Friday 7 August 2009

DVD Review Special: Watching The Watchmen

Zack Snyder
Paramount Home Entertainment
Review by Rob Wade

In 2009, the world finally saw the release of the film version of Watchmen, possibly one of the most controversial comic book adaptations in recent history. Directed by Zack Snyder of 300 fame, and penned by David Hayter (better known as Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, or “The Geek’s Geek”), the movie teased the possibility of being able to do the impossible and make a movie out of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel.

Whether or not they succeeded is a different story.

Ultimately, my opinion should be judged by the fact that although I am a massive fan of the graphic novel version of Watchmen, I never felt like the film version was impossible with the right actors, director and technology in place. I would have probably been more sceptical if V for Vendetta hadn’t turned out to be one of those movies that I really quite enjoyed after watching it.

The story of Watchmen opens in an alternative reality 1985, where Nixon is still president and superheroes have been part of the cultural landscape for decades, with the death of Edward Blake. However, upon closer inspection of Blake’s apartment by the masked vigilante Rorschach, he discovers that Blake was in fact the superhero known as The Comedian, and begins to suspect a diabolical plot to eliminate the superheroes known as the Watchmen in order to prevent them from interfering in world affairs.

Let’s get right to it: I enjoyed this movie. I thought that as a movie, it was enjoyable, and I didn’t feel like nearly three hours had passed. It may sound strange, but I feel that if you can watch a movie all the way through and it doesn’t feel as long as it is, it’s because it’s well made.

I also felt that stylistically the movie has a good feel to it. Dr Manhattan’s special effects were always going to be a difficult one to do, but I feel that they carried it off extremely well. He fits very seamlessly into the environment, with no signs of any dodgy CG. True, there is the over-use of blood as you’d expect from a Zack Snyder movie, but it seems to fit better into the style rather than detract from it.

The acting in this movie is a point of slight contention however, as there is very much a mixed bag in place here. Jackie Earle Haley is phenomenal as Rorschach, really capturing the essence of the character well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is also good as The Comedian, staying pretty true to the roots of the character. However, I have to say that I didn’t enjoy the performance of Silk Spectre. Having said that, I didn’t particularly care for her in the graphic novel either, so maybe that goes some way towards explaining that. More could have been done with the character of Ozymandias as well, as he really doesn’t seem to get a lot of screen time.

The Emotionally Fourteen Movie Rating:
A large amount of over the top violence and blood.
Sex/Nudity: You’ll never look at Leonard Cohen in the same way.
Swearing: A fairly large amount, but never anything that seems tremendously out of place in context.
Summary: Ultimately, I would argue that as movies go, Watchmen is a very entertaining movie. Not the traditional superhero fare, and people will argue that The Dark Knight did the darker superhero movie first (at least, people who’ve never read Watchmen will). As an adaptation, it is the best it could possibly be. 7/10

Review by Brad Harmer

Making this movie, anyone involved had to realise one thing: this project was never going to please everyone. I, much to my surprise, was pleased some of the time. From the outset, my opinion on making a movie version of Watchmen was “Don’t. It makes no sense.”. Watchmen needs to be a graphic novel – it’s tied into the very fabric of what it is. Any attempt to transpose it to another artistic medium will only result in a bastardised Hollywood superhero movie. Making a movie adaptation of Watchmen makes about as much sense as a TV Series adaptation of the Mona Lisa.

The thing that I felt was done incredibly well was the flashback sequences. All of those at The Comedian’s funeral, as well as Dr Manhattan’s segment on the moon were all amazing. They captured the tone of the original, and worked as magnificent pieces of cinema in their own right. The rest of it, however, all too often feels to be lacking something, and rather unfortunately, ends up as just another Hollywood superhero movie, despite what its supporters may think.

The violence, with a few excellent exceptions, is hilariously overblown. During the Vietnam sequence involving The Comedian and Dr Manhattan, I was impressed by how uncompromising the whole thing was. Come the rumble in the alleyway between Silk Spectre, Night Owl and the muggers, however, and I was spectacularly unimpressed by how ridiculously over the top it was. It’s like Snyder had a huge vat of digital blood he needed to get through before it went off. Not realising that it couldn’t go off, as it was just a sequence of ones and zeroes.

My main gripe with the film is that it may tell the plot of Watchmen, but Watchmen is about so much more than that. It’s the surface of something far too deep for film. It was only to be expected (if not desirable) that elements would be removed from the movie for brevity’s sake. But the trouble with a piece like Watchmen is that everything fits so exactly, so perfectly and so necessarily together that using only part of it creates something about as sturdy and reliable as a one-legged chair.

All in all, this is a brave attempt at a different type of superhero movie. Unfortunately, it falls far short of the greatness of the book, or even the greatness of other superhero movies such as The Crow, The Dark Knight or even the Spider-Man movies.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A lot. A lot of it is pretty graphic, and there’s more than enough blood spattering around the place to keep splatterpunk fans happy.
Sex/Nudity: One sex scene, but you don’t see all that much. Oh, yeah, and one of the superheroes is nude throughout almost the entire movie. I guess if you’re into Blue Dong®, then that’ll probably keep you going.
Swearing: A realistic amount. I can’t say I noticed all that much.
Summary: If you’re a fan of the book, then you can go your whole life without needing to see the movie version. If you’ve never read the book...then I’d recommend you read the book rather than watch the movie version. – 5/10

Review by Blake Harmer

This was always going to be a hard film for me to review. I am a big fan of the original Alan Moore comic, and when I saw that Zack Snyder was going to turn it into a movie I just couldn’t see how it could’ve been done. In my opinion, Watchmen had so many intricacies to it that it would be too impossible to just take the comic and use it as a storyboard like previous comic book adaptations such as Sin City and 300. However, Zack Snyder has done his best and has still managed to deliver an entertaining super hero film.

For those who haven’t read the comic or seen the film the plot is as follows: In 1985, New York City police are investigating the murder of Edward Blake who is a costumed hero known as the Comedian who was employed by the government and had many enemies. Costumed vigilante Rorschach learns of this news and believes someone is out to kill costumed adventurers and sets about warning his retired comrades from his superhero team The Watchmen. The plot then revolves around their lives and their troubles as well as them trying to find out who killed the Comedian.

The film adaptation does have it’s strength’s, I believe the casting of Rorshach is perfect with actor Jackie Haley captures the look, the voice and the feel of the psychotic vigilante as I had imagined him when I originally read the comic. I also think a lot of the scenes in the film capture the feel of the comic brilliantly such as the dream sequences, the telling of Dr Manhattan’s genesis, as well as some of the fight scenes (especially the one’s involving Rorschach). I can easily go as far to say that with a good casting and capturing a good amount of the comic’s essence, this is the best possible film adaptation that could have been done of the comic.

However, it is the films decision to try and stick as close to the comic as possible that leads to it having several flaws. This theatrical cut of the film is over two and a half hours long and sadly this heavily affects the pacing of the film as it feels drawn out and overlong in getting to the point, even with the fact that a lot of the backstory had been cut and the focus has been placed on the main storyline. However, the book is huge and I would have been even more angry if they had cut more out of it. A final gripe with the film is that it feels Zack Snyder over uses his style of cinematogrophy when it comes to the fight scenes, with slo-mo sound affects and over the top use of blood and wire work to show characters flying for miles when they get punched.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Quite a bit of gore, with torture, attempted rape and over the top fighting with lots of blood spilling and bone breaking.
Sex Nudity: One sex scene not including the attempted rape, you do see lots of side boob with the silk spectre naked. However, this is countered by the fact that she is having sex with a fat and sweaty Nite Owl (read: Shonky Batman). That and Dr. Manhattan is pretty much naked for 90% of the film and Zack Snyder isn’t afraid to show off the superhero’s mighty CG blue dong.
Swearing: Realistic swearing but hardly noticeable throughout the film.
Summary: As I mentioned earlier, I cannot see Watchmen being adapted into a film any better than it has been done here. However, there are several flaws with the film, and it brings nothing new to the table to let me recommend it over the original comic. All in all, you are probably better off reading the comic than watching the Watchmen. 7/10

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