My colleague Jason here at Movie Talk has already taken an axe to Watchmen in his Best View, but I just couldn’t resist sticking in my two cents. First off, I have to say I’ve never actually read a graphic novel. So I’m not one of the ‘fanboys’ Jason was referring to. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because when I went to see this movie in all it’s glory at London’s BFI IMAX cinema I had no preconceived notions about it. I didn’t know the story, I hadn’t seen the artwork, and I’m not going to take a pop at it just because it’s based on a glorified comic-strip.
So maybe it was simply the whole vertigo-inducing IMAX experience. Maybe it was the sight of Billy Crudup in all his blue glory as Dr Manhattan (Billy is certainly a lot buffer than I remembered him from that film about the 70s rock band). Maybe it was Zac Synder’s fantastic golden oldies soundtrack (Dylan, Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkel, I tell you it’s a baby boomer’s dream). Maybe it was that fabulous retro-film noir atmosphere that permeates the whole film (think Gotham City but darker and more rain-soaked), or maybe it was just that I was in the mood to enjoy myself.
But, I have to say, Watchmen totally BLEW ME AWAY.
I’ll grant you, in retrospect, Jason was absolutely right about some things. Three hours spent deconstructing the concept of Superheroes and whether they are the product of a morally bankrupt society (or some such twaddle) may be a tad too long (and existential) for some viewers. The plot does sort of disappear up it’s own backside at one point (um, I’m sorry but what was all that nonsense about the child killer and the prison riot supposed to be about??). The violence is far too graphic in parts (did we really need to see that poor bloke getting his arms sawn off. And why do filmmakers often insist on turning rape sequences into erotica?) and yes, that fellow from Brideshead is really very weedy.
But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really notice any of that when I was watching the movie. What I did notice was how larger than life it all was, how brilliantly constructed a lot of the set pieces were and how it seemed to teeter cleverly between an over-the-top camp pantomime and a fabulously demented mythic fantasy. I mean how many directors can pull off a sex scene which has Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah playing in the background and climaxes (excuse the pun) with a rocket thruster thrusting!!!
This is one great big adrenaline rush of a movie (with existential bells on) and if you can take it on those terms and enjoy it for what it is, you’re in for a good night’s totally visceral entertainment – whether you’re a fanboy (or girl) of Alan Moore’s work or not.
And did I mention Billy Crudup and his gorgeous blue bod??
To activate the sound in the trailer: click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.