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'Watchmen' Movie Review - You Read It Here First

By Dan Martin

Posted on 24 Feb 09

 
 

Good news folks, the unfilmable 'Watchmen' movie turns out to be filmable after all.

Unless you’ve been on self-imposed exile on a clockwork spaceship on the surface of Mars these last six months, you’ll be aware that the movie version of 'Watchmen', the most celebrated graphic novel of all time, is about to drop.





Written and drawn by Brits Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the comic book masterpiece tells the story of an alternative 20th Century where superheroes were real, and by the 1980s, America stands on the verge of all-out nuclear war with the USSR. A band of ‘costumed adventurers’ come out of government-enforced retirement to try to prevent Armageddon.

But all is, of course, not what it seems. It’s so dense, sprawling and time-hopping that 20 years of attempts to adapt it to the big screen have failed, until '300' director Zack Snyder stepped up to the table.

Last night I was lucky enough to walk the yellow carpet for the world premier at the Leicester Square Odeon. And I can report that the fanboys who’ve been terrified about the desecration of their holy grail can breathe easy (not that any of them will, but that’s fanboys for you).

Snyder could hardly have made a more faithful adaptation if he tried. Frames and pages have literally been taken out of the graphic novel and recreated in breathtaking style, yet the chronology fits together as a movie should. Even the tiniest details are referenced in passing, so as to provide fine fanwank but not alienate viewers new to the story.

A relatively unknown cast give good but not showy performances. Nobody owns the screen like Heath Ledger did in 'The Dark Knight', but nobody’s supposed to. Well, maybe Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach (especially in the prison scene), but he’s more believable as a homeless sociopath.

Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl is suitably conflicted, Malik Akerman’s Silk Spectre the right side of petulant. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is so perfectly cast as The Comedian that he could have been grown in a jar, and Billy Crudup as superbeing Dr Manhattan – well, it’s amazing they manage to pull it off.

The brutality remains. Nothing’s been toned down; not the smashing of skulls or the bruising insights into democracy and the American Dream.

One question that’s been nagging on the minds of fanboys are nefarious rumours that the ending has been changed to make make it all a bit more positive and Hollywoodised. That’s categorically not the case: the ending is just as brutal as in the book, it’s just a bit different.

There’s a spoilerific hornet’s nest here, what with people who’ve read the book and don’t want the ending of the story spoiled, and then people who’ve read the book and don’t want the ending of the film spoiled. Confused? You will be.

So at the end of the book, a Thing does a Thing to a Place which results in a Thing happening.

In the movie version, a different Thing does a similar Thing to the same Place, which results in the same Thing happening. And to be honest, the movie version probably suits the mechanics of the story a little better and makes the whole thing more plausible for a moviegoing audience. And since plausibility was always key to 'Watchmen', I for one am happy with it.

Either way, if you haven’t seen either, it will still bend your perceptions of right and wrong out of all recognition. And this is the best 'Watchmen' movie that could have possibly been made. Better than 'The Dark Knight'? Let the skull smashing begin…

 
 
 
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