Sunday, March 8, 2009

Watchmen Review

Review that appeared in Fiji Times yesterday, written by me :D 

Comic book adaptations are the new black. Relying partly on nostalgia for already popular characters to sell tickets is kind of cheap, but it does make for entertaining cinema. Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Ben Gibbons is a Hugo Award winning graphic novel. It has been praised for its depiction of superheroes not as gods and goddesses, but as superbly flawed people who have to make difficult decisions. While wearing spandex.

      The film is extremely faithful to the novel. Much like in 300, Director Zack Snyder seems to have used the book for his storyboards. Visually stunning with a gorgeous washed out palette, the film is high on the eye candy meter. The scenes set in Vietnam (which America wins thanks to its superheroes in this alternate timeline) is particularly well done, with vibrant colors and a wonderfully framed camera.

      Without revealing too much of the plot, the murder of a superhero called the Comedian leads vigilante Rorschach to a conspiracy that could threaten the world. All the other heroes are retired due a government act that requires them to hand in their masks or face prison time. Rorschach is one of the last heroes still active, and he begins to warn other heroes who may be next for the “mask killer”. Thus, we are introduced to our cast of dysfunctional heroes.

      Dr. Manhattan, the only technically “super” hero, who through a scientific experiment gone wrong (do they ever go right?) has the power to manipulate matter on a molecular level. However, he has started to distance himself from humanity and finds it hard to fit in with normal people.

      Ozymandias, who after the government act revealed his identity to the world, has made millions in the merchandising of his and his fellow heroes images. Nite Owl, who overweight and retired, tries every night to convince himself that he doesn’t miss being a hero. Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattans girlfriend, who is watching her lover fall more and more out of love with her. Finally, we have Rorschach, described as a sociopathic vigilante who has no mercy for those who prey on the weak and a moral code as rigid as steel.

      As a fan of the comic, seeing these characters on the silver screen is a dreamlike experience. I was particularly worried about Rorschach, but when he spoke for the first time I was sold. If you haven’t read the novel though (and I urge you to) you probably have no idea what to expect. Don’t go in expecting something along the lines of Spiderman or Ironman. It isn’t an action flick, more an exploration of flawed people who have to save the world. The closest thing I can compare it to would be The Dark Knight Returns, with added pathos and two parts dysfunction.

      And please don’t take your kids to see it. Watchmen was based on an adult graphic novel and pulls no punches. Coarse language, sexual content and some extremely disturbing imagery (you can tell that it’s the same director of the Dawn of the Dead remake) mean you should leave the kids at home for this one.

      In closing, I appreciate the faithfulness to the original novel, but for someone who knows nothing about these characters, it may be hard to get into. Give it a try though, immerse yourself in this alternate depiction of 1985, where blue men walk on mars, people dress up as owls and patrol the city streets and where heroes aren’t so much super but human.


Richard Eggert said...

I have not yet read the actual graphic novel, so I am not able to compare this movie with the original. Just considering the movie story, I feel a bit unsatisfied. None of the characters play a strong role. I had gone to the theaters expecting some good action, but got discouraged. And over that I wasted my $20 towards the tickets!

Albie said...

i can understand the difficulty one would face in relating to characters that they know very little about. I felt the same when i first read the novel, because these heroes are unknowns you know? its not batman or the question up there, its Rorschach and Nite Owl. Considering the movie on its own though, i recently had a conversation with someone who also hadn't read the novel. The complaints were, it was too long, Dr Manhattan talks...really...slowly, and it wasn't really a superhero movie. Which it isn't really...