All things considered, we’re doing pretty poorly at seeing films in the cinema of late. Finally dragged myself off to see Watchmen last night, which meant the late night slot (2245) at the big Odeon in town (not my favourite cinema).
Overall, I enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t the film I’d hoped it would be.
Art direction was spot-on – no complaints there. The blocking and composition of a lot of shots were nigh-identical to the equivalent frames in the comic (clearly deliberately).
The opening credits were stunning. A lot in there for the fanboys (Nite Owl saving the parents of Bruce Wayne was a cute touch), and quite a few homages to some iconic C20th images.
Ideally, I’d be able to give a link to the opening credits here. They were posted online (by one of the production companies), and then withdrawn by Warners with threats of legal action. Rather a shame, since a) they’re just the opening credits b) for my money, they’re probably the most adeptly realised part of the film and c) publicity doesn’t hurt, especially when you’ve had a poor opening weekend. But I digress.
The lack of giant psychic death squid was reasonable, in that the alternate explanation for the cataclysm made rather more sense.
The film has a number of flaws, some serious, some less so.
First off, this is a long film, and there are problems with pacing. It might just have been my full bladder, or that I was trying to stay awake for the drive home at 2am, but it seemed to drag in the second half.
Dialogue was variable, to put it kindly. The comic is fairly text-heavy, and quite a bit of that made it in. However, much of the new dialogue was buttock-clenchingly trite. Disappointing screenwriting.
The editing of some scenes was pedestrian; the comic plays around with juxaposition of frames on a page to give parallel narratives, but much of this had been flattened out in the film. Given the rich visual language that cinema has built up over the last century (Eisenstein anyone?) it’s a shame that Snyder decided not to try anything exciting.
For example, consider the first four pages of the comic. It opens with Rorshach’s journal entry as a voiceover over a six frame zoom shot that pulls back from a closeup on blood in the gutter to the detectives in Blake’s apartment peering down at the drop. The next two pages (a spread) alternate frames between the POV of the detectives examining the apartment and a flashback of Blake being assaulted. The detectives’ conversation continues through the flashbacks as voiceover. In contrast, the film unwinds this into chronological order: Blake is assaulted, the detectives examine the apartment, the blood is washed into the gutter. Boring, boring, boring.
To be fair, Snyder does try to recreate some of the nonlinearity in Chapter IV (Watchmaker, in which Dr. Manhattan’s strolls around Mars and reminisces on his past), but it’s toned down.
Some of the acting is lacklustre. I found Malin Akerman (as Laurie Juspeczyk/Jupiter) unconvincing, although this could be the contrast with Jackie Earle Haley’s performance. Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg was understated, but that’s just the character. No complaints there.
Most of the changes to the plot were reasonable (such as the squid, as I mention above), the way in which the change to the makeup of the Crime Busters (or Minutemen II) was executed rather niggled. In the comic, the inaugural meeting is chaired by Nelson Gardner/Captain Metropolis, while in the film it’s chaired by Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, but film!Veidt behaves exactly as comic!Gardner did. This seems out of character; Veidt’s defining characteristic is his self-assurance, whereas this scene only works due to his seeming naivety (which seems inconsistent, given that film!Veidt is portrayed as more of a Bond villain).
I don’t regret seeing it, although £7.50 is rather more than I would have liked to pay for it. There is a strong element of spectacle, so it was worth seeing on a big screen. I would quite like to see it again (when I’m less tired), but that can wait until the DVD release (hopefully with The Tales from the Black Freighter and the other goodies).