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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Watchmen (2009)  rating

Review: written Aug 2009

Groundbreaking, disturbing, fascinating

Watchmen (2009)

The ground breaking graphic novel now makes its way to the big screen. And it's clear only the big screen can cope with this project... It's certainly a surprisingly bold and original mixture of adult themed drama and superhero milieu to come from a modern day risk-averse Hollywood - but does it work?

Creating a complex alternate timeline set in the mid 80's, where superheroes exist and Nixon is still in power having won Vietnam, we are presented with a world where the cold war is leading inexorably to doomsday and the American dream has soured. The Minutemen, a group of vigilantes originally formed in the 40's, who donned costumes and kept superfit to deal with crime, have been disbanded as their methods are called into question. Now one of their number, the Comedian, has been slain, and gradually the remaining Minutemen must start talking together and rediscover old alliances to save the world as it teeters on the edge of extermination. Of course, that's only the barest bones of what is going on. What actually IS going on and what it all means will doubtless be the topic of many fevered post movie discussions.. whether you love it or loathe it, you'll almost certainly be talking about it - and is that not what the best directors really want?

The movie is full of conflicted characters with authentically grimy backstories and motivations... in juxtaposition with the graphic novel stylisations and God-complexes. For the most part the costumed heroes are only too human - not just noble heroic human, but flawed with an ugly side human. Did Batman appeal to you, for being a hero who had no superpower, and who bruised and bled after fights..? Well, maybe this will appeal. On the other hand, the God complex issue comes to the fore with Dr. Manhattan - an ordinary man exposed to a freak accident which gave him superhuman powers to defy time and manipulate matter. Fascinatingly, as the other characters portray human foibles and issues, this character through his dissociation with our reality make him no less human. His humanity is evident in how he is able to be manipulated, and there is something uniquely human about how he fails to understand the motivations of others.

And in short order, a few other things have to be mentioned - the acting is surprisingly good, the violence is surprisingly graphic in places, and the soundtrack is wonderfully eclectic.

In short, we have a very rare beast, a special effects driven blockbuster which has imagination and above all - brains. Your view of this movie may well hinge on your familiarity with the original source material, but whether you have read the graphic novel or not, this is well worth your time, even if it clocks in at a way too long 2hrs 42 minutes. In fact you may find you have to watch it again just to decide if you like it or not...





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