A faithful and phenomenal execution of a graphic novel adaptation.
I find it very difficult to explain to someone just exactly what Watchmen is about. From its various trailers, it appears to by a stylistic action piece of untold levels of cinematography. Unfortunately this is the work of many marketing machines churning a mass media product out of what is in fact the perfect unison of fine art and literature I have seen in a long time.
The story of Watchmen is, at it’s a core, a richly layered character piece driven by the narrative of one vigilante known as Rorschach. Set in an alternate 1985, through the story we encounter a world on the brink of nuclear war. The struggle for infinite power between America and USSR has caused the proliferation of a nuclear Armageddon an imminent and inevitable reality. We follow the paths of a group of masked vigilantes known as the Watchmen trying to salvage a world lost in fear, as they begin to question their own existence in light of murderous and psychological attacks coordinated against them. I am not going to bother to try and explain the precedents each character faces, it took Alan Moore four hundred hand drawn pages, and so two hours and thirty minutes of film is hardly an even match.
This film was visually a masterpiece deserving of the highest praises, it was translated from mere paper to film with extraordinary style and depth. Any complaints regarding the Watchmen film to be overly loyal to the point that the movie exhibits zero creativity is completely absurd and ridiculous. Zack Snyder was tasked with bringing still images soundless sentences to life, the execution of such a fitting soundtrack accompanying marvellously detailed set pieces and props was the work of exceptional direction. I must nod my head and fist-bump Zack Snyder in this regard. This film is almost frighteningly creepy in its evocation of the graphic novel, almost as if Snyder was walking around the set with the graphic novel in his hand rather than the script. The style to which it was exhibited was a stroke of pure genius; the voices, the debonair of the characters and the cinematography were an implementation of mere perfection. Every scene is brimming to life with surreal sense of colour and grit.
The soundtrack is mellow with an almost Bob Dylan-esque suave to it. Consider the fact that the action of the film was perhaps more suited to something sounding more robust with bass and coloured with guitar riffs, then you will see the brilliant oxymoron in the feel of this film. I was slightly taken aback, at the silence in the opening fight scene only for it to develop in to one of the most solemn and effectively photographed scenes I have ever witnessed. The following stop-motion captured flashbacks of the Minutemen was just an astounding sounding and looking five minutes that showed a lot of interesting moments from the book. The Kennedy assassination deserves a special mention, beautiful. What proceeded for the next two hours plus, was easily the most powerful and architecturally captured fight scenes filmed this side of Snyder’s very own ‘300’. Rorschach was visceral and decisive in his blows (keep away from boiling fat, and the Men’s Room when this dude is around); Silk Spectre was graceful and powerful while Nite Owl was a clinical combatant. However none were any match for the outstanding Ozymandias, I have no idea how this man’s absolute strength and agility was so effectively captured as he literally annihilated every single opponent with sadistic ease. Fantastic, it makes the fight scenes in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ look like a collection of claustrophobic seniors feeling each other up in dark corridors.
The predicament of this film arises from a number of flaws; if you have not read the book then I beg your mercy for the praise I wish to heap upon this is of the highest order. There was an impossibly fine line that the Snyder had to meander across. Firstly there are the dastardly compulsive aficionados of the Alan Moore novel, who will (and rightly so) complain that critical pieces of character development were abandoned or the ending was ludicrously changed from the original. However both were a necessary sacrifice to keep this movie with in a decent time range, which honestly was still extremely long. So let us follow on to the general populous, the demographic of any Hollywood product. In the eyes of these people ‘Watchmen’ was long, it was boring, Nite Owl had a bigger booty than Silk Spectre, big naked blue man and Richard Nixon… All valid complaints, I did at a point admittedly think to myself that a lot of people must be getting really bored right about now, especially if you did not realise the ultimate direction of the narrative. Such was a similar problem with Lord of the Rings, but Peter Jackson had about ten hours of film and three years to flesh it out over and sprinkle healthy doses of adventure and action to keep the casuals engaged. ‘Watchmen’ was flooded with pretentious commentary and political stances that many would have perceived as drivel rather than meaningful moral speech. A second viewing of this film is highly recommended, if not only to see Rorschach drive a cleaver through pedophiles head, but to notice the exceptional dimension and commentary of the characters.
Speaking of which, characters were pieces of literary genius, and it was absolutely amazing seeing them come to life and be delivered with such fervour and excellence. Rorschach, portrayed by Jackie Early Haley was simply a scene stealer and there is no arguing that no matter what you thought of the movie. Much of his complex background and development was abandoned in the running time of the film, so therefore he simply appeared to be psychopath with a ****** up a childhood. However he is so much more than that… the story of his black and white perception of the world, the mask and his early school years are just fascinating pieces of literature which unfortunately most people will never get to experience. Ozymandias was also an exceptionally delivered character played by Matthew Goode, however again due to lack of dedicated screen time the general audience could not delve in to this man’s extraordinary past as a child who rejected the fortunes of his family and instead chose to educate himself with the life of Alexander the Great. He followed the journey of Alexander across the Mesopotamia, Africa and Asia in order to mould himself in to the most powerful human being on the planet. His aspirations and successes were poignantly delivered and his martial arts were a sight to behold.
So, should you be watching the ‘Watchmen’? The answer is a resounding yes, if only to experience a grandioso cinematic event. ‘Watchmen’ contains some of finest choreography in combat as well as an unusually mellow soundtrack, the culmination of which is a very unique film. Forgive the complex narrative structure for the source material is so rich and complete in its portrayal of this universe that two and a half hours are almost an injustice to it. Or if you have read the book, then forgive it for being only that long.
At the end of the movie, the majority of the audience stood up in applause… A young man sitting behind me remarked “What kind of a person claps at the end of a movie!?” to which a colleague of mine promptly replied “A loser!” This is the kind of person claps at the end of a movie… the kind of person who realises that bringing this piece of art to life took almost sixteen years of debate and three years of dedication to construct, fabricate and enact. Countless hours of work of hundreds of individuals, for which the end result was the most faithful adaptation of any source material, ever. I can, I swear to you, sit down and watch this movie with the graphic novel in my hand, minute by minute and page by page to see mere images and words painted twenty four years ago come to life before my eyes. What an experience.