International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Film
and Russ Thomas debate the adaptation of Watchmen
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Distributed by Paramount.
I got back from my trip to London to go see the premiere of Watchmen,
an adaptation of one of, if not the greatest graphic novel of all
time. This movie has been in the pipelines for almost twenty years,
this film is almost older than I am! Almost every fan of the original
comic thought a faithful film adaptation would be impossible. The
original text was so complex, and the back story so deep that two
hours of film time wouldnt even begin to scratch the surface.
Well, they said
pretty much the same thing about Lord of the Rings didnt they?
In a horrifically crushed nutshell, the story follows through the lives
of several superheroes trying to come to terms with the fact that their
profession has now been outlawed and suddenly it appears that a serial
killer is hunting down all the former crime-fighters. The storys
way bigger than that, but I only have six hundred words so youll
just have to make do with that.
film opens with an old man trying to fight off a mystery assailant
who breaks into his apartment, who then proceeds to beat the crap
out of him before throwing him out the window. We are then treated
to a montage of this movies alternate version of 1985 set
to Bob Dylans "The times they are a changing." By
now you know youre not here to see your regular run of the
The next three hours doesnt disappoint either.
You heard me, three hours!
Those of you who
read the comic and know the old man is "The Comedian" and
who the mystery attacker is, the first thing you will notice is how
uncharacteristically awesome the fight is. In the original, the fight
lasted six panels at most. Here on the big screen, the fists fly around
like theyve got free Air Miles! This gives you a whole new perspective
upon the comic, what used to be a single picture of Nite-Owl punching
a thug becomes a huge sprawling action sequence involving some of the
most brutal beat-downs Ive ever seen in a superhero flick since
I saw the newest "Punisher" movie. Before you start worrying,
let me assuage your fears by telling you, the story is still there.
Its still intact, its still Watchmen. If he wasnt
too busy trying to catch magical pixies with his eyeballs, Alan Moore
would actually approve! Dave Gibbons certainly did. Zack Snyder is good
at fight scenes, 300 certainly helped with that, and so he did what
he does best for this film. This movie compliments the narrative heavy,
character driven work of art that is the comic by reminding you exactly
why you should never, ever mess with Rorschach while not forgetting
to tell you all the original reasons from the book!
movie is pretty much the Anti-Cliff-Notes to the comic; its
like someone enthusiastically taking you by the hand through the
story and telling you how AWESOME the whole thing is! From Dreiberg
and Laurie beating the ever living crap out of a gang of muggers
to Doctor Manhattan singlehandedly winning the Vietnam War to Ride
of the Valkyries now exhilarates you with an energy that would make
Michael Bay soil himself! Zack Snyder loves this comic, and it shows!
the movie compliments the book perfectly, like milk and cookies, or
beer and pizza, or cocaine and hookers!! If youve read the book,
go watch the movie, you owe it to yourself, and frankly, they deserve
the price of admission! If you dont know of it, go see the movie
and then read the comic, you wont be disappointed
maybe a little at first, but not disappointed.
Plus, come on, this film has Jimi Hendrix in the soundtrack! Whats
not to like?
Clarkson March 2009
When Jack Clarkson isnt smuggling himself past security into film
premieres, he is in his final year of English and Creative Writing at
REVIEW by RUSS THOMAS
Directed by Zak Snyder
Watchmen, like a lot of films, started off as a comic (or a "graphic
novel" if you want to be picky). Having read this a good four years
ago, I never thought it would, or even could be turned into a film
especially since it was recommended by my Philosophy teacher at the
time. It is a relatively complicated plot with ultra-philosophical grounding,
so this just cemented my feeling as it being a well-coloured utilitarian
tract. I never looked at it in a filmic way. Now... well, Im sitting
here talking about a film based on a comic which I never thought would
be delivered on screen. You can imagine the predicament. And Im
not over-exaggerating it is a predicament. As much as I want
to love Watchmen, I just cant.
Why? Its a good question. It is the most faithful film adaptation
of a comic I have ever seen.The set is fabulous, evoking the near-apocalyptic
alternate 1985 with fantastic bleakness epic camerawork, greenscreens
and special effects making this an almost-good-enough-to-eat affair.
The costumes are superb. Perfect. For purists, and even for virgin Watchmen
spectators, and for those who occupy the halfway house between the two
(me), the spectacle is enough alone to fend off doubt that it may not
be a perfect film. The visuals are so good, in fact, that they have
been released in an expensive book that acts as a companion to everything
you see on screen concept art, sketches, poster ideas, sets,
costume designs, and the final products: all glorious. But after this
it is hard not to stumble over the trickier bits. These come in a tri-form
obstacle, namely, casting, plot, and sound.
The casting was wobbly and I will be blunt about it. But, lets
have pudding first: Dr. Manhattan was brilliantly done, complex, layered;
Rorschach was gruesomely likeable; The Comedian notably fine
and other principles did a great job. On the other hand, Malin
Akerman (who plays Silk Spectre II) was stiff and delivered lines with
the tinny quality of a high pitched teen-comedy star. Not a great choice.
Nor, I think, was the actor who played Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Matthew
Goode). He was gaunt and weedy-looking. In the comic he is a blonde-haired
picture of Aryan-esque perfection. I didnt understand, but I now
put it down to the plot change.Yes, the plot change. I wont ruin
it, but lets just say that Adrian Veidt is more culpable in the
film than he is in the comic. There is something missed out of the film
as well, which would ordinarily explain the massive void that Veidt
abruptly fills, which is a brilliant part of the comic. Its called
Tales of the Black Freighter, and is essentially a story-within-a-story,
which is used as a narrative device. It is coming out on DVD-release,
independent of the film itself. The lack of this in the actual film
is a big, fat thumbs-down for me this makes it more confusing,
more contrived and convoluted than the comic (which is all of those
things to a major degree in the first place). My answer would have been
to make two films, as Tales of the Black Freighter comes more
or less mid-story, and would have made a lovely beginning for the second
film. But, as it happens, it is relatively short and a little disappointing.
Couple this in with a soundtrack which I thought, frankly, was awful
an attempt to gain credibility by using Jimi Hendrix and Bob
Dylan, and even ripping-off "Flight of the Valkyries" from
Apocalypse Now and you have a film that has knocked on Perfections
door, but failed to get in.
Russ Thomas, 19th
Russ is also completing his Creative Writing Degree at Portsmouth University.
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