Thursday, March 19, 2009

Watchmen - the movie

Watchmen is one of my favourite graphic novels. However I had mixed feelings when I heard that it was being 'movie-fied'

With its dense, complex plotline (so much so that, unusually for a graphic novel, it has a number of pages of explanatory type) I was concerned that it might be 'butchered' on its transfer to cinema.

Zack Snyder's last major project was '300', a film version of Frank Miller's graphic novel loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae. Snyder's approach was to use the book as a 'storyboard', using digital techniques to make the imagery look as if it had been lifted from the pages of a comic. And it worked extremely well.

However '300' was (even by graphic novel standards) a brief story with a simple, linear plotline. There was no need to read the book before watching the film to understand what it was about.

In taking on Watchmen, Snyder had at least two audiences: those familiar with the book and those who had never heard of it. To please the former he had to do justice to the characters and story. To satisfy the latter, he had to produce an entertaining, self-explanatory piece of cinema.

To his credit, I think Mr Snyder has made a creditable attempt at fulfilling an impossible brief. The film's storyline is (with just a few of exceptions) faithful to the book, and the dystopian atmosphere is successfully captured. Nearly all of the actors capture the spirit of the characters they are playing, with Billy Crudup (Dr Manhattan) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) taking top honours.

Watchmen is a dystopian, violent, misanthropic book. And its movie adaption does not make easy viewing. It is filled with scenes involving killing, mutilation and rape, all portrayed in an unflinching, ultra-realistic 'hands-over-eyes' manner. Despite this, it is a moving and thoughtful production (much more so than '300'), and one that I will certainly be purchasing when it is released on Blu-ray.

If you haven't read the book, I would encourage you to do so before you watch the film. If you don't enjoy the book, I doubt you will enjoy the film. If you do, it will make the movie more understandable without spoiling its impact.


Brook T C said...

I'll be stealing the novel off you when I come round :D

brett jordan said...

Emily Smith nicked it last Saturday :-) I'll have to see if I can steal it back before the weekend...

Mr Gnome said...

I promise not to steal the DVD next time I call in at Casa Jordan.

You can rely on this one.

brett jordan said...

until you step up to Blu-ray, it would be no good to you anyway Mr Gnome :-)