****SPOILER ALERT! Don't read this if you haven't read the book.****
(On the other hand, don't read it even if you have. I am still learning how to review.)
It is a story of a world where America has won the war(s), disbanded its costumed superheroes, and is on the brink of war with Russia (or USSR? gotta check). The retired superheroes, most of them anyway, live with their own frustrations. Then, of course, plot and storyline get complex and complicated, the amazing artwork grows on you, all hell breaks loose, lots of people get killed or brutalized, and there is a grand scheme to take over the world, revealed in the end. Amazingly, it succeeds! And people move on! No payoffs, no retributions, no triumphant hero at the end, giving out feel-good, new-hope vibes (a la Superman-returns-from-the-dead, with a few million dead (in coast city, I think) in the background. Wonder if they'll make a movie out of it.). People just move on! Incredible! Given the length of the comic and its bleak nature, you are positively tired by the end of it, just begging for a huge happy ending for it all where everything is right with the world. Not to be. I've never seen so many shades of grey in writing, ever. As a bonus, the novel has a story within a story, which a guy sitting at a news stand reads out of a comic book. This comic (which is rumoured to be coming on the DVD) makes the Watchmen novel look light-hearted! On the flip side, the Watchmen novel does oversimplify a lot of things, is heavy on rhetoric, and, as usual, there's no world outside of the USA. The novel, however, is so good, it makes my rants seem childish.
****SPOILER ALERT Ends. Back to the movie!****
I get a call at 4:00 in the afternoon: Movie's On! 7:35 PM show! I look at the watch and wonder: Office finishes at 5:30 PM. Gotta go Nariman Point to Andheri - SEEPZ - pick up friend - Powai! Madness! After some lying and begging, boss relents, and the giant takes off! A quick bath, and off to fight the traffic, first through Andheri, and then Powai. Surprisingly, contrary to my luck (more on that some other time), we make it with time to spare. Post a hastily-gobbled frankie, we plonk ourselves on the tiny seats (I'm a giant, remember?). The movie starts off with the credits shot in the style of old films (Friend said it was Hitchcockian. Well, he's the expert; I have no idea.), which raises the sky-high expectations even higher. And then it starts off, almost panel-for-panel from the first page of the book. Panic! It's a huge book! 12 volumes, no less! If he's gonna do the panel-for-panel thing all the way, it's gonna take a week! The director, fortunately, understands my anxiety, and moves on. And it starts going downhill from there. The first half, unbelievably, goes on at a leisurely pace, just introducing the characters! I say as much to my other friend, who got dragged into the movie because of me, bought the tickets, and was giving me a strange look. I hoped for a better second-half, and it was, but not by much. By the time it ended, I was actually embarrassed to look at the screen, just wishing for it to end. Time for bullets!
- The sex. At one point, I actually asked aloud whether the censors had been shown some other print of the movie. Well, it doesn't have much 'action' per se, but the nudity is something which I have never seen before in any movie having a censor certificate, certainly not in a movie hall. I don't know how they did it, maybe there's a formula there similar to Anurag Kashyap films, to beat the censors. Anyway, it rocks!
- The special effects. They were expected to be good, and they are.
- The effort. The director, the actors, the technicians, everybody. It shows, and it seems like the story got too big on them. Which brings us to...
- The director has tried to remain faithful to the story, and its depiction in the novel. Normally it is a good thing, but here it's worked against the movie. It needed to be 're-interpreted' maybe like the Bourne series.
- The music, when I first heard it in a trailer, it was very good. In the movie, it gets disconcerting to hear it, and fails badly.
- The dialogues, picked mostly from the book, are heavy on rhetoric and do not sound like a conversation. It is like a voice in your head reading them out of the book as you read. The dialogue delivery also falls prey to the same problem. In the comic, the frame is frozen, and one would mostly stay with the frame only as long as it takes you to understand the scene and read the speech bubble. Usually, this happens at considerable pace once one has crossed the first few pages, even for slow readers, because you are engrossed in the story and want to know what's coming next. Unfortunately, in his quest to replicate the frames from the novel, the director does the opposite. Suddenly in the middle of the movie, everything pauses and the actor delivers his or her dialogue. This totally destroys any pace the movie has picked up till then. In fact, in the time it takes them to deliver it and get back to the story, you would've read two pages' worth!
- The book. Well, it is an excellent book, but as someone said once, it is un-filmable. The director has just proven him right. Some things are left well enough alone.
There's nothing ugly about Watchmen. I'm still a fan. :)
So, read the book, and watch the movie when it comes on TV and you have the time. (How can I forget, it is almost three hours long!). Sad.