Monday, 19 May 2014

Watchmen (2009)

So I'm not much of a fan of Zack Snyder.  I liked his Dawn of the Dead remake OK, but you only have to look back a few weeks to see how little I enjoyed 300.  And as for Suckerpunch, well you'd have to pay me - and pay me well - to get me to sit through that mess again.

So I had concerns about Watchmen when I went to see it at the cinema.  At least Suckerpunch was still in the future then, though, or I might not have gone at all.  To my pleasant surprise however, I quite enjoyed the film and subsequently bought it on DVD.

It probably helps Snyder's case that he's working from Alan's Moore's critically acclaimed series, which remains one of the most highly-regarded comic book stories ever written (though honestly, as Alan Moore comics go, I like V for Vendetta more than Watchmen).  He smartly doesn't deviate much from his source material for much of the film, beyond excising a parallel story that threaded its way through the original comics and would have blown the film's length out to about 4 hours.  That parallel story is available as a separate DVD (which I own) and I believe there is now an 'ultimate cut' of the film that merges the two.  Today, however, I'm just talking about the DVD of the original theatrical release.

The film takes place in an alternate history where costumed crimefighters emerges in the late 30s and early 40s.  They faded out shortly after the end of WW2, but had a resurgence in the 1960s after a true superhuman, Dr Manhattan, was accidentally created.  With Manhattan's aid, the US won the Vietnam War, and came into possession of a resource that destabilized the already tense world political situation.  By the mid-1980s, when the movie is set, the 'doomsday clock' is ticking ominously close to armageddon.

As tensions rise between the USSR and United States, one of the costumed crimefighters is murdered, and - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - his former colleagues begin to look into why.  What they discover will change their lives, and possibly the world.

This is a visually stylish film, of course.  You expect that with Snyder.  But it's got more substance than his usual fare, and it also boasts very good performances from Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson, which really helps in anchoring anchoring things.  The soundtrack is pretty phenomenal, too.

If you're into superhero movies at all, and don't mind one that's a bit darker and grittier than they normally are, with some fairly unlikeable 'heroes', this is worth your time.

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