Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

You keep calling me Walter. I don't like you.

So, at seven in the evening a film studies friend, obviously having spotted the bloody-smiley I've been sporting all week, asked "Watchmen's been out all day, have you seen it yet?" No, but I was just on the way to the IMAX. He wasn't a big fan of 300 (Jesu, is it only me?), and commented "if it doesn't amount more to a pretty picture, then at least you want to see it on IMAX so it's a really pretty picture."

Fair assessment, but I knew like I've never had faith in anything before, that it had to be good.
The following review contains spoilers, please don't read it.

Quid dicam? This film could not have been better. That's not to say it's the best film I've ever seen, far from it. But as an adaptation of Watchmen, it is everything I hoped.Every character inhabits their part perfectly, except maybe Ozymandeus and we'll come to that in a minute. Dr Manhattan is brilliantly realised - the little twitches of emotion on an emotionless face is just brilliant. Comedian and Rorschach, who I can only define as my two favourite things in the comic, are spot-on perfect. I mean, there's nothing more to say than that - they could have walked off the page. Ach, hell - everyone's good.

But Ozymandeus...Adrian Veidt of the books is such an all-American hero. He needs to be played by someone charasmatic, someone you know would jump out of a helicopter for you without even thinking. A young Robert Redford would be perfect. Now, Matthew Goode's intepretation was widely different to mine, incorrect if you ask me. Yet he did what he was trying to do very well, even if we disagree on characterisation, and I give him permission to play Dorian Gray whenever he likes.

The pacing was what I really worried about, and it's fine. The narrative constructs itself as a series of flashbacks, which is initially a little jarring, until you realise that's what it's doing. There are probably about 8 or 9 flashback sequences in the film, and they're there to colour the main narrative. And do so wonderfully. It's so deliberately episodic that it might have benefited from Tarantino style headings: "Mr White" and all.

As such, it's not so much a story constructed through plot but connections and symbols. Take the knowingly cliched soundtrack: Vietnam is scored to, what else, Ride of the Valykiries. President Nixon and his cabal plot nuclear war on the set of Dr Strangelove. We're operating in a parallel timeline, but the music instantly takes us back to our folk memory of our equivalent era - Sounds of Silence, Bob Dylan, 99 Luftballoons. And that's combined with things like Pat Buchanan and Andy Warhol, even more cultural icons, to let us know where we are. Just don't try and excuse the use of Hallejulah in a scene which was already pretty poor.

You don't even miss the squid. The concept of alien invasion works in the comic, because it's a comic about comics, and comics were always keen into their outer-space stories. It would have felt odd in the film. As an adaptation, this is how it's done, because it's so detail-rich and you know there was more. They lose half Rorschach's origin story, cut my favourite line, snip all over the shop - but the film still feels like a complete entity. I can't wait for the director's cut - apparently, there's going to be three ultimately: the two hours and forty minutes theatrical cut, the three hours and twenty minutes director's cut, and the four hours and thirty minutes ultimate cut, which has pretty much everything in there, including Tales of the Black Freighter.

But they did get some things wrong. I missed Hollis' death. I love both Nite Owls, and it's an important scene. The film could have easily been ten minutes longer to fit that in. With Hollis having been introduced, it's almost certainly been shot. They cut some of my favourite lines: I particularly missed Rorschach scolding Moloch for having a gun without a license. It cements the fact he sees all crime as equally wicked. Rorschach with the hacksaw? It was an awesome scene up until then, but it's not quite as twisted as what he does in the graphic novel (covers him in petrol, hands him a hacksaw, and advises him he probably shouldn't bother trying to cut through the handcuffs before pulling out a match). And the last fifteen minutes dropped the ball, horribly. They get to Karnak and...the ending has to be a kick in the gut. When I read Adrian use the phrase "half an hour ago" I dropped the book and burst into tears, justlikethat, in a way no comic has ever done, and very very few books. The film loses the impact, and I don't know why. And then you turn the page, and there's this full-page panel of a street filled with bodies and death. Then another, and another, and you just keep turning pages and there's nothing but death and silence. It's an awesomely powerful sequence, and an obvious candidate to keep - but they cut it. I don't understand why.

And they managed to make that whole bit at the end into one of those superhero endings which just keep fizzling in little events. It almost worked - particularly a key character claiming not to be a villain from a superhero comic. You could feel an indrawn breath across the whole audience, and this was an audience of fans, most likely all of whom had read the comic at least twice. But then they let the tension go again. The final scene of Laurie and Dan even lacked impact, and they needed about an extra 30 seconds to allow the true horror, genius and even meaning of Ozy's actions. In addition, I think the film was a little too overt in its condemnation of said actions. He's not a bad guy. I think it's telling that the last fifteen minutes were also those containing the most changes. It just lacks meaning, and it didn't feel real. Too rushed, I think.

A lot of people criticised it for a lack of depth. I understand them, to an extent - but it's only a film, and it did its best. And there were good changes too. It made sense for Ozymandeus to do the speaking at the meeting when Comedian burns the map. Although I missed Kitty's half of Rorschach's backstory, I appreciate it had to go - at that point in the film, the emphasis has to be on moving forward.

I mean, I'm only nitpicking because on the whole it was wonderful. Jesu, people! It's stayed true to the book's filthy darkness. Stylistically it's deliberately taken beats from the comic. The score is excellent - on the way to the IMAX, I kept thinking "I'm looking forward to the music", because I knew it had to ditch broad orchestrals in favour of electronica and ambient moodiness. Which it did, most of the time, to great effect. I'm listening to "Edward Blake - Comedian" at present, and it's taken obvious inspiration from Blade Runner. It's detail rich - you need several watches to take in the visuals, never mind the plot. Rorschach's mask - it's just so watchable. I particularly love it when it goes nuts. The hacksaw scene, the shapes just fly all over it. And when he gets thrown across the room, the shapes fly into chaos until he rights himself. The highlight of the film? Rorschach's escape from the apartment block. You're just rooting for him so, so, so much. Even those of us who know he's not going to make it.

Things to look out for? In the comic, Rorschach muses that Adrian is possibly homosexual (with a distinctly disapproving tone) - if you keep your eyes peeled when Dan checks the floppy disk, one of the folders on it is labelled "boys". That made me chuckle. IMDB claims the graphic novel suggests Rorschach is gay, but that strikes me as very unlikely considering the distaste he regards sex with full stop, and also a pointless line of investigation: can you imagine Rorschach with a date? No, thought not. Rorschach also uses a Vedit aerosol when breaking out of Moloch's house. In the prison break, someone uses a wilhelm scream when they are dropped off a balcony. Finally, when Laurie and Dan are at the Gunga Diner, you can see pink triangles on the wall - surely they're the Gay Women Against Rape posters from the comic?Interestingly, the

Aint it Cool review has virtually identical things to say to
me: it's helped me to understand what was missing at the end. I am looking forward to

"Oh, and that when you go to see the movie this weekend, you won't be watching Jackie Earl Haley -- Jackie Earl Haley will be watching you."

And I've settled down to what I believe is the most jarring aspect of the Watchmen movie, it's not in the spoilerific section because it's of general interest. Me back on my personal hobbyhorse: Too. Violent.

There are three types of movie violence, broadly speaking.

There's Type 1 "gore" - not very realistic, completely excessive, and designed to produce a football-supporter-style "phwoar!!" reaction. Planet Terror, 300 and Street Fighter are perfect examples. You are meant to visibly wince, and after the film it's appropriate to go "ah, you remember the bit where the guy's head went into the wood-cutter? That was gross, ma$n!"

There's what we'll call Type 2 "kung-fu", although obviously it encompasses all sorts of fights - exciting, viceral, borderline video game, encompassing Star Wars, James Bond and The Matrix. This violence is meant to impress the skill of the fighters on you. Wounds tend to be shrugged off, as are natural reactions: you can be kicked six times in the gut and still be smiling in a Type 2 movie. And so can the audience.

And there's Type 3, "realistic". It's debateable whether Type 3 movies are meant to entertain or not - I believe that the vicarious enjoyment of cinema can be extended to very, very unpleasant scenarios as much as happy ones. But this third type sets out to disturb, not in a childish way like Type 1, but in a very real and horrible way.

And there are overlaps, of course - the jury is out on whether Reservoir Dogs is a type 3 "realistic" or a type 1 "gore". And I'll be interested if you can provide any films which don't fit into those three, random catagories I just plucked out of the blue, so I can refine my explanation.

It's all a problem of semantics, because I'd only actually call Type 3 violent. The most violent scene I've ever seen is in a PG. Our heroes have been kidnapped and lined up against a wall by Character A - except Character B, who's broken his leg, who is lying on a table next along. Character A wants information, but our heroes are naturally too hardass to say anything. So he saunters over the Character B, and just waits. Then he gently rolls the barrel of his gun up the broken leg - obviously intensely painful - and that's it. But it is _violence_ in it's purest form. No excitement, no blood. It's just such a threatening gesture.

Incidentally, The Departed is my favourite depiction of film violence of all time, because it is everything it can be, and I believe it expresses the experience better than any other film. It's thrilling, set to a pumping rock soundtrack - and I think there must be something of a thrill in real violence too, otherwise why would it happen, if it wasn't on some level fun? Yet it's also firmly type 3, because it's hard to watch. You want to join in, but you can't look. And every piece of violence in the film tumbles through this contradiction. It's very effective, and I like it a lot.

The point of this digression is to bitch about the violence in Watchmen. It's a nasty little book, and the world it's set in is just horrible. True, you're seeing it through the eyes of Rorschach who is undeniably paranoid, and regards humanity as crooked and flawed. I was cheered, then, that it was going to be an 18 because this film needs to be nasty.Bit of a disappointment, because the violence was defiantly Type 1. Cartoonish, bloody and totally OTT. Every time soemthing nasty happened, there was an audible wince from the audience. It jolted you out of the film because type 1 gore is dehumanising. J. said to me afterwards, the worst part was the knife going through the woman's leg.I replied that it wasn't that at all - it was the knife going through a leg, not the woman's leg. The fact it was her as opposed to anyone else was irrelevant.

Yes, it was unpleasant but Zack Snyder had never sat back and considered why he was using this violence, what was the purpose. Why, in a film otherwise so grounded in reality, was everything so luridly vicious? Why couldn't it have been a nasty 18, instead of just a splatterific one? From the bone-crunching way the fights were filmed, to the actual colour of the blood, there was something just wrong. Hyper-real, and wrong. It was this aspect, more than anything else (and the fact they cut out my favourite bit), which disappointed me.


VK said...

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