Watchmen Imax – movie review

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Unlike the majority of Watchmen reviews currently online, I will spare you an autobiographical history of my geeky tendencies. Suffice to say, I enjoy the graphic novel medium and Watchmen, along with Dark Knight Returns, Sandman and numerous others helped to play a pivotal role in that passion.

Watchmen The Movie is not Watchmen The Graphic Novel. Admittedly there are a wealth of similarities, but to use the two for a basis of comparison would be as useful as, say, a photograph of Oxygen for a suffocating man. So, rather than whine about the differences, let us concentrate on the long gestating, big screen spectacular that millions of Normal people will be bracing themselves to swallow popcorn in front of sometime during the next month.

I must concede I’m ambivalent about Zack Snyder as a director. He has a reputation for borrowing the good bits from other films, so the marketing of him being “the visionary director of 300” seems somewhat hyperbolic. That being said, if you are planning on making a film that hinges on translating one visual medium to another then you could do a lot worse than hire him for the job.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is that it is unquestionably hyper-coloured, over-stylised and a beautiful spectacle to behold. The alterna-’85 is drenched in electric colour – bright yellows, deep purples, and most notably Dr Manhattan’s iridescent blue glow. When the film’s subject matter takes a dark turn, the palette does too, most notably in Rorschach’s flashbacks to the night his alter ego “died.”   For my money, I always had a soft spot for the sequences on Mars and nothing’s changed there – Manhattan’s Fortress of Solitude in particular comes to life in a clockworky way that it never could on page.

The film follows the source material’s narrative structure – essentially 20-minute sequences that concentrate on each respective character’s individual story, increasingly overlapping until a climactic half hour where maguffins and monologuing are introduced. I should also mention the excellent title sequence where every picture says a thousand words, during which we are introduced to the concept of this parallel universe and its rules.

Unfortunately, there are some jarring and incongruous musical cues that rankle largely due to them being a Bit Obvious. The use of Pop Factor favourite “Hallelujah” in particular brought the biggest unintentional laugh of the night. That being said, a muzak version of a certain Tears for Fears song playing in Adrian Veidt’s office was a subtle and pleasing gag.

So, is the film all under-to-over cranked speed effects? Not by a long shot, although there is a fair amount of it going on. One quote I read said the slo-mo was used to emphasise moments that in the book would have been splash-page pictures, and I can sort of buy into that: essentially there’s a change of grammar between the two media and to moan about that would be as petty as calling out a Superhero film for not being realistic enough. As seems to be the emerging trend, for an action film, there’s surprisingly little action, but when it does come, the fight scenes really do earn the film’s 18 certificate.

Personally, I’ll be fascinated to see how the film sells, beyond the inevitable massive opening weekend – its is a curate’s egg of a seemingly non-mainstream subject matter that has somehow chanced upon a massive budget and relentless marketing campaign. Some wits have already described it as “the Blade Runner of the Noughties” and not without good reason.

In conclusion, if you’re willing to buy into Superhero Movies in general then I’d urge you to get down to the picture house (preferably Imax if you are able.. it is most choice) and immerse yourself in an awe-inspiring new world. . . and make sure you go to the loo before you go to your seat: with a near 3 hour runtime, you bladder will be nagging you, but you won’t want to leave your seat for fear of missing a single scene.

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