A Review of Watchmen

Well, this is an offering from Zack Snyder, who also created ‘300’, another comic book adaptation. 300 was a good film, with Snyder still trying to remain true to the graphic novel, and with Watchmen, his latest film, you can see his love for the graphic novels he brings to the big screen. Its worth noting that Alan Moore, the literary creator of Watchmen, has previously disowned all the film adaptations of his works, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta and will probably do the same with this latest work, stating that he never thought that Watchmen could be realistically portrayed, or adapted through the medium of film. I think too that Terry Gilliam asked to direct at one point, but was either turned down or realised he didn’t want too. And Moore is a grouch when it comes to Hollywood, despite the fact that it has probably opened his works up to millions more people.

Basically the premise of the movie (and book) is set in an alternate reality/ history, one where superheroes do exist and have an influence both domestically and through American foreign policy. The Watchmen are their name, a group of individuals/celebrities, not so much with super-extraordinary powers, such as the powers Spiderman or Superman are gifted with, but having certain strengths nonetheless, enough to be feared by the criminal fraternity and live out a costumed fantasy in a twisted reality. The only real one of them who has abnormal superhuman powers is Dr.Manhatten, who has the ability to disassemble everything into their separate components as well as teleportation (and a host of other things he can do) and he is really almost god-like, something which he actually denies. ‘The Superman exists, and he is American’, so the story tells us. The way he developed his powers is in true classic comic book style – being trapped in a room where a groundbreaking scientific experiment is taking place – and ends up with extraordinary powers as a result.

The setting is 1985 America. In true steampunk style, we have alternate history (true to Moores style), with Dr Manhatten and The Comedian (one of the Watchmen) almost singlehandedly winning the Vietnam war, which means that President Nixon changed the constitution for a third term and so remains President. There are no Reagans here, as if they were needed. Its seems also that the Cold War is still very much a threat, and Dr Manhattan is used to keep a very insecure stalemate and reinforce M.A.D (Mutually Assured Destruction), and hence being called a tool of Imperialism by the Soviets. The usual things occur; one of the watchmen, Ozymandias, wants power all to himself, frames Dr Manhattan causing him to disappear, as well as trying to kill off the remaining Watchmen, and subsequently sparks off a superpower conflict, with the Russians beginning to invade Afghanistan. Nuclear conflict seems moments away – The Doomsday Clock reaching 5 minutes before midnight…and falling…

It seems as if the whole setting is stuck in some kind of late 60s mentality; like the 80s never happened, with Nixon holding onto power and the nuclear threat a very real reality, with the Watchmen holding the balance, or at least Dr. Manhattan. Its not so much dystopian (and certainly no utopia), but it certainly is a kind of right-wing reality. Not surprising in some respects, with some of the Watchmen, The Comedian most notably, having some very questionable views and outlook. And being a complete bastard to boot.

The film carries the plot from the graphic novel almost word for word. Some things are excluded, but it really is an accurate portrayal of the novel. Kudos for Zack Snyder for attempting it, as well as remaining true to the novels concept. Literally it is word for word. I expect however it will be another adaptation disowned by Alan Moore, but as I said earlier, what all the films of his works have done is introduce younger and newer generations into his works. Just go to Waterstones, Borders or any major bookseller outlet, and you will find his works being advertised greater than before, based around the film advertising. He must be grateful for that. And Watchmen is good.

Watchmen

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Memories of Innocence.

I remember looking out of my bedroom window, which was situated in a south-westerly direction, onto the large, sloping roof of the blue club directly opposite me, separated between our house and two railtracks which led to the mines and the steel works of the industrial heartland of the Ebbw Valley. Many trains would come during the course of the day, laden with the produce of work and others returning empty to be filled up once again. Directly above the blue clubs gigantic roof you could see the hill top of Machen Mountain, with its slag heaps looking like some spawn of the loch ness monster with its irregular humps of slag taken from the earth of the old pits of Risca colliery. The mountain slopes were decorated with trees, and you could pinpoint clearings through the foliage where roads coiled their way up to the television mast at the top of the mountain.

To the right of the looming roof of the club, you could see down into the village itself and the crossroads which gave the village its name. Crosskeys was a junction where both the Sirhowy and the Ebbw Valleys joined, and were fed along into one straight route south. It was quite a busy junction with traffic lights controlling the passage of traffic and pedestrians. Groups of youths would be seen hanging around nearby, wasting away the hours of the day with boredom. Directly above the crossroads rose Mynydd Lan, with its old slate quarry gouged into its side like some obscene wound, in memory of its industrial heritage. This mountain however contained the remains of a forest fire and few trees remained on its side. From my window you could see directly up the Sirhowy valley, which then disappeared from view as two sides of the valley closed in together, shutting it out of sight. Of course this direct view up the western side of the valley was put into perspective by the rows upon rows of the roofs of terraced houses, again symbolic of 19th Century Industrialisation.

The main memory of the sight outside of my window was that it was always sunny, with swallows and swifts swooping around and landing directly on top of the blue club roof for a chatter and rest. I remember their migratory patterns towards the end of Summer whereby they would fly and swoop in a great formation and land on roofs to rejoin one another and then they would fly again, all the time gathering new friends and then finally fly and not come back, gone away to their new climes as our winter approached. And it was a peaceful memory as well, having lots of friends, lots to do and a loving and caring family. I distinctly remember the long drawn out summer evenings, the sun slowly resting into the west behind the valley hills, its twilight glow casting long, red, shadows across the tops of the terraced roofs, creating a serene, calm mood. Often I would just lie on my bed reading a book or just playing, watching the birds or the people cross the road. It was, in a single expressive word, contentment.

Our house was the old station masters house in Crosskeys, which used to be part of the old train station with only the station masters house remaining as a relic of bygone days. It was a big house, with a garden the size of a small allotment which was completely wild and overgrown. Towards the rear of the garden we had our own miniature tropics – a small rise covered with Chinese bamboo–like shoots which were just an incredible weed which you could not get rid of even though you would try and dig up the roots. My Sister and I, with friends, would spend whole days building dens here in different parts and having fights and so on. The house was situated in between two train tracks; the one track led to the Ebbw Vale Steelworks – a single track – not much traffic, and the other track, a double track, would lead to the coal mines of Abercarn and Oakdale. This was a busy track, and occasionally we would see the odd passenger train come up which would excite us, but it was mainly a freight track for coal and steel.

Our garden was, as I stated, very big. There was a shed near the bottom which had, in its previous years, been used as stables. In fact, during my adolescence, I remember very frequently finding the occasional horseshoe as well as old bottles in the garden and when I would dig to any serious intent – the old green type of bottle with a glass ball in the neck. I guess this would have to be something to do with it being near a train station. I also have fond memories exploring and finding all the wildlife in the garden, the many many caterpillars, ladybirds and a whole host of bugs and suchlike, this was probably because the garden was so unkempt and quite wild which allowed for a whole array of creatures to run rampant. I also remember my Mums strawberrys amd herb garden and my (usual) failed attempts at trying to grow my own radishes and so on. They never seemed to take off which was a great shame.

Then there were the trees; the biggest was a great big sycamore situated right in the centre of the back garden which was moved from the front of the house by my Dad and other family members. My Sister wanted a tree house built in it, but that never came about, but we had fun climbing the other trees in the garden though.

All in all, I have very fond memories of growing up in that big house in Crosskeys.