Watchmen (2009)

Film review: Watchmen (2009), directed by Zack Snyder

watchmenBased on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, a.k.a. the guy who also wrote V for Vendetta (which I love), comes Watchmen – a good example that just because a movie is about superheroes, it’s not necessarily for kids. Watchmen has an 18 rating, and for good reason. First time I saw this was at the cinema – might even have been a preview night as opposed to having been officially released. While it was gritty to the point of being disturbing at times, I still came away thinking it was an excellent film.

It begins in 1985, with the death of an old man called Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), perhaps more known using his superhero name: The Comedian. As it turns out, back in the 1940s, there was a group of masked vigilantes calling themselves the Minutemen who defended their cities and helped the police. Come the 1970s, a disgruntled police force go on strike, leading to a bill being passed that basically outlaws vigilantes, so the currently operating superheroes are forced into early retirement. People like The Comedian still have work, because they do the government’s dirty work. (Who do you think shot JFK? ;))

Most of these people don’t actually have any real superpowers. On the other hand, Dr. Manhattan makes up for that. Once known as scientist Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup), had a little accident, got blown to atoms and is now a naked, glowing, blue guy who can see through time and teleport people and make copies of himself and all sorts. He single-handedly won the Vietnam War for the US. He’s also lost touch with humanity, and the only thing keeping him in touch with it is girlfriend Laurie (Malin Akerman – or Åkerman, the lady’s Swedish) – who used to wear a latex suit and call herself the Silk Spectre. She takes after her mum Sally (Carla Gugino, the shrink from Sucker Punch), the original Silk Spectre who used to be one of the Minutemen.

Rich genius Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) retired his Ozymandias persona a few years before the ban and cashed in on selling merchandise of himself. Nowadays, he’s working on a solution with Dr. Manhattan, to end the world’s energy problems. Meanwhile, sociopath Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley, who kinda looks like a ginger Clint Eastwood) is wondering who’s out there killing people. Why was The Comedian killed, and by whom? Maybe Dan “Nite Owl” Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson, Raoul in the filmed version of the musical The Phantom of the Opera) could offer some assistance, or is he too busy flirting with Laurie?

Fans have criticised the film for not ending with everyone fighting a big squid from outer space, but let’s be honest, the way it ends in the film sounds a lot more plausible than an alien octopus. Won’t divulge details, though.

Watchmen is a long film and I’ve heard that it can be perceived as slow because it follows the graphic novel to the point where you’d think they’d used it as the actual camera directions. What do I know? I’ve decided to read the graphic novel now, seeing as how we’ve got it, and so far, I have to say that at least the dialogue and events are very similar – word perfect, even – and yeah, I’m pretty sure I recognise the camera angles too.

There is gore, yes. Rorscach is very good at that. There is a giant, blue dude walking around with his bits all dangly and on display. People have sex, but it’s not too in-your-face. Not all that detailed. There are fight scenes and people who have no compunction to shoot pregnant women who have the propensity to point out that the war is over and hey, guess what daddy-o, you now have a baby on the way.

First time I saw this film, I was blown away by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Wowza! Unfortunately, while the guy is gorgeous, the character he plays is a horrible, horrible person. The sort of person who doesn’t mind raping colleagues, shooting civilians for fun and guess who didn’t take kindly to the Vietnamese woman he impregnated? Ah-huh. This time around, I could still acknowledge that DAMN he’s a fine-lookin’ fella, but at the same time, it wasn’t as distracting this time because The Comedian is such a swine that I was quite happy to see him get his ass kicked and thrown out of a skyscraper. Although at the point where he dies (the opening of the film), we don’t know that.

It’s not the highest paced movie, unlike most other superhero stuff you’d see. It’s also not what you’d expect. It’s brainier, to begin with, and delves into right and wrong in a way that you would never see Superman do. Well, you never really doubt that Superman is a good guy either, whereas with these guys … it’s very much debatable. Good? Bad? Bit of both? Is there even a place for superheroes in society? Maybe it’s time to don the masks again and go out looking for people to help?

Watchmen is actually a very good film. It’s well-acted, the characters are interesting (if a bit disturbed), the settings feel very cinematic (always a plus in a film, right?) and I didn’t expect to actually like it when we went to the cinema. I came out thinking “that was actually pretty darn good”. This time I knew it was a film worth watching, and a re-watch said the same thing. It’s good.

4.5 out of 5 blood-smeared smileyface badges.

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