The Art of the Film: Watchmen review

The production design of Watchmen is laid out in a coffee table extravaganza...

At the time of writing this review there are exactly 12 days, 50 minutes and 18 seconds before I get to see the Watchmen movie. The previous sentence should tell you just how excited I am to finally watch it. I would like to say that I am the worlds biggest Watchmen fan but by saying this I’m leaving myself to be attacked by others hoping to take that crown…and I can’t be bothered to have to beat them all to death. Although, if I had to I could use The Art Of The Film: Watchmen book to do the deed with, as it’s one big heavy mother.

I seem to be in a minority, going by the fans patrolling the Internet and Watchmen message boards, in not condemning the director Zack Snyder to a long and painful death for having the gall to make this film. Although concerned that the film could turn out to be a big pile of dump, I’m prepared to give Zach Schneider the benefit of the doubt. I enjoyed what he did with his Dawn Of The Dead remake (which in itself was sacrilege and could’ve seen him lynched) and the guilty pleasure that was 300. Although calling him a visionary director, as the market machine seems to do, is a stretch. But unless he asked for this in particular (in which case he’s a bit of a dick), I’ll forgive it.

I am wary, however, of the huge uphill struggle that Snyder has given himself in translating arguably the greatest and most loved graphic novel (God, I hate that term) of all time. Previous attempts at making movies out of the legend that is Alan Moore’s work has been at best, shit, and at worst, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (or LXG if you’re a wanker). The celluloid version of V For Vendetta came so close to being good, but fell at the last hurdle by referencing the American Government at the time rather than keeping the 80’s fascist British values of the book. And having read the awful, just awful, Sam Hamm script for an aborted Watchmen movie in the 90s (if you need a laugh some day, read it. It’s toe curlingly bad) we can see how the film could have ended up.

With guff that’s been produced from his work (especially the debacle surrounding The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen court case) you can see and understand why Alan Moore has distanced himself from any future films. And hopefully the makers of Watchmen will respect this decision unlike those behind V For Vendetta.

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All of this, though, still doesn’t deter my excitement of the Watchmen movie. All the clips and pictures I’ve been seeing in the run up, along with the viral advertising, have encouraged me that this could truly be the first Alan Moore story to actually do justice to the story. So does The Art Of The Film: Watchmen (which from now on I shall refer to as AOFW) give us any clues towards how the film will turn out? And also, is the book any good?

For any self-respecting Watchmen fan, although not a definitive must have, this book is a worthy coffee table addition (although you’ll need a pretty sturdy coffee table.) The level of detail the book goes into leaves nothing out. From character designs, both concept and final (and if you hated the look of some of the film versions of the costumes just be glad some of the concept ones weren’t used), to set design and prop builds, everything is in here.

The one thing that gives me hope is the level of detail that the filmmakers have gone into to get the look just right. From newspaper clippings, advertisements and other little nic nacs that may only be on screen for a blink of an eye, they really have tried to get everything perfect. Just a random example, a poster for Ozymandias’ Southern India Famine Relief benefit performance. It’s cheesy, crass and perfect.

Also, to any merchandise people out there, please, please put the Sally Jupiter Zippo lighter into production. It’s now overtaken the Preacher ‘Fuck Communism’ Zippo as something I must have.

It’s at this point that I have to deal with the elephant in the room, and for all you Watchmen fans, the news you’re dreading: the squid is out. The book details in quite spoilerific ways the new changed ending. Like you, I’m devastated, but if it’s of any consolation, they’ve really tried to make the new ending fit the story, even going as far as getting Watchmen‘s artist, Dave Gibbons, to draw the revamped ending as if the comic followed the film’s script. It might not work in the film but they’ve done all they can to try.

Although the price of AOFW, being just a penny shy of £30, is beyond steep and into vertical territory, you won’t be disappointed. Even if you’re sat at home now with a Zack Snyder voodoo doll stabbing pins randomly into it, I can still say that you’ll get something out of this book. And although I can’t say if the film is going to be any good or not, I can quite confidently say that with all the research and detail gone into it, they have given it the best shot that anyone could’ve asked for. And I think that should be applauded.

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4 out of 5