HE reader Joel Meares caught Watchmen at a screening in Sydney last night (which would be Wednesday) and was came away “disappointed,” “confused” and “pretty mixed,” he says. Meares isn’t a geekboy and he isn’t exactly David Thomson either so his reactions are about what he liked and didn’t like — take it or leave it.

“I enjoyed the first half a lot,” he notes. “It’s dark, ambitious, New York noir stuff with lots of rain, violence and a gritty-sounding if sometimes unnecessary voice-over by Rorschach (the masked bloke played by Jackie Earle Haley). I liked the conceit that these people are washed-up superheroes, although I was never clear on whether or not they actually had super-powers. And the way it scuttles back and forth through time intrigued without adding any noteworthy confusion.

“I enjoyed Carla Gugino in her small role as the washed-up Silk Spectre. Malin Akerman is nowhere near as bad as I’d been hearing on the various sites. And Patrick Wilson is in fairly good form as the geeky Nite Owl.

“I liked that this is a comic book flick with a bit of sex and a lot of violence. I liked — to a point — the incorporation of real-life events (JFK assassination, Vietnam War, etc). I liked that Snyder uses songs from the mid ’80s and from just before, although these don’t always work with what’s happening on screen and seem a bit thrown in for the sake of it.

“I’ve never seen 300 so knew very little about Snyder’s style other than that it involves a lot of that slow-down, speed-up action stuff. He uses that technique in a lot in Watchmen‘s fight sequences and I was fairly neutral about it — didn’t find it too distracting, felt it didn’t add very much.

“My biggest problem with the film was that as soon as these guys put their suits back on and decide to save the world in the final portion (save the world from what I’m still not sure about, and the uber-villain’s explanation of his actions is out-of-this-world dumb), the film becomes ridiculous. Maybe you have to be a fan to get all that psychobabble from Billy Crudup‘s naked and very blue Dr. Manhattan.

“From the moment Snyder gives us one of the most laughable sex scenes I’ve ever seen, the movie goes off the rails. When it came to the Antarctica-set showdown in which they all come together to fight the villain and his strange blue pointy-eared tiger thing (where the hell did that come from?), I felt like I was watching some awful panto-opera take on Masters of the Universe.

“Everything that was good early on is unstuck by the time the credits role and I came away disappointed and confused.”

“Here’s a bit of background on myself. I’ve never read a comic book in my life, hadn’t heard of Watchmen until I started reading about the film, but I’ve been known to enjoy a good comic flick, I’m a pretty easy lay as you might say (loved Dark Knight, really liked Spider-man 2, enjoyed Iron Man, etc.). I thought last year’s best film was Revolutionary Road, and my favorite US film of the last few years is probably Zodiac.”