279. Watchmen (US 2009)
Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Laura Mennell, Patrick Wilson,
Supporting: Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Appollonia Vanova
Screenplay: David Hayter, Alex Tse
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Music: Tyler Bates
Graphic Novel: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
In one line: The Earth faces nuclear Armageddon in an alternative 1985
In alternative 1985, America and the Soviet Union are on the brink of war. Nixon is still President and an act of Congress has long since forbidden the superheroes/'caped vigilantes' from keeping the streets safe. The Comedian, the most controversial of these masked crime fighters, is murdered by persons unknown at the start of the story and it is up to the lonely, unhinged Rorschach to pick up the threads of the unsolved case. He discovers that the superheroes are being killed off one by one and he alerts the surviving Watchmen (Nite Owl, The Silk Spectre and the god-like Dr Manhattan) of their possible imminent deaths. The other Watchman, ("the world's richest and cleverest man") Ozymandias, remains unconvinced.
The conspiracy grows and the world drifts dangerously towards nuclear obliteration....
I can understand why a lot of people didn't like this film. For those not versed in Alan Moore's/Dave Gibbons' brilliant graphic novel, it's a very difficult film to understand and embrace. A labyrinthine, complex plot is not really the domain of the blockbuster.
The back story of the 'Minutemen' (the Watchmen's precursors) is handled skillfully by director Snyder, but I'm not sure if I'd have understood all of the various connections if I hadn't read the novel. The rest of the plot is also fairly demanding, and I could imagine that piecing together the various sub-plots, flashbacks and related narrative minutiae could lead to some confusion.
The film opened well in most markets, but died the death quite quickly when word of mouth wasn't everything the makers had hoped.
There are no stars in the film (which is a big bonus as far as I'm concerned) and this might have been another factor in the film's so-so showing at the box office. All of the major actors are excellent, but the standout performance are from Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian and a brilliant, film-stealing performance from Jackie Earle Hayley as the troubled (and brilliantly ginger) Rorschach. Earle Hayley had almost disappeared after his performance in the excellent Breaking Away (see SV 261).
It's a film that's best appreciated at the cinema. The opening title sequence (accompanied by Dylan's 'The Times They Are a Changing') is simply outstanding. The appearance of a giant Dr Manhattan suppressing the Viet Cong and becoming their new God is as impressive as Manhattan's genesis in a laboratory accident. There are any number of very cinematic set pieces that are visually stunning, but my favourite part of the film is Rorschach's desperate prison proclamation:
"I'm not trapped in here with you: you're trapped in here with me!"
Mr Testicles: sadly not in this film, but in his natural home
I'd agree with some of the criticisms that there is pornography of violence in the film - some of the vicious fight scenes are a bit regrettable. I'd also agree that the film is a little too faithful to its source material, but I'm sure there would be criticisms if Snyder deviated too far from the look and feel of the novel.
My biggest problem was with Dr Manhattan's penis. In the novel, the reader gets furtive glimpses of the big blue fella's tadger and it's a Michelangelo's David-style pecker. In Snyder's vision, it's a huge floppy cock and it's always there. I swear that it left the screen at one stage and started to pick the best bits about of my box of popcorn. (Makes note to self - don't sit on the front row.)
Dr Manhattan: floppy 'cock' not featured
Every woman I've mentioned this to says the same thing: "You must be gay" - as if they hadn't clocked DocMan's knob a million times during the film. And I bet they would have regarded it as 'natural' 'and 'part of the furniture' if Silk Spectre had walked round with a big flappy vagina throughout the film.
"Stop looking at her vagina!" they night say if they had some sense of decorum.
"Stop looking at her fucking minge!" if they didn't. And came from Netherley. And was called Donna-Marie.