Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A few thoughts on the Watchmen movie...

1.) Okay, the first fight scene was cool, if a bit long. Aside from watching the Comedian get his clock cleaned, though, I thought the fight scenes were dumb and “Batman & Robin“-esque. Particularly the alley-way and prison fight scenes.

2.) If you’ve never read Watchmen, then it’s probably an entertaining flick. It would be akin to watching the “first” three Star Wars films without ever having seen the “original” three Star Wars films. You’d have a completely different perspective. I almost wish I had gone into it not having ever read Watchmen…

3.) It was clear in watching this film, even more than 300 which seemed more stylized, that Zack Snyder is not a “mature” director. Maybe he just hasn’t found his style yet...or maybe his style is crap. I liked both “Dawn of the Dead” and “300”, but I felt like the look and feel of “Watchmen” was recycled. Green-screen-tastic, painfully so, at times. In talking to Doug, we realized that part of the problem with this film is that Snyder has shot a rather soul-less picture. It has no vim, no vigor...and in attempting to be a shot by shot adaptation has become not an exciting live-action version of the comic, but rather a boring, oversaturated Dick Tracy (starring Madonna) version of the Watchmen comic. Imagine, if you will, if this had been handled by a director with a real voice and some level of actual artistry behind his interpretation of this comic book classic. That would have been more interesting than this. I would have liked to have seen the Nolan, Burton, Lynch, Spielberg, Coen Bros., Gilliam, or any other non-Lucas director of note...someone who has a real actual cinematic touch...any of their versions would have been at least more interesting to watch as a movie.

4.) I didn’t have a problem with the slow-mo. I didn’t have a problem with the Dr. Manhattan special effects. I didn’t feel like the removal of the alien menace idea (from the comic) made for a better film. It seemed pointless and arbitrary decision that was probably made to cut costs. It didn’t feel like it was made, as I had initially heard, to give the film a more realistic and potent climax. Also, when the climax does occur, the repercussions are so glossed over it’s as if something terrible didn’t happen at all. WTF? Do we not get to see how heavy and awful a decision Ozymandias has made for everyone? Shit, even if we did get shots of the devastation that lasted more than seconds...well, it probably wouldn’t matter because NOTHING has been done to establish an investment in the characters and people that inhabit this world (with the possible exception of Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre...and even that seems like a minor connection established between the audience and the characters). Again, this movie has no soul...and that extends to the soul-less way it treats the entities that people its universe.

5.) Speaking of a lack of depth, the casting of this film was pretty awful. Or maybe, again, it was the direction. It’s hard to tell. Granted, the guy they got to play Rorshach (sic?) looks like him, to some degree...but either Snyder under-directs/anti-directs his actors (ala Lucas) or the people he got just can’t pull off the level of emotional range/depth that is required to convey the emotion that, say, Rorshach would need to get across when faced with his own death and a challenge to the very purpose of his life. Also, the Silk Spectre actress didn’t have the chops to pull her role off, nor was she really old enough. Her mother was even worse. Talk about a cartoony, one-dimensional version of a character that brings a level of weight and sadness to the source material. Jesus. The Dan Dreiberg actor was okay, the guy who played the Comedian was so-so. I didn’t have a problem with the way Dr. Manhattan was portrayed/played but I would have liked them do to more with some sort of voice reverb to make him different than everyone when speaking...but that’s a minor thing.

6.) And I think minor things are brought up when you have a film that is so unsatisfying overall. If the piece were more interesting in general, I would not be focusing on everything from little to big. I’m not the typical comic purist that wants the film to be adapted EXACTLY like the comic. I mean, yeah, it’d be awesome if that were possible...to make a comic that completely retells the events from a comic it’s using as source material in a respectful and loving manner BUT ALSO make a unique piece of film as art with it’s own fresh take on the concepts. It’s rare that this has happened, in all the long history of translating plays, fiction, non-fiction, and now comics to film. When it does, it’s a revelation. Sadly, WATCHMEN is not that revelation.


  1. Brilliant analysis, Joel. I think this cements my decision to forego seeing Watchmen in the theaters. I'll catch it on vid later. Point #3 is most telling. A director can't bring more depth to a film than they themselves possess. Chalk it up to youth, or to an exclusive immersion in pop culture, but the kind of immaturity you point out seems to be epidemic.

  2. 1. Yup, and too damn bloody. How about some character development instead? What if they removed all the graphic violence throughout and gave us a horror-filled destruction scene akin to the first few pages of Watchmen #12? That would have been nice.
    2. Yeah, I agree.
    3. 3 for 3 so far. I would prefer a director to use the comic pages as a jumping off point instead of a storyboard. I also thought a lot of subtle visuals from the book had too much made out of them on screen. Like the "obsolete models a specialty" sign or the blood pouring out of the bathroom after Big Figure gets killed. One panel shouldn't equal thirty seconds for stuff like that. There were at least a couple of times where Snyder added his own flourishes that I thought worked great: the "nostalgia" commercial on tv, rorschach's bloody remains looking like a rorschach test.
    More of that would be nice. The atomic bomb dream sequence where they pull each other's skin-suits off looked like a joke to me. That doesn't work in a movie.
    4. Exactly. There was no real threat of nuclear war felt in the first place because no time was spent with the regular people talking about it. Also, if I were seeing the movie cold, Bubastus the lynx would seem completely out of nowhere since all the other genetic engineering stuff was removed.
    5. Yep. I love the "Rorschach in prison" chapter of the comic. In the book he's pretty charming despite his flaws. I just thought he was gross in the movie and didn't really care. By the time he checked out I was pretty indifferent.
    6. Yeah, they should have taken the ideas that were the most important and created a story around them that would work on film.

    my own...
    7. I found the soundtrack to be very distracting. The goofy pumping scene between Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre was particularly amusing set to "halleleua".
    8. I also don't usually care about changes made from a comic to a movie as long as the movie is good. If the movie had been engaging I wouldn't have noticed all this crap that bothered me while I was watching it.
    9. I loved the opening credits.