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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Retro Review: Watchmen (2009)

Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
Genre: Superhero
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $107 million 

Plot: In 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it

'You've heard of the X-Men? Well, Here Comes The Watchmen'

Before Zach Snyder tried his hand at Batman vs Superman, he had a hand in directing in this superhero flick based on the DC Comics owned graphic novel created in the mid-1980s, which initially bombed at the box office and came out during a time when despite the financial successes of Spider-man and X-Men, superhero movies were still yet to be fully embraced by the masses. Watchmen is so unlike anything that has been offered before and after it. Terry Gilliam, who did The Fisher King, as well as Monty Python and the Holy Grail thought it was unfilmable and as such passed on this film. To think that this was initially a movie that couldn't be given the big screen treatment, because the superhero theme here was far too darker than they could have imagined and that Snyder seized this opportunity to make the impossible, seem possible. 

These days the superhero comic book cinematic landscape is dominated by DC and Marvel, with the latter having the bigger chunk of the profits. But Watchmen is a far more complex, complicated and overly violent tale with exceedingly dark themes. Oh and a blue superhero who is reminiscent of Iceman of the X-Men with a blue penis. 

The version I am reviewing here is the director's cut, which is over a staggering 3 hours long, and so comments and critiques made in regards to this film will be in reference to this particular version of the film. 

In an alternate reality of 1985, U.S president Richard Nixon has been elected for a 5th term in office and a superhero contingent known as Minutemen have been forced into retirement. When its leader The Comedian is found brutally murdered, a vigilante by the name of Rorschach rallies together Nite Owl, Silk Spectre II, Dr Manhattan and Ozymandias and warns them of danger looming ahead. 

Watchmen plays out as a more darker, grittier version of the X-Men movies and its tone and atmosphere is eerily similar to that of Tim Burton's Batman films. In terms of its story, it takes those superhero tropes and traits found in so many commercial offerings from Marvel and DC Comics via Warner Bros and it tosses them out of the window in favour of a noir- style feel. The Watchmen characters are a lot more ambiguous and complex than your standard superheroes that we've come used to. Stylistically with its darker tone and backdrop and so unrelenting in its brutality, this is not your average comic book based movie. Somehow, there is something about it that also reminds me of Sin City, it was like Snyder was attempting to mimic its style. There are no fancy, overzealous and flashy images, this is not about saving the world. It's a bleak tale where there is no happy ending. But the movie lost me as it went on, the narrative began to drag. 

This is a superhero movie with an edge and with a primarily lesser known casting with Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan's The Comedian is like The Punisher and I was disappointed when his character and so-called headlining character got killed off and he was no longer onscreen. Without him, the film just didn't hold my interest as much as it should have. Although I still thought the casting was a good fit for their characters and they conveyed their mannerisms really well. Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II comes in second for me. Yet the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre/Rorschach relationship felt rather forced to me and I just wished that the characters had connected and resonated more with the viewer. 

Nonetheless, given as I am not that interested in Marvel and DC's movies, I'd still take Watchmen over their efforts. Despite its overly excessive runtime of over 2 hours.

Final Verdict:

I was really looking forward to rewatching this one, but this time around, I came away at times feeling frustrated and that in some parts I ended up drifting off because the story was becoming dull and I easily switched off. It was mostly a mixed bag and for me, Dean Morgan was who I tuned in for, but he wasn't in it enough.

Having said that, Watchmen is still a breath of fresh air to the many other comic book movies and it was good that it stuck close to the source material.

It won't literally convert the masses, especially those who eat up and are famished by Marvel and DC's heavy-hitters, but this is still a somewhat smart, well-executed and stylish superhero affair that chooses to tear up the conventional comic book rulebook. 

And it does so, somewhat emphatically.


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