It sounds pretentious, but I can’t imagine that the superhero genre has anywhere left to explore now. It’s hard to believe that this film was finally made, after Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass all stepped up then passed on directorial duties. With the stupefying success of 300, Zack Snyder was the man who eventually took on the arduous task, and I believe he’s made the best adaptation possible from such an epic and all-encompassing story.
After proving that MA (or R-rated in the US) films do make money, Snyder was able to make a very adult film – and indeed this is not for kids. It’s brutal and violent, and asks us to sympathise with characters so flawed that they make Bruce Wayne look like a well-adjusted millionaire who simply likes fancy dress.
One of the keys to the film’s success is the fantastic casting. Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II is effectively our ‘way in’ to the film. Patrick Wilson is incredible in this role – playing a superhero who is insecure, depressed and impotent, except when he needs to beat up bad guys. Walter Kovacs/Rorschach is of course the character that gets the most attention, which is brilliant considering how much of a psychopath he is. That his mask shifts in front of your eyes isn’t how I imagined it from the comic, but it works. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Edward Blake/The Comedian with aplomb, and it’s incredible just how much Jackie Earle Haley looks like Walter from the comic (unfortunately this draws attention to how silly the Nixon prosthetics look). Billy Crudup is perfect as Dr Manhattan/Jon Osterman, as is Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. Malin Akerman probably has the least complex role as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II, and it’s a pity that the film continues the seemingly never-ending trend of the genre – failing to provide decent roles for women (perhaps rectifying this will be the ‘final frontier’ of comic book movies… where are you when we need you, Joss?). The fact that none of the actors are ‘above the title’ stars means we can fully immerse ourselves in the film.
Like 300, the cinematography is pompous and showy (I seem to remember the comic had a lot more pink), but this can easily be forgiven. The soundtrack is fantastic – and gloriously 80s for the most part. We have well and truly reached the point where that previously embarrassing decade is now retro.
It seems like the whole project is a concerted effort to be as true to the comic as possible, whilst not making an 8 hour epic – and some of this strain effects the film overall. It doesn’t flow in the traditional filmic sense – there are a lot of climactic scenes scattered regularly throughout the movie. This is only a bad thing insofar as it stops the film from being truly emotionally effective – it left me cold in a similar way that The Dark Knight did.
That we live in a world where such a subversive film can get studio backing (well, after a long and wearisome journey, anyway) is a reason to exalt in its presence. Strangely, after all the complex, conflicting and dark characterisations and backstories, it’s hard to be impressed with the action scenes. They are brutally impressive, and drive home the idea that what these ‘heroes’ do isn’t heroic at all, but they’re not all that exciting.
It’s a pity that Alan Moore’s still got it in for the film industry (as with V for Vendetta, his name isn’t mentioned in the credits), because this is the best film it could be.Rating: