Watchmen: Review’d

March 7, 2009

So, what you want to know is: has Zack Snyder screwed up? Or is Watchmen as intense, exhilarating, mesmerising, and mindblowing an experience as the graphic novel?

The answer to the first question is a resounding “no”! The answer to the second is a qualified “yes”.

watchmen-dr-manhattan

The film exceeded my expectations in so many ways: from the magnificently realised introduction to Watchmen’s alternate universe set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-Changin'” to the meticulous attention to detail in the backstories of all the characters. The flashbacks to Vietnam are there; the Minutemen; Dr. Manhattan’s genesis; the Comedian’s visit to Moloch; the first meeting of the Watchmen… The list goes on. For a fan, there are so many neat touches, including one or two things that I’d forgotten since my last read-through.

But it’s not all about a frame-for-frame remake of the comic – although there are a lot of scenes that are ported over to the movie pretty much verbatim. Incredibly, the pace doesn’t drag at all. Snyder ensures that the story and characters which are the heart of the novel drive the film too. You can tell there’s soul in this – it’s not just a clinical remake.

Billy Crudup’s performance as Dr. Manhattan is as detached yet troubled as you’d hope. Jeffrey Dean Morgan invests the Comedian with lashings of amoral glee, yet still manages to conjure empathy from the viewer. Some of the casting decisions are less stellar, however: Malin Akerman as Laurie Juspeczyk and, more crucially, Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt come to mind. But Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is inspired. He delivers a note-perfect performance, particularly during the jail sequence as Walter Kovacs, when he screams ominously, “You don’t understand: I’m not locked in here with you; you’re locked in here with me!”

watchmen-comedian

It’s worth mentioning that it’s a brutal experience, both in terms of film length – at 2 hours 45 minutes it’s longer than your average blockbuster – and graphic violence. I remember the novel pulled no punches, and neither does this. Be prepared for severed arms, people on fire, meat cleavers buried in skulls, broken legs… The UK 18-rated certificate isn’t for nothing; Watchmen is not for the faint of heart.

So is it as good as the novel? Well, not quite. I had a couple of issues with the film version of Watchmen which, for me, prevented it from attaining perfection – but, let’s be clear, it came pretty damn close.

The stylised action sequences were a little too, er, comic book for my liking. I felt that the Watchmen came across as a little too strong, too fast, and, most of all, they could take too much punishment. You’ll regularly see heads being used to smash toilets, walls, doors. You name it, during the course of the film one or more of the Watchmen will get thrown through it or against it. And then they’ll get up again to take some more. It’s all a little bit Matrix for me, and it’s here that Watchmen loses some of the grittiness that makes it so compelling.

watchmen-smiley

The other issue was the ending. Now, I’m of the opinion that screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse made a good call to ditch the giant alien squid ending of the novel. For one, it requires yet more build up and exposition which would have increased the running time even further. It’s also probably – gasp – a little bit surreal for the kind of film that Watchmen is. And maybe a bit unbelievable. The ending that they chose made more sense in the context of the story, but I felt it lacked a little bit of the horror of the original version.

In the graphic novel, Manhattan and Laurie return to earth to be greeted with page upon page of silent devastation – not buildings, but people. Millions of dead bodies with the buildings (mostly) completely intact. In the film, there’s nothing left except a crater and I don’t think it lingers long enough to let the true horror of what’s taken place sink in. It’s a lot less personal than the novel. It’s just: on to the next act – let’s take down Adrian!

Neither the ending nor the stylised fight scenes are enough to prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending this film though. It’s been 20 odd years in development hell, and there are a few missteps here, but it’s been worth it for the near-masterpiece that Snyder has produced. See it.

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Watchmen Less Than A Week Away!

February 28, 2009

That’s right, and my anticipation has reached fever pitch!

It seems crazy to think that it was almost 11 months ago that I blogged about the upcoming Watchmen adaption, and here it is just around the corner.

Reviews are already coming in thick and fast – the film had its UK premiere at Leicester Square on 23rd February. To say that they’re “mixed” would be an understatement. Although the Rotten Tomatoes meter currently stands at 81%, I don’t think that tells the full story: many of the reviews point to Zack Snyder’s dogged insistence on sticking to the source material as one of the things holding Watchmen back from being a truly great film. But this is surely a case of “damned if you do…” for Snyder who, as a fan of the comic book, knows more than anyone what the reaction would’ve been if he’d made significant changes or cuts. And that doesn’t stop longtime Watchmen fanboy Michael Moran from gushing all over the movie in his Times blog review:

Watchmen is a watershed moment in comic book action. It’s the movie where, if you’ll forgive me, things went from juvenile to Juvenal. If you’ve read the book, see it. If you haven’t, see it twice.

All that said, I’m still psyched about seeing it on the 6th March when it’s out officially in the UK.

And if you need more hype, how about checking out some of the clips posted on imdb and youtube. I particularly like the Dr Manhattan ones:


It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this: Empty Gmail

February 27, 2009

Here’s what it looks like after a frenzied 10 minutes of sorting my rapidly expanding inbox (over 1500 messages at the last count):

gmail-empty1

I don’t know what’s better, the feeling of a newly emptied inbox, or the fact that it only took a few minutes to sort and archive all my messages. Truth be told, very little sorting was required: I have a few tags which I use to filter some new mail, but other than that I mainly rely on Gmail’s excellent search facility.

I’m planning on basking in the glow of this minor achievement for at least the next 45 minutes. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re off work!


Should science only be funded if it makes money?

February 7, 2009

That’s the question posed by Lord Drayson (UK Government Minister for Science and Innovation) and picked up by the Guardian on Thursday, where it has already generated heated debate:

Should science only be funded if it makes money? | Science | guardian.co.uk

The responses so far can be largely summed up by “No! Are you joking?!” As someone who works in research funding, I can only shake my head and echo the words of “hungrydoug”: You can’t do applied science if you’ve got no science to apply.

The thing about research, in the true sense of the word, is that you don’t know if it’s going to give you the results you thought you were looking for. So how are you going to judge what will and will not yield a return?


Ellen Anderson – Photography and Art for sale!

February 7, 2009

My friend, Ellen is selling her rather wonderful art and photography on her minigallery site to fund her volunteer mission trip to Spain later this year:

Ellen Anderson – Mini Gallery

Here’s a couple of examples:


Human Error Behind Google’s Search Fail

February 1, 2009

My wife and I experienced this yesterday. Searching for our local Odeon cinema threw up a “This site may harm your computer” warning in Google and blocked access:

Human Error Causes Google’s ‘Epic Fail’ – ReadWriteWeb

Okay, I thought, that’s a little weird. To access the website we had to type it into the Firefox address bar. A few minutes later, Jen was searching for the UK’s Foreign Office website to check travel advice. When fco.gov.uk is flagged as potentially harmful on Google then there’s something wrong at the big G’s end of the internet!

Still, at least they nobly admitted the error (the accidental insertion of “/” in their list of blacklisted sites, a character which is of course included in the URL of every website known to man) rather than trying to cover it up.

Since it only lasted about an hour, I doubt it’ll have any lasting effects on the use of Google as the premier search engine. Although maybe it will have opened some people’s eyes to the world of alternative search engines. Just like everything involving computers, it’s always worth having a backup.


Miracle on the Hudson: The Game

January 31, 2009

Remember the plane that landed in the Hudson river in New York where no one died and the pilot was a hero and everything? Now there’s a game version of that event! Far out!

Miracle on the Hudson: The Game

Not a real game, of course, but a 10 second-left and right arrow key-in browser internet game. Sweet!

I can’t decide whether this is pathetic, a little twisted, or just plain goofy.


9: Animated Post-Apocalyptic Fun From Tim Burton

January 4, 2009

Tim Burton is the big-name producer behind this very nice looking post-apocalyptic animated flick featuring rag-dolls (apparently), 9:

Shane Acker is the director. A quick IMDB search reveals he’s not done a great deal before, though he was involved as an animator in WETA which did most of the visual effects for the Lord of the Rings films.

The trailer is undeniably gorgeous, though I wasn’t sure about the prog metal soundtrack. But, all quibbling aside, this is tagged “Tim Burton” and “post-apocalyptic”: just show me where to sign up!


Fallout 3 Balance Overhaul

January 4, 2009

I’ve recently been trying out this popular mod for Fallout 3 in an attempt to reinvigorate my experience after over 50 hours with the game. You can read more about the (many) changes it makes here:

Fallout 3 Balance Overhaul, Readme v0.82 beta

It’s all about adding an extra jolt of realism (damage increases) and immersion (energy, hunger, addiction), while at the same time giving you a bunch of new perks and skill effects to play around with.

There are too many changes to list and it will probably take many hours of playtesting to decide whether I like it or not. You can enable or disable any of the many listed mods individually, or just bang ’em all in with what the author calls the “Full Preconfig Standalone Mod”. That’s the one I’ve gone for in the first instance, since I can’t be bothered micromanaging my mods at this stage.

First impressions are that it makes the Fallout 3 world a much more dangerous place! Weapons do far more damage and sneaking is a lot harder. I’ve yet to see how the hunger and thirst mods work, since I haven’t played for long enough. That’s another story: the mod caused a serious crash after about 20 minutes of play which forced me to hard reboot Vista (very unusual in my experience).

Despite the setback, I will persevere.


Best of Bootie 2008

December 31, 2008

Best of Bootie 2008

D (from AplusD) just dropped a comment on my About page to let you know that the latest Best of Bootie mashup mix is now available. Check it out:

Best of Bootie 2008 CD

I haven’t had a chance to listen yet, but you should expect the same high quality mashup goodness that we’ve come to expect over the last few years of Best of Bootie, including mashups by Earworm, Party Ben, Lobsterdust and Divide & Kreate.

If you haven’t checked out previous years’ Best of mixes, you can find all the links at the page above.