Watchmen

Starring Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Directed by Zack Snyder. In cinemas from March 6.

Starring Malin Akerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Directed by Zack Snyder. In cinemas from March 6.

My thoughts before

The audience of Watchmen will fall into two camps - those who have read the acclaimed graphic novel and those who haven't. I'm going into it as the latter.

I'm very aware of how revered the story is though. The only graphic novel to appear in TIME magazine's 'All-Time 100 Novels' list - Alan Moore sits alongside Virginia Woolf and George Orwell in their eyes.


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The making of the movie has included wrangling between two major studios fighting for the rights and many, many re-writes of the script. A huge amount of dedicated people have fought hard to get this to the screen for a long time so there must be something special to entice them to fight on.

But it's finally here, with a pretty unknown cast (which is a relief, going for the right people instead of throwing in star names to add clout to the general public) and a very big budget.

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Its launch has not been shoved down our throats, which is refreshing for a major release, and it seems to be trying to be a faithful adaptation as it has a potentially grinding near-three hour runtime.

From the director of 300 too, which I did enjoy immensely (though not as much on the small screen), this promises to be big, bold and blue (well one of the characters is anyway).

I'm going in blind of any knowledge of the plot (except it involves a group of vigilantes in a generically dark and troublesome city) but have high hopes that this is going to be engaging and a decent social commentary.

It's just a shame I fall in the camp of the non-readers - I bet there's going to be tons of little references I'll blatantly miss out on.

Afterwards

Now that is a proper adult blockbuster movie!

In recent years we've had a massive influx of big budget movies that attempt to engage with the adult audience whilst also providing them expensive shots of cinema entertainment. Be it the retro explosion-fest that was Transformers to any number of 'thrillers' that find an excuse to blow stuff up and look impressive.

Nine times out of ten though they end up as unintelligent pap with no message except big bangs are cool and the good guys always win.

The closest movies to have treaded the line of big-screen entertainment and intelligence are both The Dark Knight and Sin City. They don't treat the audience like idiots and provide a satisfying movie that doesn't end as soon as 90 minutes are up.

Watchmen, however, can be added to this new breed and may even surpass them. What Watchmen does more than most similar movies is promise an improved watch on repeated viewings, with a story that weaves across numerous characters and timeframes.

It doesn't get baffling at any point really, the screenplay is well structured and finds the right times to tell stories that fill the gaps of the key characters. It just all flows really nicely and no character is given too much screen time.

The basic gist of the story (here goes!) is a figure that was formally in a vigilante group named 'Watchmen' is murdered for mysterious reasons. The group no longer exists and they parted ways, but when another of the group finds out about the death and investigates he concludes that something bigger than a simple one-off murder is taking place.

Set in an alternate timeline of the early eighties, where President Nixon stays on and the chance of a nuclear war are very high, the plot spans across the murky events around them and the very real events of why one of them was murdered and, of course, who is next.

It doesn't follow the usual superhero movie stereotypes, often working against them sometimes to great affect, and seeing what the characters do straight after something heroic is a really interesting touch that I enjoyed.

That's a very sketchy description but it veers forward really nicely and, surprisingly perhaps, I didn't once look at my watch in the whole three hours or so.

Two slight negatives though: the soundtrack at some times falters and there are some odd choices of songs they decided to use. It's all nice hearing Leonard Cohen and Jimi Hendrix... but only if the tune fits with what's happening on screen.

Secondly, when I first heard the narration I sighed at its reusing. You know the one, used in Sin City and recent hit Max Payne, where the lead gruffles in his brooding and deep voice. It's bearable, just I've heard the basic same voice one too many times.

All the characters in the movie are likeable and distinctive, which is crucial in a picture that has six or seven equally major characters.

Doctor Manhattan in particular was striking, visually (he's the blue one, but a word of warning - he is naked during many of his scenes, which isn't off putting per se and not used vivaciously) and also character-wise.

Having not read the graphical novel I'd not heard many of the mutterings he remarks upon; from humankind and existence to peace and war.

I thought some of it was really thought provoking and intelligent. Luckily his philosophy is interspersed with good doses of humour, that didn't once fail to hit the mark.

This is a movie every movie-loving adult should give a chance whilst it's still at the cinema. Even on DVD it'll be one that you'll chill out with and try to fully make sense of.

You'll dwell on how good its conclusion was and how amazing some of the scenes were. Yes it's very violent in places but it doesn't distract from the plot or pacing at all, it's what happens and the director doesn't hold back from showing it.

It works because it had me from the first minute to a good hour after the credits rolled. I didn't leave disappointed at a generic ending or angry because it hadn't satisfied me either intellectually or entertainingly - I felt none of them at all.

I left looking forward to seeing it again and again and again. So much so in fact that the first thing I did when I left was walk into the nearby bookstore and get the graphic novel - the next time I see it I'll finally be on the other side, I'll finally get the supple reference I missed this time!

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