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By Christopher Hart on 14.3.2024

Review – Watchmen

After many a failed attempt from far more accomplished directors than himself, Zack Snyder has taken his shot at bringing Watchmen, the masterpiece of popular fiction created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, to the big screen. Such huge talents as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass have all tried and failed to adapt the graphic novel in the past, suffering various problems pre-production. Even Alan Moore himself claims his work to be ‘inherently unfilmable’, though his view of the film industry is not exactly bias-free, with previous works of having been butchered on screen in various ways (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, V for Vendetta). In spite of the odds being piled against him, Snyder took the risk to adapt the comic he and many others adore, treating it with much care in the process. I am glad to say; the final product is a marvel.

Not to mislead – the graphic novel this certainly isn’t – yet it is such an admirable and well realised effort that it is deserving of much praise. Hot off of his highly successful (if a little juvenile) 300, Snyder has proved himself a major talent worth watching, even if his repertoire is currently a little lacking in originality.

Key to the film’s success is Snyder’s faithful approach to the material. The only major difference is the film’s ending; altered from that of the comic to something that provides the same effect, but through a different means. With this smart change, much screen time that would have been used up for explanation if the original ending had been retained has been saved. The level of depth and substance in the comic is quite monumental as anyone who has read it will know. What Snyder has managed to fit into his 160 minute theatrical release is really quite impressive.

The majority of the characters are excellently realised, near perfect representations of their comic counterparts. Certainly the most effective are Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, Patrick Wilson’s Night Owl II and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Comedian. Dr. Manhattan is for the most part successful. It is only Silk Spectre II and Ozymandias that occasionally fall a little short of the bar, delivering the odd weak line and failing to be fully believable at times.

What some claim to be the film’s biggest flaw is that it is quite an inaccessible film to those who have not read the graphic novel (more in terms of its appreciation than comprehension). If Snyder’s faithful approach would had to have been sacrificed for this to be otherwise then I say what does it matter? This, as can be imagined, is more a film for the fans rather than the speculative viewer and I believe it is all the better for it.

Bringing a slick and stylised visual approach (suffused with lots of necessary head strong violence) to an intelligent and complex piece of popular fiction, Snyder has managed to create something quite special. This is a remarkable and wonderful effort to bring Moore’s complex and groundbreaking masterpiece to cinema.

4/5


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