Saturday, March 7, 2009

What is wrong with Watchmen?

Not a great deal, as Snyder actually does a eally admirable job at adapting the book to the big screen. The ending is definitely rushed though, and that's my only real beef with the film though but the critics have been lining up left right and centre to criticise the film.

They call the film bloated and overwrought with characterisation.The thing is though, most of these critics have gone to the film with the brief "it's a movie based on a comic book'. The question is, did they try to view Watchmen as a comic book film rather than more of the philisophical and character piece it is.

After all, it's been said that the best possible film version of Watchmen would be a five hour art-house film, and I'm inclined to agree with that. The film cuts a great deal of the characterisation and introspection from the film, but cleverly references events to devotees.

The question is, as the critics have been swayed by their pre-conceptions that it's a 'comic book film', have I been swayed by the fact that I've read the book and know what they've left out? Have I not seen the bloated nature of the film because I've been focused on what they've cut from the film?

Anyhow, here's a quick review I did yesterday.


Watchmen- Film

It ain't as good as the book, but it's as good as a movie based on the book is going to get. As a movie based on one of the most loved texts of the last 20 years, Zach Snyder was always going to have a tough sell for this one. Entire audiences would be searching every frame for the meaning permeating through their beloved text. The question is though, did they pull it off?

Well, it came damned close. It came as damned close as a movie can get to expressing the themes and depth the book does, but for fans of the novel, the film will fall agonisingly short but it's through no fault of the film itself.

It's a damned fine film, perhaps one of the best of the year and for those unacquainted with the text it will open their eyes to a whole new way of thinking about superheroes. It's a superbly crafted film, with a visual electricity and some great performances elevating this flick from standard comic book film to a whole new beast.

All of the characters of the book are well represented, from the cold and subtle facial expressions of Doctor Manhattan played by Billy Crudp, to the raw intensity of Jackie Haley playing the psychotic Rorschach, and the manic depresion of the Comedian is brought to life admirably. It's clear the actors aren't in it for the pay check, but in it for the opportunity to bring the characters to life. The only disappointment is Mathew Goode as Ozymandias who fails to bring a presence to the screen that his character dictated.

That being said, they all bring the intricacies and nuances of their characters to the fore, and some of the scenes between the Silk Spectre and Nite Owl are great, as they explore their sexuality as tied to their personas.

Visually, the film doesn't employ the secondary colour scheme employed by the comic, but in its place is a beautifully photographed piece. Snyder shows his visual flair here, as screen panels are brought to life with an intensity which makes it an incredible experience for devotees of the novel. The opening credits especially are an absolute delight.

Striking, is an understatement. The screen brings to life the still panels, with all of the intricate details of the panels brought to life. From copies of "Under the Hood" lying around, to news clippings hanging on the wall all of the scenery is lovingly crafted with detail which will have fans of the novel grinning from ear to ear as they fondly remember the panels referenced.

Referencing the detail left out is perhaps the most frustrating part of the film for fans, as it points to detail that in parts the film yearns for. The back story of Ozymandias and Silk Spectre II are largely left unexplored and the tribulations of Rorschach's childhood are teasingly floated in front of our eyes and then snatched away.

It was always going to be difficult to fit everything in, and the film already runs a comparatively long two and a half hours. In truth though, if they didn't cut things, the film would have run for four. The novel uses news excerpts to explore the world and back stories of the characters, and that's just not quite possible in a film format.

The question is though, is the inherent meaning of the film lost in these cuts?

Well, for those who have read the novel the meaning will all be there, background explained with a flash of newsprint in the background but for others it may just get a little confusing and the meaning lost.

That being said, the film does a sterling job of exploring the themes inherent in the novel. One person I saw the film with could appreciate the nuances of the tale, and I now have a request to lend the novel to her so she may explore the world more.

Plot wise, it's all pretty solidly paced but one irksome moment comes when the climax comes. It feels rushed for a momentous moment of meaning, and some of the enormity of the moment is lost by the rush to get to the end of the film. Perhaps it's that as a reader you can hold the book in your hands and let the neding unfold slowly and ponder on philisophical points but having the moment forced on you like the Comedian on the Silk Spectre leaves an unwanted taste in the mouth.

One area the novel couldn't possibly explore though is the aural realms. The music employed in the film is nothing short of stunning. Using Dylan, Hendrix and Cohen to underpin the themes of the scene add another layer of meaning to proceedings. The music is from the quotes present at the end of each chapter, and for fans hearing the quotes of the music played in the theatre is an absolute delight.

The thing is though, for all of the meaning which is referenced visually and aurally it remains something special for fans of the book only, but an extraordinary comic book film for others.

Perhaps the greatest work of this film will be to tease those to seek out the book, to re-read the novel as a whole layer of meaning is hinted at. It's this meaning which would have elevated this film into a masterpiece, but as it stands it's a damned good comic book film.

It's as good as a two and a half film version of Watchmen is going to get. An experience of a lifetime to see the panels in live action for devotees, an intriguing film for those not acquainted.

No comments: