Tuesday, 15 September 2009



One hour and fifty minutes.

110 minutes.

6600 seconds.

Is the point in Watchmen on Sunday night when I pressed stop on my DVD player, ready to return to the film the next day. I was really enjoying the film to this point; I spent the whole day telling everyone how great I thought it was and couldn't see why it had got such bad press. Then I went home and watched the rest of it.


The last hour of Watchmen is very dissapointing. The climax is rushed. It has some ropey CGI (namely in the form of a wierd tiger creature with funny horns and a sequence on Mars) and its just well, all a bit corny. Which is a total shame, as up until 1 hour and 50 minutes in I was really enjoying it!

I have to admit I'm completely not a comic book fan - I love Akira and I do enjoy comic book film adaptations, but I have never read Watchmen or many other grapic novels, so cannot approach this film with the same level of critique as its many fans have, who lovingly refer to the originals as 'The Citizen Kane of graphic novels'. But that doesn't matter in this case, as I'm not reviewing the story and comparing it with the graphic novel. I'm reviewing the sound. And the sound is... AWESOME.

I was immediately blown away. The film starts with a bang, as one of the original 'minute men' (a band of masked superheroes) is brutally murdered in his apartment by a cloaked assailant. The editing is incredible; we feel every punch, hear every twinkling crash of smashed glass - nothing is missed. The intricucies of the sound design and mix, to allow each element to punch through and be recognised is unbelievable - unsurprising really considering the amount of talent involved in the soundtrack production.

Taking the helm of supervising sound editor duties was Scott Hecker, alongside Eric Norris as sound designer, Frank Montano as FX re-recording mixer and dialogue and music re-recording mixer Chris Jenkins. Director Zack Snyder worked with this team on his remake of Dawn of the Dead, so the crew already had a great relationship in preperation for the mammouth task of creating the odd-worldy view the Watchmen story takes of our planets history. Hecker had this to say about working along side Snyder:

“Zack's approach is the most liberating that any person working in sound could
ask for, because basically he hands you the ball and says run with it and make
it as beautiful, spectacular, vibrant, colorful, exciting, violent — all those
adjectives — as you can. He really trusts us, which is great, and it actually
started on Dawn of the Dead. But this film has everything in it, from love
scenes to prison riots, wars, Antarctica, Vietnam, an atomic bomb, film noir
Mickey Spillane-type detective storytelling; it's amazing to sit back and watch

The trust given to the sound team certainly shows in the mix. The fx perfectly flit round the surrounds, and the focus of the spots and foley remain firmly on the action. The screen is never cluttered with FX, and each scene is lovingly crafted to drive the often dark narrative. In terms of sound design, Watchmen is again on to a winner. The LFE kicks in perfectly, worlds are created and given depth through careful selection and manipulation of synth based and organic fx, to create truely unique sounds. The incredible amount of work and care and attention shines through, and each character has clearly been intensely designed to perfection. Heres an extract of Hecker talking about the design for Dr.Manhattan in Mix magazine:

“He's tortured and conflicted and he has human emotions, but he's trapped in
this god-like [form], so we tried to articulate his feelings with various
different sounds that would convey his emotions, whether they be happy, sad or
angry.” Among the sounds that were used for the character were moaning whales.
“But I hate to even say that,” Hecker continues, “because I don't want people
sitting there listening for whale sounds. They've been worked with, modulated
and pitched and whatnot, and it's very subtle. I don't want the audience
thinking about it; you want them to tune into the emotional quality you're going
for throughout the film.”

So from a sound point of view Watchmen comes highly recommended - its just a shame the film couldn't deliver the electricity of the first 1 hour and 50 minutes through to the end.

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