Well, after a long wait I finally got to see Watchmen, but with my recent epiphany on hype I decided to try and lower my expectations in advance. I was also a bit concerned about some bad reviews I’d read, but excited nonetheless. I should point out that I saw it in the Odeon Leicester Square, which I reckon makes any film amazing before you start.
Altogether Watchmen is a pretty great movie. True, there are slower moments, but the plot is good, even if it isn’t full of shocks and twists. Set in the cold war, it follows a group of vigilante “superheroes” who’ve been forced into hiding (reminding me of Disney’s Incredibles more than it should have). Unlike your typical comic book film, our heroes don’t have any specific “powers” but they are embibed with a super strength that seems to course through most graphic novel characters. The plot focusses on the threat of nuclear war and our heroes reuniting to try and stop it, framed inside a murder mystery. I think I miss out a little in not having read the graphic novel, but you don’t feel like you’re missing a huge chunk of information.
The style is very reminiscent of Sin City, essentially a series of soliquys focussing in turn on different characters who are all interlinked. Some characters are more interesting than others, my favourites being The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan AKA Denny Duquette to all us Grey’s Anatomy fans) and Rorschach (Jackie Earl Haley). Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is intriguing at first, but I got tired of his philosophical ramblings, and couldn’t stop myself drawing parallels with The Silver Surfer.
The flashbacks are where the graphic style really comes into its own, making the actors almost seen drawn despite being live (think Scanner Darkly but not as obvious). There’s also some great American history and pop culture references in the opening credit which are brilliantly stylised as a series of snapshots. The design is brilliant, especially Rorschach’s ink-blot face, and is probably the most unmissable thing about the film.
What I really loved about Watchmen was the music. There’s a lot of films who make great use of modern music, but Watchmen does it so perfectly it’s almost funny. Playing Flight of the Valkyries over a Vietnam scene is a great pop culture reference, as well as appearances by Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World. As for the Hallelujah scene, I’m not sure Simon Cowell knew the song’s true meaning when he stole it for X Factor. Zack Snyder definitely did.
There are some very violent moments in the movie (even I had to look away a couple of times) but what do you expect from the man who brought us 300? In the context of the stylised graphic novel, he just about gets away with it without being gratuitous. Although there is one incident with a circular saw which seems somewhat unnecessary…
All in all, Watchmen might not quite live up to the hype in terms of storyline, but it is a masterpiece to look at, which I suppose is really the point with graphic novels. They’ve always been more about the art than the story, so its only natural that the films follow suit.
(The eagle eyed will notice this isn’t posted under “movies to see before you die” at the moment, I’m not sure its a survival necessity, but I do recommend)
*Update* I’ve decided to add it to the list