Watchmen – Behind the Mask

7 07 2009

The announcement of Watchmen’s production, when it was made, made quite a few heads turn, though it mustn’t have been much of a surprise given Hollywood’s compulsion to film adaptations of successful novels, graphic or otherwise. The offer was put forth to Michael Bay initially, who refused it ( and thankfully so considering his latest debacle – the appalling ‘Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen’ ). Zack Snyder ( of ‘300’ fame ) picked it up then and three years later, he delivers. The film was touted to be a ‘faithful’ adaptation of the ( award winning ? sales figures go here) graphic novel authored by Alan Moore ( author of V for Vendetta ). Alan Moore, however, had a different say on the matter – He refused to be a part of the production team and unequivocal expressed his views on Hollywood’s ‘unhealthy’ affair with comics. I wonder if things would have turned out better if he’d joined the team.

‘Watchmen’ follows the time line of an alternate 1985 when the Americans and the Soviets are at the brink of nuclear war and costumed superheroes are common place. It is during such a perilous time when a retired superhero is murdered for no apparent reason. A vigilante investigates into the incident and uncovers a deep rooted conspiracy that changes the world and the course of its future.

The Watchmen

The Watchmen

The screenplay is kept in sync with the novel for most part, though there are places where the plot suffers from discontinuity and drastic change. But given the limited time frame, Snyder has done a commendable job. This is a strong point of the movie as it definitely wouldn’t have been able to survive without it – The novel’s complex and detailed plot requires every bit of screen time it can get. Nevertheless, the theatrical cut’s run time of 160 odd minutes does seem a bit short – There are places that fans familiar with the original plot might find cramped. Thankfully, such occurrences are kept minimal. Attention’s been paid to detail and the dark, gritty atmosphere of the book is replicated laudably. The film deserves every bit of its R rating for it spits language generously and keeps the violence well above visceral level (not to mention the nudity and sexual content).

Visual effects impress, as it is to be expected. Artistic license and CGI have been exploited to the maximum – Some of the movie’s best moments have those to thank for. The actual acting is passable but the overall depiction of the characters falls short of the book’s expressive ones. Once again, the limitation of time plays the spoiler. Many of the sub plots have been shortened but not an extent that it looses coherence. The film’s paced surprisingly well and the action kept tight (unlike the book where combat sequences were short and didn’t carry much weight. The obtrusive soundtrack ( not the original score, that was much better ) is a clear misfit though, for it ruins the atmosphere – The original score could have been put to better use, especially during the first half of the film.

By the time the movie had ended, I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I’d be. ‘Watchmen’ is as good a book adaptation as it gets. While it may not be as compelling as the novel, it remains loyal to it ( within reasonable limits ) and brings out most of it’s goodness (badness, actually). I won’t go as far as giving the movie a rating but would recommend watching it before reading the book. But either way, you’ll still end up figuring out the differences and picking sides. And if you do watch it, go for the uncut version.

‘Watchmen’ on : IMDB | RT


Coraline, the movie – It’s a Peach !

31 05 2009

I’m an ardent fan of Neil Gaiman and his works. I first encountered them when I was going through my old comic collection. His “Books of Magic” was my first viewport into his wonderfully imaginative world. I liked the book at once and found myself getting his other works. My next stop was at Stardust and it didn’t disappoint. On the same high, I managed to watch the film adaptation of the novel, only to find that – to my dismay – it wasn’t as good as I had expected it to be. Nevertheless, it had a few good moments ( and had an uncanny resemblance to the Elder Scrolls : Oblivion, as I later found out ) and I could say I might have enjoyed bit of it. That was a year ago.

Yesterday, I got myself to watch the latest adaptation of his work – Coraline – and am pleased to say that it was well worth the time spent ( the fact that I hadn’t read this particular book might have helped with that judgment ). A little background info – The novella was published in 2002 and garnered many awards. It was even compared to classics like Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. It follows the story of a 11-year old girl called Coraline (not Caroline, which may lead you to have normal expectations from the person :)) who moves into to a new apartment, aptly name as the Pink Palace, in the country side. Isolated as she is, and getting very little attention from both her parents, she finds herself exploring the ancient house, meeting it’s other inhabitants. In her adventuring, she manages to find a secret little door that leads to an alternate dream world where she finds the “other” versions of her parents and neighbors. A curious aspect of this place, as she finds, was that everyone inhabiting it had buttons for eyes. Finding her “other” parents more caring and easier to relate to and the rest of the world just as interesting and wild, she starts to visit them frequently. But the illusion slowly breaks up to reveal the nightmare it really is, showing the true face of the “other” world and it’s loving mother. “Coraline now has to realize what’s important in life and fight to keep herself and her family alive with the help of a talkative cat”, quoting Kenneth Turan.

Down the mouse hole

Down the mouse hole

On to the movie – The film is an animated one, created using stop-motion animation techniques coupled with 3D effects, which delivers an impeccable visual style that is both atmospheric and stunning. If you’ve read the Books of Magic, the 2nd part specifically, you would notice a resemblance. Henry Selick excels once again, creating the first all stop-motion 3D feature film. Nothing less to be expected from the man who gave us The Nightmare Before Christmas. The stark contrast between the 2 worlds and it’s inhabitants and the sheer scope and audacity of the auditorium scene, with it’s 200+ canine occupants, makes it hard to keep one’s mouth closed.

Excellent acting by the cast – Dakota Fanning delivers an expert performance as Coraline, and very believably so. Mr. Bobinsky is enacted by Ian McShane, who puts up quite a show with a Russian accent that’s as funny as his(Bobinsky’s) figure.  Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman perform as the parents, both in and outside the alternate world. Teri Hatcher’s performance is especially noteworthy, offering a creepy feeling to the “other mother” while perfectly emulating the “other-other” one’s personality. The excellent soundtrack, composed by Bruno Coulais, only enhances the movie’s dreamy feeling with it’s adorable nonsense-language lyrics and berceuse music. The simplicity of the film betrays the amount of work put it into it – One wouldn’t believe that the film was in the works for a staggering total of  a hundred and seventy nine weeks, ninety six of it in pre-production, involved the work of four hundred and fifty people and was staged in a 140 000 ft warehouse which was separated into fifty lots, totally hosting a hundred and fifty sets. It seemed that the film’s production process was just as grand as the film.

Did all that work pay of f then ? Seems so. For starters, you’ve got my opinion :P.[Also] Just falling short of  $17 million, the film grossed $16.85 million on it’s opening weekend and received favorable reviews, sporting a 88% Fresh score on the Tomatometer and MetaCritic indicating a good reception. As of April 28, 2009 the film has grossed a huge $83.56 million worldwide.

A movie well suited to be a classic, Coraline leaves a distinct and memorable impression in the mind of the viewer with it’s delightful characters, imaginative story line and contemplative mood – An experience that shouldn’t be missed. For those who missed it in the theaters, the home-video is slated to be released coming July.