Saturday, March 21, 2009

21st March 09 - Watchmen

Let’s be honest. Does the world of cinema really need another graphic novel adaptation? Even if it’s supposedly “the greatest graphic novel ever in the world ever, like, ever” as it seems to have been labelled. Do we really need to see more slow-mo visuals, laced with technology that’s already impressed a few times over? Do we need to see a big glowing blue-man’s schlong?

The answer, it appears, is hell yes.

From the outside Watchmen could be either just another Sin City, all style-no-substance flop, or another ensemble superhero waste, treading over ground now well-covered by Marvel and the like. The opening fight is visually stunning, albeit suggesting this could be just two hours of slow-mo-fight porn. But the title sequence should convince you otherwise, the complex back-story of this alternative reality (Nixon’s still in power) shown in a series of spectacular snap-shots, backed up by a soundtrack from Dylan and stamping down a foot that says “actually, this is not just another superhero film”.

And though the bare bones of it is, the overall tone really, really isn’t. The world is edging closer and closer to nuclear destruction, an amplification of the cold war only with America having a big blue god on their side, and masked vigilantes are outlawed. Probably a good thing as some of them are murdering, sadistic bastards. But the murder of one serves to kick the rest back into the world to investigate, and to allow for various regressions so we can see their actions back in the day.

Visually this film is as fabulous as you’d suspect from Zack Snyder, the guy who brought us 300 (CF reviewed in March 07 as “a crash, bang wallop. In leather thongs.”) The violence is stark and brutal, sometimes causing giggles (buzz saw + arms) but often causing a shocked pause (gun + pregnant lady…) This is rated 18 for a reason, and its sweeping finale goes some way to match that in terms of tone. Don’t let the kiddies watch this unless you want them to be miserable for the rest of their lives.

Standing at a mighty 162 minutes, Watchmen sacrifices bottom-comfort for a bit more depth to the story, yet still missing out on certain aspects from the source material (an even longer director’s cut is set for DVD) or changing other aspects as to be honest they sounded rather silly. Though Synder can be applauded for not just stripping the story down to another bland (and what would have been more confusing) super-hero-arma, it does feel that time could have been trimmed a little further without losing the subtleties of the story.

With a mature and complex plot, twisted and intriguing characters, wowing visual punch and a kick-ass soundtrack, Watchmen certainly proves why it’s based on such a beloved piece of work, and Snyder’s impressive handling proves that amazing visuals can just add to, rather than be the whole film experience. Perhaps a time trim could help it be even slicker, but for now Watchmen impressed enough to warrant a CF3 rating. Ooo!

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