Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At the weekend Owen and I went to the always-delightful Brixton Ritzy to see Zack Snyder's film WATCHMEN.

I will happily put my hand up and say I knew nothing about it other than what I had heard about it during it's long journey to the screen when it changed hands more times than a scruffy pound note.
Three days later I still have no idea whether I liked it or not!

For fellow non-Watchman-believers the action takes place in a parallel universe America where during WWII a group of lawmakers masqueraded as The Minutemen, a group who donned Superhero outfits and fought crime. They are superseded by the Watchmen who fall foul of a ban on vigilantes and are broken up just as some of the original Minutemen are found dead or go insane.It's 1985, Richard Nixon is still President and America won the Vietnam War, largely thanks to the atomic power of Dr. Manhattan, a scientist who thanks to an accident in a laboratory was left with superhuman powers of molecular structure. America and Russia are on a nuclear collision course and New York is descending into chaos. When former Minuteman The Comedian is murdered, former Watchman Rorschach decides to investigate with the help of his former crime-fighting friends who are all discovering that life outside the mask is a difficult and dangerous place. First what I liked - the whole look of the film was remarkable, the opening credits excellently set up the film with it's retro 1940s look slowly morphing into a more modern look and there is always something to catch your eye and keep you watching. I also liked the post-911 feel of the film - here is an America devoid of hope and riddled with a gnawing fear that greater powers are at force against the peace of the world.
There are fine performances from Patrick Wilson as the former Wise Owl II, now a bit of a shy schlub who feels lost in the post-superhero world, Jackie Earle Haley is great as Rorschache, a film noir-style investigator whose ever-moving inked mask covers a tortured soul with scary capabilities, Billy Crudup shone (literally) as Dr. Manhattan, a super-human being who still feels the tug of humanity and Carla Gugino was fine - despite the dodgy 'old' makeover - as the boozy former crime-fighter Silk Spectre whose daughter carries on the name. But for every thing I enjoyed there seemed to be things that kept getting in the way. The film is way too long and although impressive, the look of the film is totally claustrophobic - I presume a lot of it is totally based on the look of the original book and one ultimately begs for something original, off the cuff, unplanned. The literal bone-crunching violence even made me wince a few times and felt absurdly gratuitous at times and apart from the performances mentioned, most made no impression and in particular Matthew Goode turned in a resoundingly invisible performance - laughable when he is the catalyst for the film's denouement.

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