All the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Review Watchmen!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”
Oh, alright then.
You’ve got to hand it to director Zack Snyder. Dude got some balls. Both in a testicular sense and the fact that he decided to take on a supposedly “unfilmable” comic held in ridiculously high regard and make a big Hollywood production out of it. Whether this was a good idea or not is up for debate.
Set in an alternate 1985, a retired superhero called The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is thrown out of a high-rise apartment window to his death. Fearing some kind of secret plot to bump off other costumed heroes, a vigilante known as Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) starts to investigate. Okay, the plot summary sounds about as hackneyed as you can get, but that’s my fault rather than the film’s. The plot is multi-threaded and dense, just like the comic. Honestly, the plot is amazing. I liked the casting choices too, so no disappointments on that front.
The film sticks amazingly close to the comic. Nearly every single panel is recreated and every line of dialogue is present here. It’s very clear that Snyder loves the source material, which is admirable. However, I think he gets a little too overexcited at prospect of directing something which means so much to him. “Watchmen” has always been a reflection of popular culture and the film is no different. However, where the comic was subtle, the film is smack-in-the-face obvious- which is a shame. Snyder’s use of music too, irked me a little. Most of the songs seem very out of place due to the fact that they’re so recognisable. I understand that Snyder wants to give us an aural sense of popular culture too, but he could have been less heavy-handed with the whole thing, without seemingly crowbarring them into the start of nearly every scene.
The slow-motion thing annoyed me too. It is a stylish tool when used sparingly, but Snyder uses it all the damn time. It like when you’re playing “Mortal Kombat”,”Street Fighter” and the like with your mate and he keeps using the same fucking move that wipes you out over and over again. At first, you’re slightly taken aback and almost congratulatory, but by the fifth time you want to reach across and punch him in his stupid face. Whilst I’m not threatening physical violence against Mr. Snyder, I do wish that he could have kept his finger off the slo-mo button for a least a while. In terms of specifics, the Rorschach apartment scene was odd. Mainly because it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Marv’s apartment escape scene in “Sin City”. Fan favourite character gets framed for murder, keeps cops at bay with bad-assery and eventually jumps out of a window. I swear even some of the shots are the same. I’m not sure whether “Sin City” was referencing the “Watchmen” graphic novel with Marv’s scene or what, but the similarities are pretty clear.
However, all the above are minor niggles when compared to the following point. I don’t think “Watchmen” works as a film. As a comic book, it acts as part parody, part political story filled with layers upon layers of meaning and satire. However, as a film, the very act of not reading it takes you away from the way it’s meant to be experienced. It’s like if a parody film like “Airplane!” or “The Naked Gun” were faithfully turned into graphic novels with every frame and every line of dialogue present. They’d still be funny, but you’re missing an important part of the parody itself. In simple terms, for a parody comic to fully work as a parody, you need to be able to turn the pages and read it as one. When translated to film, this is obviously lost.
I’ve been really indecisive over what to give “Watchmen”. I enjoyed it but I get the feeling I would have been lost if I hadn’t read the comic first. My advice is to read the brilliant source material before going to see the film. At least that way the film acts as a companion piece to the comic, rather than the other way round. I’m going to give it four stars, but definitely knock off a star or two if you haven’t read the comic.