way it all happens too fast. The strong pacing throughout the rest of the film is somewhat jettisoned. Why on earth don’t we get to see the greenhouse either? Instead the location has been switched to a low budget underground lab. The image of a butterfly wasting away in an arctic snow blizzard was a defining image in the graphic novel, I’m amazed Snyder missed out on that one. – END OF SPOILERS –

The acting is strong throughout almost the entire cast. The only weak link was Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II. Most of the time she just doesn’t deliver her lines that well. On the plus side she does get naked so I forgive her. Jackie Earle Haley is inspired as Rorschach, easily the most beloved character in this twisted tale. Zack Snyder has pretty much kept his promise, regardless of a tweaked ending this IS what you expect and deserve from an adaptation daring to use the name Watchmen. Suddenly The Dark Knight looks tame in comparison. Other recent superhero flicks seem childish and hopelessly outdated too……yes I’m talking about Iron Man! Fun and formulaic just won’t cut it anymore. Watchmen is a film like Blade Runner, Fight Club or The Matrix. Initially it will polarize opinion but in years to come it will be considered a classic.

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~ by thewholebuffalo on July 19, 2009.

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