During my time in the USA in 2006, I was exposed to ‘The Watchmen’. It’s a graphic novel that was written in 1986/87 as a 12 part comic series. It was later combined into a graphic novel and became one of the best known and well written graphic novels of all time.
Why did it take me 20 years to read? I really don’t know, but as soon as I read it and LOVED it, I heard rumblings about a movie that was going to be made. The movie rights were actually bought back in 1986 by 20th Century Fox.
5 years later and nothing concrete could be written or decided on, until the project moved to Warner Bros, and Terry Gilliam chosen to direct it. I think he would have been a good match for this movie, but because Gilliam’s movie’s tend to go over budget (or not be made at all), the studio only gave them $25 Mil and it was decided that the film would not be made. Gilliam pulled out and called the film ‘unfilmable’.
So the movie then moved to Universal Pictures and a new scriptwriter was employed. David Hayter turned in his first draft of the script in 2002. The movie was meant to start filming in 2004. The project again fell apart at both Universal and Revolution Pictures.
In December 2005, Warner Bros were again attached to the project and Zack Snyder was asked to direct after his successful adaption of ‘300’ for the screen. Alex Tse was asked to write the script and finally the film was a goer.
Apart from some legal wrangling with 20th Century, the project went pretty smoothly and became the movie that was released a few weeks ago.
Firstly, it has to be said that the comic is a very cerebral read. It’s not your standard BANG, KAPOW, FLUMP!! read. It is very complex, with magazine and newspaper articles intermingled with ‘real-life’ extracts of books. There is also a sub-story called ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’. This is being ‘read’ by a character in the comic and progresses through each issue along with the rest of the main story. To say this comic is complex is probably an understatement. Even after 2 reads I have not taken it all in. I will definitely have another crack at it soon though.
Ok, so. The MOVIE!
It came out a few weeks back as I said, but because of holidays, a broken foot and some busy weeks, I haven’t had a chance to see it. Also, it goes for around 160 minutes, so you need a fair whack of time to devote to it!
The first thing I liked about this movie is the casting. You don’t have Jessica Alba’s or Robert Downey Jr’s or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s here. You’ve got relatively unknown actors like Malin Akerman (27 Dresses), Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy). I think it helps, when coverting a well known comic book to the big screen, that you see the character on the screen, and not a ‘Captain Sparrow’, or ‘Lara Croft’. This did, however, mean that one character, Ozymandias, played by Matthew Goode, really didn’t work for me. I thought his acting left a lot to be desired and it distracted me in the scenes that he was in.
However, the real celebration of this movie was the adaption and synchronisation to the book. Some of the scenes came directly from the page and were depicted amazingly. I love the little ‘Easter Eggs’ that were retained in the movie. The attention to detail was excellent. Apparently Zack Snyder carried the book around with him and used it as a story board for the movie. And why wouldn’t you?
This is a violent movie. The violence is meant to be an example of the violent and turbulent society that we live in, but you could say that some of the fighting scenes in this movie are a bit gratuitous. It does have some nice use of ‘wires’ when the characters get smacked around though. Never knew you could punch hard enough to make someone fly 10 feet away!
Translating a 12 part comic book into a movie was going to be hard because there is SO much to include, and obviously you can’t remake every single frame. The original cut of the movie was over 3 hours long and although Snyder chopped 20 or more minutes out, he has revealed that a Director’s cut will be released in July. This will probably help the box office figures which have apparently been ok for March, but haven’t yet cracked the $100 Million mark in the US. (98 Million as at 22 March)
So, why should you see this movie? The storyline. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before in a comic book adaption.
Think of the world in the mid 80’s. You’ve got ’99 Luftballoons’ banging out of the stereo and the hairstyles, the clothes and the attitudes of the people are wild. We’re in an alternate reality. Nixon has been elected for an (impossible) 3rd term, Russia is about to attack the Afghan border and has 50 odd nuclear missiles pointed at the east coast of America. The threat of Nuclear War is on the tip of everyone’s tongues and Fear is the government’s weapon of choice. (sound familiar?)
A small group of ‘superheroes’ stay in touch after legislation was brought down to prevent them from their vigilante hobbies. They are now just everyday people, but apparently you can’t give up the superhero game just like that. This is especially the case for Dr. Manhattan. A walking, talking man of blue matter and energy that has ”rebuilt’ himself after disintegrating in an atomic ‘test chamber’ accidentally. (looks amazing) However, he doesn’t see himself so much as a superhero, but as a man that can help develop an infinite energy source.
See? It’s technical. There’s a few sub-plots within all this. Relationships are strained. People die, and there’s a detective theme throughout based of the diary of Rorschach. Now this character was my favourite in the movie. Excellently portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley, and his mask, with ever changing Rorschach ink-blots, are CGI effects at their best.
I can’t gush enough about this movie. Even the ‘alternate ending’ chosen by Snyder doesn’t spoil the effect that this movie had on me. Even LaLa, who has probably not read a comic book since Asterix The Gaul, enjoyed it, and that’s saying something!
5 out of 5 from me!