Friday, February 27, 2009

Watching The Watchmen

So, went to see it in preview, at the IMAX theatre. I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be, even though I discounted ninety per cent of the hype. There were some very good moments - the opening montage and the murder of the Comedian (Snyder's trademark slo-mo-during-moments-of-violence used to good effect, for once), a sequence in Vietnam, the prison riot, Dr Manhattan on Mars, and his origin myth - and the revised ending was smart and worked better than the original. But while obsessive fans may be reassured by the reverence with which the source material was treated, I thought it made for a plodding, discursive film, with far too many scenes of people talking to each other in dialogue that sounded like, well, dialogue, rather than urgent, felt conversations. Several of the actors clearly needed direction they weren't getting - most notably Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre, and Matthew Goode, playing playing smartest-man-in-the-world Adrian Veidt as a refugee from a one-hit wonder synth band. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian and Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach were rather better, and Billy Cruddup's Dr Manhattan had a nicely wistful otherworldly vibe. Still, it's clear that Zack Synder is happier in the digital editing suite than working with actual actors. Despite the state-of-the art special effects (you really can film anything now), and a ton of reverential detail, there was no real feeling of excitement, just a string of set-pieces spaced by actors talking past each other and a pretty excruciating lovemaking scene. It's a faithful adaptation of a notoriously difficult-to-adapt graphic novel, but it makes for a so-so anti-superhero movie, rather than the great one we've been promised.


Blogger Adam Roberts Project said...

I'm now officially predisappointed with this movie. I daresay I'll still go see it, though.

March 02, 2009 12:23 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Oh, it's kinda sorta worth seeing if you liked the original book (which I did), it's a worthy attempt at the unfilmable, it should get 3/5 stars etc. The question is (adopts Alan Moore style glower), why bother to film it in the first place if you're not going to adapt it for the medium?

March 02, 2009 1:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw it last night, Paul, and agree with pretty much everything you've said. I wasn't convinced by Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt from the moment casting was announced and I'm afraid seeing the film did nothing to change that opinion. I thought Haley was terrific as Kovacs/Rorschach, though, and Patrick Wilson was more believable as Dreiberg/Night Owl than the graphic novel portrayal.

The film looked great but I can't imagine anyone who hasn't read the book will be able to make much sense of it. I think the rumoured 3 hour-plus director's cut DVD will be a better narrative, but I can't help feeling the best vehicle might be an HBO mini-series.

3 stars seems fair. Definitely worth seeing and if I'm honest with myself, I'll watch it again - if not at the cinema then on DVD - which is more (moore?) than can be said for the execrable League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!



March 07, 2009 12:06 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a very low standard indeed; Watchman is certainly better than that. But the more I think about it, the less I think of it. Most reviewers who haven;t read the comic think that Rorschach is supposed to be the hero, for instance, which certainly isn't the intent of the graphic novel, so that's a major problem with tone right there. And then there's the soundtrack, composed of Greatest Hits from other soundtracks...

The Director's cut is supposed to add an hour plus, including the Black Ship material recently released to DVD, but I have no burning need to see more, at this point.

March 08, 2009 10:31 pm  

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