Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I saw Watchmen on Friday.

I didn't hate it, but there are more things in it that annoyed me than I genuinely loved. This may or may not have been because I have read the book and admire it greatly, and also because I had about a week or so of reading criticisms for me to notice when I finally saw it. Aw well, that was my viewing experience.

Most people on the Internet have expressed the best parts of the movie: Rorshach, Dr. Manhattan, and The Comedian were all well-played, and for the most part their character arcs remained mostly intact.

As for the other characters...well, they tried with Dan/Nite Owl, but his scenes still felt like they dragged. As everyone else has stated, Laurie was just acted badly, as was her mother. In the end, I guess, it was the grounded stuff that stuttered the most.

Oh wait, big problem #1: Veidt. I had been expecting it, so it softened the blow a bit, but he still ended up mediocre. Him and his shifting European accent...he just seemed like at every moment he was silently signalling everyone "Hey everyone, I'm the bad guy!" Now, this may be because I knew he was, and the mystery was still present for neophyte audience members...even so, he was still played way too broadly, and it sapped a lot of the impact of the ending.

The ending is big problem #2. I knew they'd change it, I even knew what they'd change it to...but it feels off. Very off. Not only logically (even if fake Dr. Manhattan energy attacked American cities, would that really convince them that it was a universal threat and just end all the atomic war stuff? More likely, they just think that the US lost control of their 'weapon' and keep on track), but also tonally (where an alien invasion introduces humanity to something outside their scope, thus improving society through discovery and science essentially, having Dr. Manhattan act as a wrathful god basically brings about world peace with fear and religion. I don't think that meaning was entirely intentional, but its still there). It also makes Dr. Manhattan look like much more of a chump than in the book by accepting it. And they made Nite Owl not accept it, which makes the moral amiguity, which is one of the main reasons I love the book, far less palpable. Everything else in the ending was fine, and probably surprised/entertained the audience...but it felt like something was missing.

Big problem #3: the use of music. It was awful. When "Hallejulah" came up during the pointlessly extended sex scene, there was a howl of laughter in the audience. My friend turned to me and said "Seriously?", and he's a big Leonard Cohen fan. The rest of the music was about the same level of inappropriateness. It honestly reminded me of the movies my friends and I made, where we'd throw Tom Petty over us playing Smash Bros., just completely unprofessional and a cheap way of setting the mood using good (if overused) music.

There's smaller stuff, too...the violence is indeed over-the-top for no real reason and fight scenes are extended (and not to an optimal effect), the Nixon war room stuff was a complete waste of time (unless you're a big fan of cartoonish imitation and bad marke-up), and there was jarring back-and-forth between scenes lifted verbatim from the book and changed things, where characters and ideas would appear and dissapear at the drop of a hat thus eliminating important set-up and pay-off (Hollis Mason for one, and the news vendor, whose presence in the ending just didn't seem to matter because we wasn't a real character). Apparently, some of the stuff will appear on the extended cut on the DVD (including one of the scenes that made me very sad, the death of Hollis Mason), but that doesn't excuse the lack of coherence here, especially when there's so much time wasted with fights, sub-par porn, and Nixon's rubber nose.

Remember, I said I didn't hate this movie, though. Bill Crudrup was really effective as Dr. Manhattan, as were the Comedian and Rorschach scenes. It had its moments, and at those moments it was very entertaining (the titles, for example). And it wasn't a complete butchering, so it is probably the noblest failure we could have got. But in five months, it will mostly be remembered as being "that movie version of Watchmen they made that one time", rather than as an exceptional film.

ZAck Snyder will remain in his position as a okay mimic with a sense of style and 14-year-old tendencies. Any major advances in the artistic merit of his career will have to wait until his next film.

Oh well. Onto We3!

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