Saturday 7 March 2009

An Adrian McKinty Movie Review -- Watchmen

Zach Snyder’s Watchmen is not the worst film adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel (that would be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) nor does it get close to the best (V for Vendetta), instead it’s somewhere in the boggy middle, perhaps nudging up against the wet sheep that was From Hell.

Set in an alternate 1985 during President Nixon’s fifth term the story concerns a group of costumed heroes and the attempt by one of them – Rorschach - to discover who’s been bumping them off. The wider context of Rorschach’s quest is an imminent nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union which seems inevitable following a Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

At a little under three hours Snyder is quite faithful to Moore’s narrative (and Dave Gibbons’ visuals) though fans of the original deus ex machina ending and the Tales of the Black Freighter pirate comic within a comic shouldn’t hold their breath. (I’d actually like to discuss the ending of the film further but without providing a spoiler I am unable to do so, though - like the festival crowd who booed Derek Smalls’ Jazz Odyssey in This is Spinal Tap - I too was not impressed by Watchmen’s new direction.)

The central performances are mostly convincing and a far cry from the campy, shouty excesses of Snyder’s previous film 300. Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl stands out, giving us a character who is vulnerable, nervous, emotionally backward and yet who grows in stature throughout the film to become its emotional centre. Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre is also good and you can’t help but root for these two kids to get together even as the apocalypse occurs about them.

Less satisfying is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach who seems to think that Christian Bale’s Batman wasn’t quite gravelly enough and Matt Goode as the fey Ozymandias who doesn’t convince us at all that he is “the smartest man in the world.”

Much of the complexity of Dr Manhattan is erased in the film but Jeffrey Morgan’s brief, charismatic performance as The Comedian practically steals the picture.

Watchmen was never flawless even in its comic book form (the final two issues and Moore’s understanding of female psychology are, at best, dodgy) but reading it in high school back in 1986 – 1987 was still one of the most exciting experiences of my cultural life. No film could ever hope to live up to that, but I think I can say with reasonable objectivity, that if they really had to make Watchmen The Movie, it could have been much better.

(Many thanks to NI crime fiction genius, Adrian McKinty, for this review -- gb.)


Michael Stone said...

Ach, I'll still be renting the DVD when it comes out. Like you, Adrian, reading the Watchmen was a cultural milestone fo rme and a film -- whether it's bad, great or indifferent -- won't shake that. No more than Alan Moore turning out to be a tiresome, moaning pain-in-the-arse anyway.

Funnily enough, I recommended the V for Vendetta book to someone recently. She responded with "Is any better than that heinous film?" I actually thought the film was okay but I just said, "Oh, there's no comparison." :-)

adrian mckinty said...


I didnt mind the film. Ok it was nothing like the GN and Alan Moore did his usual diatribe, but Hugo Weaving was terrific, the Stephens Rea and Fry were in it and I thought Natalie Portman was 100 percent convincing.

I'm waiting for the Hollywood version of Alan Moore's Lost Girls - Natalie Portman already a perv icon for her work in Vendetta, Leon and Closer would cement her reputation among the grubby mac brigade.

Anonymous said...

I've seen that there's a DVD-extra animated version of the Tales of the Black Freighter.

v-words: uncest,ragge

Anonymous said...

I know its going to be bad but I'm still going to see it.

What is Lost Girls?


seana graham said...

Lost Girls comprise that portion of the female population who went along with their boyfriends to see Watchmen, mistakenly believing that it would be a good date movie.

adrian mckinty said...


Its a "pornographic" (his words) comic by Alan Moore partly based on the Alice in Wonderland mythos.

Its a bit of a departure for Moore (though there's a lot of sex in LOEG 2) and I dont think its done that well.

Anonymous said...

Watchmen is a visual and psychological cornucopia -- definitely worth watching