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Posts Tagged ‘Zach Snyder’

‘Batman Vs Superman is where you go when you’ve exhausted all possibilities. It’s somewhat of an admission that this franchise is on its last gasp.

In case you’re not familiar with the source or context of that quote, it’s from noted comic-book movie writer and director David Goyer, explaining in 2005 why it was decided not to go with Wolfgang Petersen’s proposed film of that title. Eleven years is a geological age in Hollywood, of course, which is why Goyer now has his name on the script of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the crucial second instalment in DC’s attempt to establish a franchise featuring its own roster of superheroes. Nevertheless, does something about this strike you as a little off? It may well.

BvsS

BvS (I can’t be bothered to write the full title out every time) is the follow-up to Man of Steel, and as before is directed by Zach Snyder. I’m going to cut to the chase here: as a movie it seems to be the result of two distinct creative agendas, neither of them exactly surprising. Firstly, DC have been casting envious eyes upon the massive critical and (particularly) popular success of the Marvel Studios movies over the last nearly-ten years, and want a slice of the same cake. So BvS has the job of singlehandedly jump-starting a similar enterprise, introducing a slew of new characters and concepts (something which, you may recall, Marvel split across three or four movies).

Secondly, it – like every other Batman film of the past 30 years – is utterly preoccupied with Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, which features a grim, brooding, slightly unhinged Batman in an everyday story of how to make slightly fascist social views acceptable for a young and liberal audience. The climax of Miller’s book is a spectacular showdown between Batman and Superman (here presented as a tool of the corrupt establishment).

Whatever your opinion of Frank Miller’s politics, he is undeniably a great storyteller when he’s on form, which is not something I’m sure anyone has ever said about Zach Snyder. Hmm. Well, the movie opens with a brief, portentous recap of the Kryptonian attack on Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel, in which we get to see Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) trying to save some of the bystanders and generally being appalled by the chaos and destruction the aliens have caused. This makes him miserable for the rest of the movie, as if Batman isn’t usually miserable enough.

Flash forward a couple of years and we learn that being miserable has made Batman even more brutal and savage in his war on crime than usual, to the point where Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is quite outraged by what he sees as unjustifiable terror tactics and unchecked vigilanteism. This at least takes Kent/Superman’s mind off the fact that his various super-deeds have proved rather controversial, because good deeds can sometimes have bad consequences (yup, this movie is that morally profound). This makes Superman miserable for the rest of the movie, too.

Also fairly miserable is brilliant entrepreneur/scientist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who considers the presence of Superman on Earth to be an affront to human supremacy. To this end he has laid his hands on some interesting green rocks extracted from one of the destroyed Kryptonian ships, in the belief they may have interesting effects on Superman.

(Also hanging around the plot is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who, to her enormous credit, isn’t miserable at all and actually seems to be enjoying herself.)

Or, to put it another way, the standard structure for this kind of story goes as follows: two superheroes meet for the first time. There is, inevitably, some sort of misunderstanding, and the two of them take each other on. However, they soon realise they’re on the same side and join forces to deal with the genuine, much more significant threat.

That’s a classic structure (and one which I adhere to myself when running superhero RPGs, for instance) – it’s done properly in the first Avengers movie, for example. However, it kind of presupposes the hero-on-hero action will be happening in the second act, which is at odds with the desire to do Dark Knight Returns on the big screen – there, the hero-on-hero stuff is the climax. The film has to compromise, which means it doesn’t really do either story justice.

And, architecturally, the mashing of structures unbalances the whole movie. This is a long film (and it certainly feels like it), and with the big battles all held back for the third act, it struggles to find things to do for much of its running time. In the end it settles for lots of brooding, apocalyptic dream sequences, heavy-going quasi-theological discussions, laborious setting-up of planned future movies, and characters glaring miserably at each other, prior to a final half-hour or so made up almost entirely of things going boom.

The real victim of the mangled plotting is Lex Luthor, who seems to have half-a-dozen schemes going on simultaneously, not all of which make complete (or even partial) sense. Or, to put it another way, his plan is to frame Superman as being responsible for various terrorist atrocities, get his hands on some Kryptonite to kill him with, blackmail him into killing Batman to further besmirch his good name, and then breed a giant half-Kryptonian monster to batter him to death. Now that’s what I call multi-tasking. To put it yet another way, Luthor is basically just a plot device rather than an actual character, which is why a talented actor like Jesse Eisenberg has to resort to an array of tics and quirky mannerisms just to give him any kind of identity. As it is, the character still doesn’t convince.

As you may have gathered, once it’s (reluctantly) finished trying to be The Dark Knight Returns, the movie has a go at being (spoiler alert) The Death of Superman, complete with a CGI version of Doomsday. Even this is not that interesting to watch, due to Snyder’s preferred aesthetic of everything that’s not actually exploding being grim and gloomy – although, to be fair, once the three heroes team up to fight the monster it actually starts to feel more like an actual superhero film (plus the only two proper jokes in the film are both near the end).

Actually, I would say that the glaring problem with BvS is not that the structure of the film is wonky – other blockbusters have got away with as much – but that the tone of the thing is so relentlessly depressing. Oh, God, it’s so horrible that Superman is flying around saving people and averting disasters! It’s so awful that Batman is fighting crime in Gotham City! The whole thing is literally this ponderously gloomy – there’s none of the joy or colour or imagination of even a so-so superhero comic. Are DC doing this just to be different from the slightly self-mocking and frequently goofy Marvel movies? If so, then distinctiveness arguably comes at too heavy a price.

You could also argue that a mainstream audience most likely hasn’t read The Dark Knight Returns and isn’t going to get all the references to it here (there are, of course, many), and isn’t going to recognise this conflicted, adversarial take on these two iconic characters. (I have to say the film kind of misses the point of DKR, too: you’re firmly on Batman’s side in the Miller book – his Superman is a compromised, arrogant figure – whereas here the Kryptonian is essentially an innocent party being roughed up by a headcase.) Certainly, the big thing – the colossal thing – BvS has going for it is that it puts Superman and Batman on the big screen together for the first time. But for some reason Zach Snyder seems to think he can only do this by making them essentially unrecognisable – Superman is a guilt-racked, despairing victim, Batman is a vicious, paranoid loon.

A friend of mine has written quite an impassioned piece in defence of BvS, saying he found it quite heartwarming to see the two characters come together and interact with each other, and that you shouldn’t criticise it just because it deviates from the minutiae of comics lore. I understand entirely where he’s coming from on the first point, but the movie doesn’t just get the little details of comics mythology wrong, it completely fails to grasp what makes these two characters so iconic and beloved.

(The only thing about the movie which is even vaguely successful is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, but here they have the advantage of not having to compete with numerous other recent on-screen versions of the character, plus she isn’t actually in the film that much outside of the climactic battle.)

To understand all is to forgive all, or so the theory goes. I suppose it’s possible to understand the reasoning behind the creative choices the makers of BvS made – the perceived need to be tonally distinct from the Marvel films, the hope of launching a slate of further spin-offs, the desire to (once again) borrow liberally from The Dark Knight Returns, the importance of ‘being taken seriously’ (whatever that means in this context) – but does that excuse the film-makers making such a botch of a premise with so much potential? I have to say I think the answer is no. There’s probably an argument to be had over whether this is just a disappointment or an actual disaster, but what’s inarguable is that it really could and should have been much, much better.

 

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It is the Earth Year 2013, which by most people’s reckonings makes it 75 years since 1938: and so only an idiot would have bet against Warner Brothers, owners of DC Comics, bringing out a movie to celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Superman. (I suppose one must be slightly surprised there isn’t another Batman movie on the cards for his 75th next year.) This is, by any reckoning, a prestige project and DC, quite wisely, appear to have surveyed recent adaptations of their properties and seen that by far the pick of the crop are Zach Snyder’s version of Watchmen and Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies.

Man of Steel, consequently, is directed by Snyder and produced by Nolan (also involved is David Goyer, doyen of comic book movie scripting), and is refreshingly unencumbered by the need to reverence the quartet of Superman movies made by the Salkinds between 1978 and 1987. (I don’t want this to be an extended series of swipes at Superman Returns, which I reviewed back in 2006 anyway – but suffice to say it was bloated, dull, and too interested in paying homage to its predecessors. Though Brandon Routh was good in a tough role.)

man-of-steel-poster

Playing Superman this time around is British actor Henry Cavill (his nationality caused a bit of a fuss when he was cast, as I believe I mentioned), though we don’t get to meet him for a bit. The film-makers pick and choose which bits of the Superman legend to explore in detail and one of the areas they really go to town on is the last days of planet Krypton. Not only is Krypton falling to bits, but it is also wracked by civil war, with supreme head of the military General Zod (first name, one hopes, Neil) attempting a coup. (Zod is played by Michael Shannon.) With all this going on it is just as well that top Krypton boffin Jor-El is played by Russell Crowe, as this makes him a bit more of a bad-ass than any of his previous incarnations. (Crowe gets an impressive amount of screen-time for someone who technically dies in the first fifteen minutes of the movie.)

Once all the shooting and shouting and emoting between Jor-El and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer, whose supposed obscurity I was making wisecracks about only last week – hey ho) is over, it is pretty much business as usual as Superman origin retellings go. Our hero is launched off towards Earth while still a babe, while Krypton goes bang killing everyone apart from the occupants of its maximum security plot device (there’s such a thing as making a prison too secure).

From here the movie skips over most of Clark Kent’s infancy and boyhood in Kansas with his foster parents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner), though we are treated to key flashbacks later on. As the story proper opens he is a lone drifter going from job to job, wondering who he is, trying to find his place in the world, and occasionally propping up the odd collapsing oil-rig should he find himself in the area. For his alien heritage means that he ‘can do things other people can’t’ (he has the gift for understatement too). Little does he realise his search for his own origins will attract the attention of others – possibly welcome attention, when it comes from ace reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams), almost certainly not when it comes from hostile survivors from his own planet…

Well, this is a somewhat idiosyncratic take on the Superman legend, but on the whole a successful one. The story’s handling of some of the classic elements is slightly baffling, and the structuring of the plot occasionally feels a bit peculiar – for example, one of the main beats is the arrival on Earth of vastly powerful aliens who demand that Superman is handed over to them… which would surely have had more dramatic potential had the people of Earth actually known Superman was there (he’s still operating incognito at this point). Likewise, if this movie forms the basis of a franchise (the signs are good), it’s really going to pummel credibility for Superman to have any kind of secret identity as Clark Kent – not only does one key character already know, but it’s hardly difficult to work out given much of what goes on here.

Then again, this is a film which is fighting hard to avoid any of the traditional Superman tropes that people might be inclined to think of as twee or old-fashioned. The clue is in the fact that this movie is called Man of Steel, rather than some variation on Superman – it’s a looong way into the movie before our hero picks up that particular title. The pants-outside-the-trousers component of his uniform has likewise vanished, and he appears to be wearing some futuristic version of chain mail rather than the usual tights (this is somewhat ironic given how many Robin Hoods are amongst his forebears). In short, the film is trying very hard to be a serious, mature piece of work. It’s still a film about a flying man in a cape, so there’s a limit to how successful the film-makers can be with this approach, and I for one would have preferred to see them treat the story with a slightly lighter touch and insert a little more comedy – but I expect wall-to-wall CGI and brooding seriousness is what the focus groups wanted.

It’s certainly a fabulous-looking movie: the production design seemed to me to be stuck in a slightly post-Matrix groove, but it’s still convincing and coherent. And anyone who has been waiting decades to see a fully-CGI’d Superman really do his stuff should be very happy: the protracted scenes in which Superman and the US army do battle with Zod and his minions are as spectacular and destructive as spectacular and destructive can be – I was pleasantly reminded of Independence Day at quite a few points in the course of the movie.

If this means that the performers occasionally seem a little swamped by what’s going on around them, that’s one of the pitfalls of making this kind of film. Michael Shannon is still impressively ferocious as Zod, while Russell Crowe brings every bit of his considerable presence to the film. Henry Cavill probably struggles a bit simply because of the nature of the script: given the delineation between Superman and Clark Kent doesn’t really exist in this particular story, he doesn’t get the same chance to show his range that some previous Supermen have had. He is still very convincing as this most modern of icons.

Then again, this is a very modern Superman film, with a strong sense of its own identity, and very distinct from every other version of the character I can think of. Reports suggest that this is just the first step in an (understandable) attempt by DC to repeat the success of Marvel Studio’s series of films about their characters. Quite how subsequent films based on Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and so on, will slot in around this one I’m not entirely sure. On its own terms, though, this is a solid movie: I don’t quite see where future installments are going to go, and there are a few things about the plot of this one I’m not wild about (not least the way it is resolved) – but this is one of the strongest blockbusters of the year so far. And, in terms of its identity as a Superman film – I don’t think it’s by any means perfect, but neither can I think of any obvious ways in which it could be better. Impressive entertainment.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published April 1st 2004:

‘History repeats itself – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.’ – Karl Marx

Another week, another unnecessary big-name remake. On this occasion the donor is George Romero’s 1978 classic (and I use the term with precision, folks) Dawn of the Dead. This is one of those films that is so perfect and special that it really deserves listing or ring-fencing or otherwise putting beyond the greedy reach of creatively bankrupt modern studios (see also The Ladykillers). As you can imagine I turned up to Zack Snyder’s new take on this masterpiece with a good deal of apprehension.

Rather pleasantly, it’s not that bad at all (especially, I would guess, if you haven’t seen the original). The film starts off with overworked nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) coming home from a hard day at the hospital, watching Pop Idol with her boyfriend, and then missing an emergency news report through being in the shower at the time. This proves to be a serious mistake as when she awakes the next morning she has overslept and missed the start of a zombie apocalypse. Her boyfriend has his throat torn out by the cute little girl next door (now deceased), and comes after Ana himself. Jumping into the car and heading out of town, she quickly realises civilisation is collapsing around her…

And all this even before the credits! Soon enough Ana hooks up with Ving Rhames’ tough cop Ken (his name doubtless a reference to Ken Foree’s memorable performance in a similar role in the 1978 film) and together with a few other refugees they take cover in a huge shopping mall, much to the dislike of the redneck security guards already in control of the place. More survivors arrive, and as Ana, Ken and their friends (of whom Mekhi Phifer and Matt Frewer are about the best known) fortify the mall against the vast undead hordes swelling outside, they realise that help is not coming, and it’s up to them to find a way to survive…

Snyder’s film keeps the mall setting of the original, but otherwise this is a very free adaptation, heavily influenced by 28 Days Later – the zombies in this film (never actually referred to as such, of course) go in for a spot of Romero-style shambling and putrefying when they’ve nothing better to do, but at the first whiff of live flesh they’re sprinting around like puppies on amphetamines. Purists may object, but it fits in rather well with Snyder’s reimagining of the story as a kinetic rollercoaster of an action movie, punctuated by lavishly gory set-pieces at frequent intervals.

All this comes at the expense of some of the characterisation (quite a few of the characters trapped in the mall remain cardboard cutouts) and nearly all the satire and intelligence that defined Romero’s zombie films. In those movies the zombie apocalypse was only ever a backdrop to the conflicts and problems arising between the human characters – the original Dawn opens and closes with acts of violence committed by the living against the living. While the new film remains as bleak and dark as its forebears, this element is toned down. In its favour, though, Snyder’s film is often tense and is unafraid to retain Romero’s very black sense of humour.

The digital effects are never less than adequate to tell the story, and most of the splatter and makeup work is top-notch, even if it lacks the novelty and visceral yuck-factor of Tom Savini’s original make-up. As usual, this is a bigger (well, sort of – it’s nearly an hour shorter, for all that it has a vastly greater budget) telling of the tale, but by no means a better one.

Polley and Rhames make charismatic leads, and at least some of the supporting cast are very effective – f’rinstance, Jake Weber as a resourceful everyman, Phifer as an overzealous husband and father, and Ty Burrell as the sort of wretched yuppy-scum no crisis situation should be without. As is customary in this sort of undertaking, stars of the original get cameos – Savini lands a plum role, basically as the sheriff from the original Night of the Living Dead (‘That one’s still twitching – somebody shoot her in the head!’), while Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger also pop up briefly.

The new Dawn of the Dead is really stuck between a rock and a hard place – comparisons with the original are bound to be unfavourable, simply because the original is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. And it’s true that Snyder panders to the audience in a way Romero never did, and that this is in nearly every way a much more conventional piece of storytelling (particularly at either end). But for all that, this is still an extremely proficient and effective horror film, certainly the best I’ve seen in quite some time. Bloody good fun, and well worth a look if you like that sort of thing.

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So, yet more news on the superhero blockbuster casting front, this time for Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, which is due on our screens at the end of next year. Given that Nolan’s previously made The Dark Knight and Snyder the remarkable Watchmen adaptation, this was always a fairly-tasty sounding project, and now they’ve actually found their Superman their angle on the legend may start to become a little clearer.

The actor in question is British actor Henry Cavill, who is famous for… er, well, nothing, if we’re honest. I’d never even heard of him, wouldn’t have even recognised his face before the other day, though my painstaking researches (Wikipedia) have revealed he’s previously appeared in costume bonkbuster The Tudors, Hellraiser VIII (hmm, classy), and Tristan + Isolde, and that apparently he was the inspiration for the Edward character in Twilight. (I really must share my Twilight limerick with the wider world one day.)

Well, given their track records I have to trust that Nolan and Snyder know what they’re doing. Rather unexcitingly I adhere to the standard view that you really have to cast an unknown as Superman, especially when the alternative is someone like Nicolas Cage or Muhammad Ali – don’t sneer, for a few queasy minutes in the Seventies the producers of the original movie seriously considered it. Everyone knows by now what Superman really looks like. Nicolas Cage could never have been Superman, only Nicolas Cage in a Superman outfit. So from this point of view Cavill’s the man for the job.

I find some of the negative reaction to Cavill’s appointment quite interesting. Not all; much of it is along the lines of ‘they should have kept Brandon Routh (from 2006’s rather underwhelming Superman Returns) or Tom Welling (from the increasingly idiosyncratic TV version of the mythos, Smallville)’. (I wonder why Dean Cain isn’t being mentioned? Hmm.) This sort of complaint seems to me to stem from a rather fannish concern with the great golden idol of continuity, over actual creativity and imagination. Why would Nolan and Snyder want to associate their shiny new version with a previous, unsuccessful one? It would be like casting George Clooney in Batman Begins. And Welling would have brought with him limiting expectations of the new movie sticking to Smallville’s style and continuity.

The voices of discontent which actually interest me are the ones complaining on the grounds that Cavill is British, and thus inherently unsuitable to play the Man of Steel. I find this attitude rather startling, to be honest; I can’t imagine anyone complaining that the cast of 300 weren’t all Greek and Iranian or that the actors in Star Wars weren’t born in a galaxy far, far away. Neither do I recall much griping when a Welshman was cast as Batman or an Englishman as Spider-Man, and they’re very nearly equally iconic characters.

An artist’s impression (of something completely different). The artist in question is the inimitable John Byrne, of course.

But then someone made a comparison with an American being cast as the Doctor, and suddenly I could sort of see what they meant. In most of the darkest moments of American-produced attempts at Doctor Who, the key people involved remained wholly committed to having a British actor in the role. (The only exception being Paul Anderson’s late-Nineties attempt at a Who movie, for which he had his sights set on Denzel Washington.) This surely isn’t just parochialism about one of our own characters – James Bond has been played by Scottish, Australian, English, Welsh, and Irish actors without being irretrievably damaged, after all. Could it be because there’s something fundamentally British about the concept of the Doctor?

And in which case, is there something fundamentally American about the concept of Superman? There may be a case to answer here – Superman is, after all, an immigrant from a foreign culture, who assimilates rather well into American society, becomes a model citizen and makes good. There are elements of the American dream in there, which aren’t present in the Batman or Spider-Man legends.

On the other hand, the job is still acting, isn’t it? The American dream is at its core one of inclusiveness, so it seems odd to say only Americans can embody it. I’m still inclined to give Cavill a chance, though I can understand American folk getting disgruntled with characters from their folklore being portrayed by foreigners – Australian and British X-Men, an English Spider-Man, a Welsh Batman and an Australian Hulk, to give just a few examples.

And I’m not even sure the Doctor embodies a British or English national myth in the same way Superman does the American dream. The Doctor’s twice been played very successfully by Scottish actors, after all. What makes the Doctor so quintessentially English, given he didn’t even grow up there and has only chosen to live in the country for an extended period once? He’s such an inconstant and chimerical figure it’s difficult to say. Possibly it’s his roots in a British tradition of a certain kind of gentlemanly pulp hero.

Even so, if I’m going to give a British Superman a chance, I suppose that means I ought to give the idea of an American Doctor a fair hearing if it ever comes up. On some level it still makes me shudder, but I don’t quite know why. As things currently stand, though, it’s still just idle speculation. Thankfully.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published April 2nd 2009:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to yet another edition of the film review column that just doesn’t know when to quit. For anyone who’s wondering, yes, I am still in central Asia, many miles from big-screen English-language cinema, but every once in a while there’s a release that really does qualify as unmissable, even dubbed into Russian. And predictable it may be, but for me Zach Snyder’s Watchmen is such a movie.

Based on the legendary comic book by Dave Gibbons and Disgruntled of Northampton (who’s had his name taken off the credits as is standard for an adaptation of his work lately), this is set in 1985, though not the one you may recall. America’s victory in the Vietnam war has ensured that Richard Nixon is still president, and a US invasion of Afghanistan has brought the world’s superpowers to the brink of nuclear apocalypse. With this in prospect the brutal murder of aging civil servant Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) seems relatively trivial—but Blake was secretly also a government sanctioned superhero, the Comedian. Unsanctioned masked hero (and savage vigilante) Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) suspects there may a conspiracy in existence to eradicate the few remaining superheroes and sets about his own investigation. The chain of events thus set in motion will affect retired hero Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), government-retained omnipotence Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and his lover Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), billionaire genius Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and ultimately determine the fate of the world…

For many years Watchmen was considered to be almost definitively unfilmable, with directors of the calibre of Paul Greengrass and Terry Gilliam admitting it had defeated them. So to get any kind of movie on the screen has to be some kind of achievement, but Snyder’s accomplishment is very nearly staggering, in that this is surely one of the most faithful cinema adaptations ever made, and not just of a comic. The story is as relentlessly grim and uncomfortable, the roll-call of neurotics, psychotics, sociopaths and nihilists is virtually complete (Captain Metropolis’ scene has been cut), Dr Manhattan’s glowing turquoise masculine appendage makes frequent appearances, and the plot is virtually unaltered from the original. I didn’t need to understand all the Russian dub as it was very clear that much of the dialogue had survived unchanged (my tendency to whisper the English version very slightly ahead of the dub rather unsettled the person next to me). The climax has been a changed a bit for reasons I can’t completely fathom (and has been made rather more melodramatic as a result), but the clash of moral philosophies at its heart remains and is as unsettling as ever. This isn’t a movie that shies away from being provocative, even down to Snyder prominently featuring the World Trade Centre at a couple of points (although exactly why he’s doing this other than to reinforce the mid-80s setting is also slightly obscure).

The movie isn’t afraid to expand on the story in those areas where the comic is necessarily restricted, namely sound and movement. The inclusion of a number of classic pop and rock songs on the soundtrack seems to me to be more than an attempt to provoke an easy response from the audience, as most of them seem thematically valid (and in at least one case the lyrics were referenced in the book). I’m slightly less certain about the beefing up of the story’s action quotient, certainly when this extends to inserting completely new fight sequences and giving Matrix-style martial arts skills to nearly every principal even when it seems rather out of character. The action itself is graphic and as impeccably choreographed as one would expect from the director of 300.

I would suspect, then, that devotees of the book not sharing Disgruntled of Northampton’s opinion of its intrinsic unfilmability will be in raptures throughout (I frequently was). The question remains as to whether anyone coming to this movie without any prior knowledge will see what all the fuss is about. Disgruntled and Gibbons themselves have openly admitted that they don’t find the actual plot of their story particularly special, interesting, or even original: it’s the way the story is structured and told that makes it so special.

Certainly many of the book’s most brilliant stylistic conceits and innovations are impossible to transfer to the screen and Snyder doesn’t even attempt this: the original Watchmen is such a perfect fusion of medium and message that this was inevitably going to happen (maybe Disgruntled has a point). But there’s also the fact that it’s a comic book about other comic books— a commentary on the genre, or its apotheosis, or a devastating critique of it, depending on your stance. It’s arguable that nearly every major superhero comic of the last twenty years has been either a reaction against Watchmen or an attempt to imitate it, and this has already been filtering into movies for some years now. The attempts at psychological realism and moral uncertainty of Christopher Nolan’s recent Bat-movies are drawn from post-Watchmen comics, for example (and even The Incredibles raided Watchmen for its superhero ban).Watchmen‘s successors have preceded it to the screen, and so I suppose this movie will inevitably have less of an impact on those not aware of its historical context.

But to criticise the movie on grounds like these is just another way of saying how utterly sublime the original is, particularly if you come to it as unsuspectingly as I did many years ago. You should read the book first, of course, but then this is probably true of virtually any literary adaptation. But even if you don’t I still suspect you’ll be stunned at Snyder’s success in bringing a subtly different world to the big screen in such vivid, shocking, and exhilarating detail. For once, comparisons with The Lord of the Rings are justified. Highly recommended.

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