I saw Watchmen last week, twice actually. The first time I wanted to see it on my own terms so I went to a Wednesday matinee alone. Before the previews, I took particular delight in passing the time by reading a section of the Ten Cent Plague. With Watchmen coming to the screen, it felt as if the damage done by the comic book witch hunts of the 1950s was finally being lifted… at least creatively, but I digress.
That first viewing of the film was transportative. I didn’t come away thinking Watchmen was a perfect film. But I feel that I had seen as good of an adaptation as anyone could have pulled off. I was in a highly meditave state when I left the theater, something I hadn’t felt since… well…Groundhog Day of all things. I couldn’t stop thinking about the film and the comic. Then on Saturday, I went again with the wife and saw the movie on it’s own terms. Nobody walked out of either showing. No one bitched about the film and no dumbass brought preteen children to the movie. Mrs. Swinebread was lost, unfortunately, but that was more due to the fact that English is not her first language. She did like the fact that it was an adult film and she thought it was great that it didn’t have happy ending. She is Japanese after all.
There is so much to discuss about Watchmen that I could never mention it all but let me start with a that fact that Zack Snyder was screwed. If he adapted Watchmen for a general audience then the fanboys would rebel and tank the film. If he made a more direct adaptation of the comic then general audiences would be easily confused and the risk of financial failure looms. Snyder went with the latter, and I see it as the only real choice. And for the record I think 300 is an awful movie (although it’s not too bad if you think of it as a joke or a parody film).
There are several controversies that I feel I must address. The first, of course, is Dr. Manhattan’s Penis. All I can really say is “GROW THE F UP.” Seriously, folks need to get over their puritanical prudery. A naked man doesn’t equal porn. We’ve had full frontal female nudes in film for forever and now we get one CG cock and the whole world ends just because immature folks can’t stand the sight of the male member. This film has adult content. What a surprise, it is rated R. I take particular delight in hearing stories of families having to race out of the theater because their kids saw Dr. Manhattan’s wang. Rated R means rated R. If you are gonna get upset about something, then get upset about fact that one of the characters guns down a pregnant women. A funny thing is that I’m starting to see more positive comments from women about Doc M’s nudeness.
The sex scene on the owl ship is was probably too long and yes the Shrek song didn’t help sell the scene. I would have preferred a sweeter, more romantic coupling. I do understand what Zack was going for though. There is an unrelenting darkness to Watchmen and I think he was taking the time too lighten things up a little, plus if I thought the world was really gonna get nuked soon I’d be having raunchy sex in an owl ship too if I had one. I’m not defending Zack’s choice here but I do understand where he’s coming from.
It’s too violent? Zack likes his violence hardcore and so punched up the gore in several scenes. The brutality is all there in the GN but it isn’t as graphic as Zack makes it out to be. I didn’t have a problem with it personally except when Dr. Manhattan splattered the gangsters onto the ceiling. That distracted from the plot. There is a certain horror to the violence in the Watchmen comic but most of that horror happens in the mind of the reader. Zack tried to bring that same sense of horror by clearly displaying the awfulness of it directly. Of course there were no bodies in New York so that’s one point that went the other way. While shocking I was pretty neutral about it.
Is it’s too dark? A lot of folks complained that it was much too awful for a superhero movie. I recognize it is a downer of story but folks are bringing a lot of cultural baggage of what constitutes a comic book movie and what doesn’t. There’s a whole universe out there in the world of comics waiting to be discovered and it’s time for folks to look passed the X-men movies. That said, WB did market the film as a regular superhero flick in the vain of Dark Knight.
The ending was changed. Not a big deal. I was pretty neutral about it. The Squid would not have translated to the screen and would not have been understood or accepted by a mainstream audience. Plus, just think of all the exposition that would have been added to the film. *Shudder* Dr. Manhattan is the only preternatural thing (besides Nixon’s nose) in the film and to introduce a fake preternatural alien would have been too much.
It should have been updated? Oh Please, this is simply laziness on the part of some of the younger folks in the audience. It’s the same old “the past is not real and so has no significance” rant. Part of the problem here is that most folks don’t know a thing about history and don’t want know. Watchmen is a very complicated story moving through different eras but I guess some in the audience couldn’t tell the difference between 1985 and 1945. Detaching Watchmen from the events that shaped the America in the 20th century renders the story pointless. Plus, the Watchmen narrative is a cracked mirror of comic books trends and stereotypes from the 1940s to the mid-1980s.
Things I liked:
The attention to detail was fantastic. I got Blade Runner vibes.
Of course, Jackie Earle Haley was great as Rorschach
The Silhouette’s V-J Day kiss!
Sticking as closely as possible to the comic.
All the stuff with Molock
The Sally Jupiter Tijuana Bible… it’s all gravy after that
I liked most of the stuff with Janey Slater
The opening… but everybody liked that
People are reading the comic… that’s cool and the best thing about this whole project
Things I didn’t like:
The music choices were not the best. I know zack was trying to make it feel like the time period but some of it didn’t work. As a good score would have been better. Did I mention the Shrek song?
The two lead gals acting wasn’t quite up to snuff.
There were some problems with tone. Zack sometimes has trouble capturing those softer moments.
Ozy’s exposition about himself didn’t work.
Having Janey Slater show up and say I got cancer was sorta off… although I understand Zack was pressed for time.
Billy’s vocals were not strong enough for me. The dispassion was good but the level was not.
Zack tried to cram in as much as possible, so for me it’s not about missed opportunities but rather his interpretation of elements of the comic.
Things I was neutral about
The new ending
The new costumes
The running time
The Mars stuff
I liked the Watchmen a lot but can see why some folks would have problems. It’s a very adult picture and people need to know this before they enter the theater. Snyder worked very hard in replicating the GN but he does have a few problems with communicating the right tone with Watchmen. If he was a little more experienced I think some things would flow better. We’ll get the extended DVD so that might mitigate the minor pacing and plot problems. Regardless, people are debating the merits of the film and the graphic novel and that kind of attention given to an actual comic book story is fantastic.