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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Watchmen

Here it is, the review for what is considered to be one of the most anticipated films of the decade, Watchmen. Adapted from the classic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel mini-series, the project has lingered in development hell since the late 1980's when it was first saught after by Joel Silver, who envisaged Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Doctor Manhattan. It has passed through the gaze of many prospective directors, including Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass, so the fact that we even have the privelage of seeing a Watchmen adaptation is something special. Okay, for those of you who don't know the plot of Watchmen, and I'll try to do this in under one hundred words, it's that Watchmen is a complex ensemble story, in which after the death of one of their colleagues, a group of former superheroes uncover a conspiracy to move humanity to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Nice, I done it in thirty-three words, eat that Warner Bros and their one-thirty words synopsis. The reason I did not spend long on the synopsis is because a lot must be said about this movie. Also, a quick reminder to all is that I am a massive fan of the original source material and that I will try to be as unbiased as possible and avoid the old "the comic's better" argument, and instead focus on how the film stands on it's on two feet. Alright, to open on the positives, I must give kudos to Zack Snyder, who has produced a rather faithful adaptation of the comic, and the fact that it has even arrived on the screen without any directorial issues speaks very highly of Snyder. Also, it is pretty clear that Snyder has a visual eye for every one of his film's has a real stylistically interesting visual flair. He has certainly hired the correct cinematographer for the job in Larry Fong, who previously worked on Snyder's earlier work 300 and Zhang Yimou's masterpiece Hero. So here we have a crew who have clearly shot a good looking film. There are times when Watchmen is impossible to distinguish between a graphic and a genuine visual, and it goes well in saying so, proving how technically advanced the film is. Also, there are a number of solid performances amongst the ensemble cast of the film. As the second Nite Owl, Patrick Wilson is the real heart of the film, the everyman of whom the audience really bases their judgement, and in this role Wilson is aptly cast. Gaining thirty pounds to play the role, he portrays the subtleties and little nuances involved in portraying this character finely. Also, Jackie Earle Haley portrays Rorschach with all the necessities involved without creating the parody that the character could have become. After having been unmasked, he manages both anger and desperation as he screams to his psychologist "Where's my face?" Finally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan shines as The Comedian, carefully disarming the audience by unveiling the audience his character's many layers in the flashback sequences, in scenes which together seem like performances from many different actor's portraying different characters. So far so good, eh? I hope you're enjoying the film, because truth be told I'm not particularly. With regards to the afformented ensemble cast, the actors portraying three of the six main superheroes give good performances, but the other three, truth be told, talk mysteriously and wave their penis, look good and pout and are just plain bland respectively. Billy Crudup fails to pull off the character of Doctor Manhattan, who truth be told, is a really hard character to nail. Malin Akerman really does not add any depth whatsoever to her character, and really just looks good in her costume. She really suits no other purpose in the film than to justify the fact that this character is meant to be good looking. Finally, is it just me or is Matthew Goode horribly bland as Ozymandias? For starters, he speaks so timidly that you can never hear him speak (and no that's not my hearing, I was in an empty cinema), and the fact that later some stuff happens involving his character and we are supposed to get what he is trying to say. Not only is he pitch-free, he seems to be unable to distinguish emotional acting besides the bare basics of shock, smile, angry etc. It truly is a horrible performance. Also, the film's pacing is rather poor, probably due to the editing process, but it just seems like we are racing through time as Doctor Manhattan. If that was their achievement, they have created a masterpiece. I mean, it would be perfect. I'm not criticising the flashback format, I mean that's the whole point, but at times the film seems as though it is rather slow and ponderous, and others it seems rather rushed, as though they are trying to say as much and do as much with the film as possible in as little time possible. There is a script problem involved in this. David Hayter, who is actually most famous for voice work as Solid Snake in the iconic Metal Gear Solid videogame series, and has previously scribed the first two X-Men movies, really seems to have given a script of which the studios find friendly, as in "we'll do something amazing as long as it's not challenging." No doubt this will help advance his career, and I am glad for that, but the fact is it is rather rushed and completely simplistic. And with regards to director Snyder, simplistic is exactly the arguement I am going to make here. Personally, I feel that it is hard to get across the point of harsh reality with these rather pithy and poorly choreographed fight scenes. Also, as a fan of the comic, while certainly nailing the visual aspect of the film, Snyder fails to get across intellectualism of the source material, the main problem being that it is trying to be two different things. What we have is a bit of the old Snyder we saw with 300, and a bit of the intellectual stuff in the comic. As far as I am concerned, I would like to see a bit of consistency, and have Snyder have the film stay true to it's plot rather than masquedering as though it is interspersed with boredom and fight scenes. I personally prefer 300, because for what it is, it is simplistic and does the job correctly, remaining true to itself and not claiming to be smart. I absoultely hate smarmy films and this has smarmy all over it. In conclusion, I feel that while Watchmen is an admirable film, it certainly has a number of issues which stop it from being the masterpiece that the original source could have made it.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 5.4/10

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