Watchmen @ Greater Union Megaplex, Innaloo
Hurrah! For the first time in a long while I actually enjoyed a movie at my local cinema. Greater Union Innaloo managed to start Watchmen at the advertised time, focus the projector and get the sound working – all simultaneously! Oh, and the movie wasn’t half bad either.
Watchmen could have been great, but was derailed in the last half hour by the usual American filmmaking bullshit where the “villain” has to explain everything so the audience isn’t left with any loose ends. “Jesus facking Christ, we haven’t explained how the hitman in scene 45 got hold of the suicide pill! Where’s that goddamn script editor?” Why is this clumsy reveal-all conceit such a consistent component of American movies?
Watchmen is based on the eponymous “graphic novel” by English writer Alan Moore. What’s a graphic novel? A comic book becomes a graphic novel when the prose is so turgid that the word “comic” runs away, hocks its box and gets addicted to smack in a rainy metropolis where hookers and thugs run riot. Moore’s other goth-politik comic books include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta, both of which were made into very average movies (the former was merely a shit movie; the latter, a fucking shit movie).
Moore kept his name well away from those past productions and the new filum is no different, apparently penned by David Hayter and Alex Tse. But against all the odds, these dudes do a pretty good job.
Where recent superhero flicks like Iron Man have been a bit like a quick chocolate-bar sugar fix, Watchmen is more akin to French onion soup, beef Wellington and profiteroles, all sluiced down with a litre of absinthe. It’s dark as fuck and tells of the lives of a bunch of semi-retired second generation costumed heroes (NOT super heroes, they are all too human) against a background of impending nuclear war and the mysterious murder of one of their brethren.
The movie is long – about 2.5 hours worth. Most of it revolves around flashbacks about each character’s past. And what histories they have. Rape, child abuse, cannibalism, torture, war crimes… These aren’t your regular comic book heroes. And it’s absolutely delicious. I savored the first two hours of this film. The ending (the last 20 minutes or so), as I’ve already mentioned, is typical Hollywood crap, unfortunately, but don’t let that put you off, the rest is a cracking bit of filmmaking.
Yes, the violence is explicit, and often executed against women and children, but unlike the gratuitous violence and torture in the last Batman flick (Dark Knight, which I found genuinely repugnant), the violence here compiles the characters, painting these so-called saviors-of-civilization as profoundly conflicted mere mortals who on a daily basis grapple with utterly terrifying inner (and outer) demons.
Phew. It’s a wild ride and brought to the screen in a very stylish manner. The imagined alternative 1985 where Nixon is president and America won the Vietnam War (thanks to our masked mavericks) is beautifully rendered with a great deal of poignant and clever detail. Some of the scripting is a little bombastic and pretentious, but it can easily be forgiven. Check it out, it’s worth a look.