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Saturday, March 07, 2009

There is nothing quite as entertaining as a really bad review

A few weeks ago I'd never heard of "Watchmen". It says a lot about the hysteria that accompanies new releases nowadays that already I don't wish to hear of it again. I feel like this about the U2 album as well and I haven't heard that either. If I do see "Watchmen" it will be by accident. I concluded that superhero films had nothing to say to me not long ago when I accidentally watched *The Dark Knight*. I found it surprisingly boring for something so expensive and busy, managing the rare trick of being simultaneously leaden and empty. And what the fuss is about Heath Ledger's performance I fail to see.

My favourite critic Anthony Lane sets about Watchmen in The New Yorker. Not since Clive James described Arnold Schwarznegger as resembling "a condom full of walnuts" has one review packed quite so many zingers. (Actually, while you're at it, you could read Germaine Greer's savaging of Baz Luhrmann's "Australia".) In reference to an earlier film of Alan Moore's work, he says it was "not quite as enjoyable as tripping over barbed wire and falling nose first into a nettle patch". He describes Billy Crudup in this one as looking "like a porn star left overnight in a meat locker". He's not completely negative about it, allowing that the opening credit sequence is "easily the highlight of the film".

There's something about a thunderingly negative review that makes it the most exhilarating of reading experiences. It might be as effective as taking a peashooter to a steam engine but the sound of that pea pinging off steel is nonetheless strangely warming. This particularly applies with huge blockbuster films because it helps to remind us that the bigger they are, the more likely it is that they are also absurd.