Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nog Watches the Watchmen!

So the big mistake I made with Watchmen was reading the graphic-novel just prior to seeing the film. But I felt a sense of geek-necessity here, that I should at least be reasonably familiar with what many consider the single greatest graphic-novel ever. It was my first experience with the art form, and I dug it, and I felt like I “got” it, mostly, although not as much as I might have twenty years ago if I’d known what the hell a graphic novel was at that time. But being so familiar with the work going in, the visual experience wasn’t as impressive as it should have been. Despite a few big changes that have left many of the fanboys in an uproar (“Where’s my squid?”), Zack Snyder is really almost shockingly faithful to the text, so much so that there was no real element of surprise or discovery here for me. As many critics have argued, perhaps the most original and impressive sequence occurs during the credits, an (alternate) history lesson set to Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Here Snyder takes some liberties, and completely succeeds. But at the same time the otherwise loyal adherence to the text is understandable and probably necessary: you’ve got to please the fanboys these days, first and foremost, or they might destroy your film with their on-line snarkiness before the thing ever hits theaters. Snyder’s film looks amazing, but it doesn’t work on the “human” level that Dark Knight does (or even Iron Man), not that it’s necessarily trying to. With a movie like this, the performances don’t get mentioned much, although they probably should, since the movie has a lot of characters! Jackie Earle Haley kicks ass as Rorschach (and his mask is super-cool!). Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian also makes an impression in his short screen-time. The critics have had fun trashing Malin Ackerman, but I didn’t mind her acting that much and I’d totally bang her on an airship while listening to Leonard Cohen. And Billy Crudup, well, what can one say: he walks around with a blue penis and the audience giggled a bit. In fact, the sold-out first-day IMAX crowd seemed largely puzzled as they left, and the film is fading quickly at the box-office. Will its reputation grow over the years, once Snyder gives the true fans their DVD “director’s cut” restoring a few things that pissed off the faithful? Maybe. I’d be willing to take another look on DVD (although I personally think that splicing in a great deal of animated footage will further alienate the ‘mainstream’…but I suppose they’re not the ones buying the DVD anyway). In the meantime, the “visionary” Snyder’s film (as the studio insisted on referring to him in their ads) has, on the whole, not been hailed as particularly "visionary" by most critics. I respect it without actually enjoying it very much. For all the fanboy complaints that the theatrical-cut is a “compromised” vision of studio-enforced cuts, it doesn’t feel that way to me. It still feels pretty complex and non-commercial for a big studio action picture, which is nice, because this summer’s action crowd will have to settle for…Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen!


  1. Stuff:
    1. Yeah, the best thing about the whole picture is definitely Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach. And I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is terrific.
    2. Nice opening ballet of violence, followed by a terrific montage (the reimagined history).
    3. Fanboys are ruining cinema.
    4. I liked Ackerman's bangs and. . .that's it. I thought the actress and the character were offensive. And the scenes between she and her mother were only marginally better than those of daytime soap operas. (And that HORRIBLE age makeup. . .)
    5. It's not that WATCHMEN is necessarily bad; but it's not good by any measure. It's a hot tranny mess, if you will. It's much ado about nothing. It will be interesting to see how it plays ten, fifteen, and twenty years from now.
    6. Important notes: A. I haven't read the graphic novel. B. I didn't see this movie in IMAX. C. Zach Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD remake was surpisingly decent, and I love love love 300.
    7. Apparently Snyder's courting Amanda Seyfried for his new she-power flick SUCKER PUNCH.

  2. I'm all for Snyder doing something that's not an adaptation!

  3. Or a remake (although I do like his take on Dawn of the Dead).

  4. Yeah, it was surprisingly decent. I was amazed, because I resisted for a long time. Although I hate hate hate when I'm talking to someone and I'm like, "So, what movies do you like?" and maybe they mention DAWN OF THE DEAD, and I'm like, "[with caution] Which one?" And they're like, ". . ." Sigh. Because you can't top George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. It_can't_be_beat. Sometimes I even wonder if it's better than his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but then I remember the little girl at the end, and suddenly I'm certain that NIGHT is the ultimate zombie movie.

  5. WATCHMEN was kind of flat, largely because it was such a straight adaptation. There were some lines of dialog that just didn't work when spoken. And there were moments that the graphic suggests in discrete moments, but the movie has to show continuously, which leads to some moments being drawn out and others being condensed that throws off the whole pacing. In particular, Dr. Manhattan's back story is ruined: it's a lot easier to understand and appreciate the notion that he is simultaneously in several moments at once when time is being parceled out frame by frame in comic book form. And then there's the beautiful juxtapositions of image and text in the book that just don't translate.

    Still, I found it to be fun for me as a longtime fan of the novel.