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Review: Watchmen

Posted by garethwatkins on March 14, 2009

After managing not to get caught up too much in the hype for this film, I finally got round to seeing it this week.

I’m not one of those people who read this when they were younger and consider it an untouchable and, more importantly, unfilmable masterpiece. I’ve actually only read half of it. That does mean I have a basic grasp of who everyone is and what’s going on. Which put me at a distinct advantage over a hell of a lot of the rest of the audience I saw this with. And I think it also put me at an advantage over the people who had read and reread the graphic novel because I wasn’t trapped in my own visions of how this should look on screen. And a little bit of me feels that maybe the director could have done with being a little more detached as well.

Such a negative start to a review, but all accountable considerations that help to explain why I loved this film as much as I did.

Allow me to start with something that I think everyone will agree on: the way it looked. Watchmen the movie was so much a direct replica of the comic book it was unbelievable. And there was a pleasant, if occasionally overused, technique employed to emphasise the moments where what was on screen was a near transposition of the frames in the novel. The sudden slowing down of action to almost a freeze frame enhanced the sense of a live comic playing out before you. And why not replicate the images in the novel? It’s beautifully drawn and coloured and on screen it lends itself seamlessly to the super real alternative universe.

The characters themselves are beautifully recognised versions of the originals. Well cast and well framed at all times to maintain their believability. But it was the characters that may have been one of the week points of the movie for those that haven’t read the graphic novel. Little time was dedicated to explaining why they were who they were or how they could actually do the things that they do. In my position, this meant I wasn’t dragged down by an opening origins story. A story which is actually told in the long, beautiful, opening credits, although anyone lacking the prior knowledge of said story would have completely missed the references.

The story itself is complex and sweeping, dealing with multiple narratives and issues. And it does get confusing at times. You really can’t allow yourself to be distracted or you may miss something important. It is also quite chapterised as different characters’ stories are told and their path to the endgame is laid out. If you do manage to keep up with the narrative, however, you are rewarded with an interesting story that leaves a moral question that most could answer in theory but never have the courage (or, luckily, the opportunity) to practice.

I’m sure the DVD will have an extended cut that will explain things even more and allow for fans to obsess over, freezing images to draw as much from them as they can. And it might even explain the sudden appearance of a horned purple tiger. But the future does not justify the length and confusion that will inevitably distract some viewers from this movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed Watchmen and would happily recommend it to anyone who likes comic book adaptations or action films of this sort. This is a grown-ups’ movie dealing with serious issues in a fantastical way. There is a lot to take from it and I suspect there would be no harm in reading up a little on the machinations of this story before entering the cinema.

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3 Responses to “Review: Watchmen”

  1. watcat said

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

  2. wonker said

    Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

  3. matt said

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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