Watchmen – A hollow beauty
What sort of individual queues up to see a bunch of men (and one woman) dress up in tight latex? Well a stack load of hype is usually the key. The fact that Watchmen is based upon an award winning graphic novel series seems to help as well.
Regardless of this though, on the occasion that I saw Watchmen the cinema was not even one-third full. Perhaps the promotional antics of Warner Bros and Zack Snyder et al. do not work on the majority of people. Perhaps people were sick of Watchmen long before it was released.
When an ex-superhero is murdered, a vigilante named Rorschach begins an investigation into the murder, which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion.
There is no question that Zack Snyder (the director responsible for the visually stunning 300) is without doubt an artist. In fact watching Watchmen you can see he is also great fan of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Unfortunately it seems that he believed what would work in the comic book, works just as well on the big screen. He was wrong.
A range of (mostly) unknowns play the main characters and this is beneficial because their names do not get in the way of the story telling. Out of this come some shining examples of acting. I am speaking specifically of Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. He is certainly the most fearsome (in and out of the mask). Along with him is The Comedian played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dr Manhattan played by Billy Crudup and Patrick Wilson as the Nite Owl. Sadly this makes the quite awful performances of Malin Akerman (as Silk Spectre II) and Mathew Goode (as Adrian Veidt) almost like pantomime in comparison. Who on earth hired Malin if she could not deliver any line with conviction? Wasn’t Adrian Veidt supposed to be the smartest and most handsome man on the planet (according to the novels)?
Beginning the film is a montage that shows some history of the Minutemen and it is done quite beautifully over the starting credits. It tells a great deal in a very little time. However it also makes you feel exhausted after watching them. Then the death of a superhero in a very stylish slow motion shot, tops it off nicely.
If the film had ended there, I would have been very happy. If it had only continued with the film-noir monologue of Rorschach then I also would have been happy. What Zack Snyder attempted to do (and ultimately fail at) is bring the graphic novels word for word, frame for frame to the cinema screen. This film is proof that the many other directors who walked away from Watchmen had their heads screwed on.
I really wanted to like Watchmen. I was sold completely by the trailer that millions of us watched last year. I had read the graphic novels and although I enjoyed them I couldn’t see how a film could be reasonably made. This of course is where artistic licence comes in. Unfortunately Zack Snyder seems to have thrown artistic licence in the bin and ignored any sense or reason by keeping the ever blue Dr Manhattan’s phallus in plain shot most of the time. This of course is novel-accurate but unfortunately VERY DISTRACTING. I don’t know what that says about my sexuality but I defy anyone not to give his nether regions a good stare for ten minutes. Every time his naked form appeared on screen there was a snigger from a group 0f women in the audience who clearly found it amusing that a bald blue man with a stamp in his forehead runs around with his bits bouncing free. It is strange then that Snyder did not cut this out (surely giving the film a lower cinema rating). It was unexplained why he was naked most of the time in the film and did it really matter if he changed this small (ahem) thing?
Pretty this film may be, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was boring. My backside had been contorted into all sorts of positions in an attempt to get comfortable and all of them unsuccessful. You can always tell a good film by how uncomfortable the cinema seats seem and I assure you I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. 163 minutes (plus 30 minutes of trailers) later and I feel as if I have been spanked viciously by a hairy man with a bat covered in sandpaper! We all know that just because a member of the opposite sex has beauty it doesn’t mean she is not hollow inside. That analogy perfectly describes this film sadly. All beauty and no substance.
One most important issue I have with this film is that of Richard Nixon’s nose. I am not sure if this was supposed to represent his ability to adjust the truth (see Pinocchio) but it was stupidly large. It felt as if the prosthetic had been used in a stage play of Cyrano De Bergerac.
If you are a fan of Watchmen then I urge you to stay away and if you have never heard of the Watchmen then you may just find some brilliance in this tale. Every superhero has flaws and only one of them actually has super powers. Unfortunately what you like about the film will not be due to Zack Snyder but due to Alan Moore (the author of the novels).
I have no doubt that any review you’ll read will not dissuade you from seeing Watchmen and therefore I am just going to offer advice for when you do! Bring a cushion, a duvet and some earplugs and get some sleep somewhere between the opening murder and the end credits.
There is some great acting accompanied by some awful acting. This is a dichotomous tale if ever I saw one! This is proof that a graphic novel cannot be portrayed verbatim on film. For those of you who are never likely to read the novels then you’ll appreciate moments of sheer beauty and brilliance but ultimate boredom throughout. All style and no substance makes Jack a dull boy!
Rating: 2 out of 5