I went to see the much-anticipated Watchmen film yesterday. I popped out in my lunch break anticipating longer queues than usual for the first night showing and it’s lucky I did because when I went back in the evening – the queue might have dwindled but the showing was sold out.
I went as a film fan having never read the graphic novel. I remember reading that it was a graphic novel that would probably never be translated onto screen – but that was after the wheels had been set into motion into making the film (and boy was that process been long with so many different actors and directors attached up til now). I went not expecting much from it – for it to be good in a comic book action type way but nothing more than that.
There are differences between comic books and graphic novels though, such as a deeper level of characterization and more complex storylines, and I’m aware of that but I did expect it to be more in the vein of Spider-man than 300 (also directed by Zack Snyder) mostly because of that superhero connection.
The characters in Watchmen aren’t superheroes though; they’re vigilantes, like Batman, with no superpowers beyond their strength (and they are exceptionally strong) and intelligence – the exception to this is Captain Manhattan (the glowing blue one) who can see his own past and future.
In a nutshell I’d say the film was good (judging by all the clapping and yeehaw-ing in the cinema it’s clear many people thought it was better than just that) – it was a bit predictable but well executed though left a fair few plot holes.
The film was beautifully shot. I liked the colouring throughout the film; much of it was low saturation, creating a wonderfully gloomy atmosphere, interspersed with bursts of bright colour akin to the style of Sin City. The props and hairstyles were all meticulously chosen to suit the time its set in as was the music which was full of great songs by artists such as Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Tears for Fears but let down by the one ‘new’ song, a cover of Dylan‘s Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance.
There were also some great artistic references – for example, there’s one shot of a character’s retirement party that is clearly influenced by The Last Supper but I don’t know how much of this was in the graphic novel. The credits feature a lot of this sort of imagery and are great lasting about 10 minutes and cramming in a lot of back story; it’s quite a shame because characters like Silhouette and Silk Spectre seem really interesting (and have, by far, the best costumes) but we don’t get to see a lot of them. I felt that there wasn’t enough of a female presence with only one main character (Silk Spectre II) being a woman and her character seemed to mainly be all about sex appeal. That said the actors are great, I particularly enjoyed the performances by Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias) and Jackie Earle Kelly (Walter Kovacs / Rorschach). The characters are as intelligent as they are violent which creates some great exchanges rather than just being packed with endless fight sequences – though the action scenes we do see are brutally graphic – they’re not so much fight sequences as painful annihilations with no one standing much of a chance against the Watchmen.
It’s a film definitely worth seeing and one I’d want to see again. It’s certainly made me what to read the graphic novel just to see how true to it the film was and the main differences in style. My interest is probably driven even more so by the strong opinions of Alan Moore (writer of the graphic novel) regarding the film industry which he described as a “watering down our collective cultural imagination”. He isn’t credited on the film and his monetary share goes to the illustrator of Watchmen, Dave Gibbons. Given Moore‘s general opinions on the industry, it would definitely prove to be an interesting read.
EDIT: Just a thought, something that didn’t occur to me to mention before – at 2 hours 45 mins, it’s a long film but it flies by – it’s all truly entertaining.