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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.

9 comments:

londonlee said...

I used to read a lot of comics but sometime in my mid-20s a switch flipped in my brain and they just seemed silly, especially the so-called "serious" ones which have taken over comic fandom and sucked all the innocent pleasure out of it.

I feel asleep during 'Dark Knight', too long and confusing and was underwhelmed by Heath Ledger in it. Seems to me playing a psycho is the easiest gig in the world for an actor, it's all tics and big mannerisms. He should have gotten the Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain" instead.

The Paranoid Mod said...

"The bad news about “Watchmen” is that it grinds and squelches on for two and a half hours, like a major operation"

That's just lovely.

Mercer Finn said...

Read this takedown of Lane's Watchmen review. Equally funny:

http://mountainofjudgment.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html

Andre Carlos Raposa said...

You are lucky you haven't heard the new U2 album. It is the sound of old white men spending money.

Five-Centres said...

I love a bad review. I always go for the one- or two-star ones first, then go back and read the good ones. There's nothing better than a bubble being burst.

Jim said...

Well, I quite liked it. Maybe that makes me a 'leering nineteen year old'. Probably. Either way, that review is definitely missing a spoiler warning.

Jim said...

Mercer, that article is spot on.

Blackacre said...

dd how every adaptation of an Allan Moore comic has been terrible (V for Vendetta; Extraordinary League of Gentlemen). He deliberately disclaims all responsibility for the films and maybe that is the problem. It is strange not to care how your work moves onto the big screen.

Nick White said...

There was a rare case of critics "resheathing" their knives unused recently when Lenny Henry apparently made a very good fist of his debut as Othello.
Most reviewers admitted to dreading it in advance (i.e. relishing the prospect of a slaughter) before being pleasantly surprised (i.e. disappointed - no kill today).