Monday, March 09, 2009

Who's Watching the Watchmen?

I am!

I tend to read books visually, trying to imagine how a movie could be made from the words that I'm reading. In some cases, I can see pretty easily how a movie could be made. In other cases, it seems next to impossible. In the case of The Watchmen, a book I LOVED, I couldn't figure out how they could adapt the book in less than 15 hours. The pirate story alone would be a tough one. But when the trailers starting popping up for the feature film of The Watchmen, I was thrilled beyond words. Doc Manhattan looked amazing, The Comedian was awesome, and the actual look of Alan Moore's rendition of America in 1985 was true to the illustrations in the novel. I couldn't wait.

[WARNING: This review will contain some spoilers for the book and the movie.] Last night I went to see it, and I wasn't disappointed. I'll be interested to see what the hardcore fans of the graphic novel, who have devoured it dozens of times, thought of Snyder's adaptation of the book, but I thought it was beautifully done. For me, the movie would hinge on the success of a single character: Rorschach. And Jackie Earle Haley, most recently known for his Oscar-nominated turn as a child molester in "Little Children" (and not known RECENTLY for anything else, since he was a child star who disappeared for ages before this film), is PERFECT. He portrays the morally ambiguous man who denies his very self -- his mask is his "face," and even it is an ever-changing inkblot, and he never uses personal nouns and pronouns like I, me, or my, as if they don't exist to him. His interpretation of the character was amazing, from Kovacs' underlying seething rage to his annoyed, "Hurm," that he mutters throughout the book. I loved him.

I thought Patrick Wilson's Dan Dreiberg was also great. In the book, there are panels where he's quite dashing, and in the very next one he's schlubby. Wilson somehow managed to convey that, though thankfully, he wasn't quite as schlubby as he is in the comic. The Silk Spectre was good (her lines were delivered in a bit of a stilted way, but considering she's a little flat in the book, too, I didn't mind) and had that square-jawed face like the illustration, without the masculinity that's always been part of the drawing of that character.

LOVED The Comedian. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gives him the cigar-chomping awfulness, and Snyder stayed extremely faithful to every panel that we see the Comedian in, whether he's committing personal atrocities in Vietnam or leaping out of Archimedes to blow away a group of protesters.

I wish we'd seen a little bit more of Hollis Mason (not just because I loved the character in the book, which I did, but also because the Canadian actor, Stephen McHattie, who portrayed him, is the star of Pontypool, a Bruce McDonald film that also opened this weekend and was similarly fantastic). But I don't think the film loses too much by denying us Dreiberg's repeated visits to him. I was surprised it didn't reveal his vicious murder, however. I kept waiting for that to happen.

Moloch was well done by Matt Frewer (I'm about to reveal my age here, but I can't look at him without thinking of Max Headroom). Adrian Veidt was played by Matthew Goode, an actor I wasn't particularly familiar with, but I thought he was pretty good, too. I found it a little strange that his accent kept flipping from American to British to... something... but I think it added to the distance we sort of have from Veidt, not being able to nail down any sort of distinct origin for him. (It's been a little bit since I've read the book, and I remember Bubastis being red... was I remembering that incorrectly? She's blue in the film. Maybe her colour changes throughout... now I can't remember... in any case, I thought the cat was beautiful, and exactly the way she's supposed to look.)

And then there's Doc Manhattan. I always pictured him to be a quiet speaker, detached, speaking in a bit of a monotone, saying something colossal as if it were nothing, and Billy Crudup did exactly that. Doc Manhattan was stunning.

Speaking of stunning, the look of this movie is enough to fall in love with it. I could have watched it on Mute and would have still been impressed. Manhattan's crystal palace on Mars... that scene of Veidt sitting before the bank of televisions with Bubastis by his side... Archimedes rising above New York... it was shot-for-shot.

So what's missing? The pirate story is gone (it WAS filmed, however, and will be appearing on a separate DVD). The newspaper salesman and the kid reading the pirate comic aren't throughout the film, though they do appear right before the apocalypse. The doctor who is psychoanalyzing Kovacs in prison plays a much smaller role, and isn't nearly as sympathetic as he is in the book. There's quite a bit missing from the book, but it's SO multi-layered, pulling out several of those layers and focusing on just the most important ones was essential. The actual Veidt-engineered apocalypse was changed completely... that giant alien squid was gone, and was instead replaced by a blue ball of energy not unlike the one that surrounds Manhattan and Spectre when they're on Mars. And, hopefully without incurring the wrath of any of my readers, I kinda liked the movie version more. It just made more sense, and seemed like something that would have been immediately blamed on Manhattan, whereas the alien thing was just... yeah.

There were things I didn't like about the film. First, someone needs to throw that music supervisor into a prison cell with Rorschach for a minute. What a huge disappointment that was. It was like the only requirement was to find the MOST OBVIOUS song for each scene and throw it in there. So to show the opening montage about how much the times have changed, they play The Times Are A-Changing. As Rorschach and Nite Owl approach Veidt's Antarctica castle, we hear All Along the Watchtower, because, you know... two riders are approaching. (Sigh.) As the world dies, we hear Mozart's Requiem. And, just in case you were worried this movie was set in 1967 and not 1985, we hear "99 Luftballoons" at one point (which, sorry, now I can only picture as a German lullaby that Liz Lemon's grandmother sang to her). The music was a massive disappointment, and required sublety to counteract the huge things happening on screen. (Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during a sex scene between Owl and Spectre... seriously??) It's not like they had to try very hard: Alan Moore references Elvis Costello, John Cale, and numerous other singers and songs throughout the book... so stick with those.

I didn't like the look of Sally Jupiter. In the 1940s, she has her hair coiffed in the up-do that was all the rage at the time. In the 1980s, her hair is white, but still styled exactly the same way because Sally has never stopped being the original Silk Spectre. She will always be sitting in one spot, nostalgic for who she used to be. In the film, they updated her hairdo, which was entirely out of character (and she looked like she lived in a weird split-level ranch, not a retirement home).

In the book, Rorschach dies alone. It's a devastating moment that only Jon sees (and commits) but in the movie, his death is punctuated by the long "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" from Nite Owl. I thought it should have been left a little more desolate, with Dan not knowing what happened to Rorschach.

But these are relatively minor quibbles with an otherwise stunning film. At two hours and 45 minutes, it never actually felt like it was dragging. And there's a scene where Spectre and Nite Owl come charging into the prison where Kovacs is being held, and the film turns it into an exhilarating scene that rivals the spectacle of Neo and Trinity entering the building near the end of the Matrix in a hail of gunfire and acrobatics. My heart was racing during this scene. In fact, everything to do with the prison was the best part of this film, from Rorschach's curt putdowns ("Tall order." "Fat chance.") to the best line in the film, delivered in the cafeteria, to Rorschach's extraction. Brilliant.

A friend of mine is a film critic who emails me after he's seen screeners, and I generally agree with his quickie reviews of whether or not I should see it. But in the case of The Watchmen, he told me that he didn't read the book because he wanted to know if a person could understand the film without having done so. His conclusion? Absolutely not. This is a film for the readers of the book.

I'm not sure I agree with that. Of course, it's hard to say, since I did read the book, but my husband only read the first half of the book and he seemed to follow the movie okay.

But I want to hear from you. Are you a diehard fan of the book? What did you think? Did you like the changes Zack Snyder made? Do you think the stuff left out was okay being gone? Or are you someone who never read the book and went to see the film? Were you able to follow it? Did you like it? I'm eager to hear what other people are saying about this movie.


David Drysdale said...

I thought the movie was horrible. It had a few good points--Rorschach chief among them--but I had a lot of problems with it. It seems to me that the movie adapted the style without the substance. It looked like the comic book, but lost all the subtleties. I hated that Ozymandias was obviously the villain from the first time he appeared. I disliked that the changed they ending (and I don't mean the squid, but rather how the ending is just so ambivalent, with Adrian weeping even as he celebrates his victory). I thought that the actress who played Laurie turned in one of the worst performances I've seen in a while.

The music, meanwhile, was terrible. The use of the 60s music was jarring and disconcerting and the Leonard Cohen was the worst of a multitude of sins.

Most of all, though, I was really frustrated with how the movie absolutely refused to humanize the apocalypse at the end. There were no minor characters to identify with. The film presented through the collapse of physical structures. There wasn't any human cost to this, and the book emphasizes the human cost about as starkly as one can: piles and piles of human bodies.

A lot of the other small touches irritated me, too. The "Boys" folder on Ozy's floppy disk was probably the most egregious.

I'm ranting now. But the more I think about it, the less I like it. The movie just convinced me that the book is unfilmable; at least, it is not something that can be condensed into a feature film. And, even if it could, such an adaptation was unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

Nik - Just a warning, so you don't get flamed by the hardcore fanboys ... It's "HURM" (not Hurn)

ashlie said...

I loved the movie, even without reading the book. I got the book for Christmas, but didn't have a chance to read it before the movie, but my fiance did. So, I was in the position of watching it with someone who loved the book (and also loved the movie) and myself who wasn't sure what to expect. Having said that, I will now be reading the book and going to watch it again! I think sometimes you just have to appreciate books and film adaptations as separate entities, and it's okay to like both of them. It doesn't take anything away from the original work. Can't wait to go see it again!

Nurse Brian said...

Hi Nikki! I am one who dearly holds Watchmen as one of my all time favorite pieces of literature, so it was VERY interesting to have it adapted into film.

But yes, I would have to agree with what you're saying in your post. The movie is visually stunning, and the soundtrack felt like it was put together by the people at MTV. And the My Chemical Romance cover of "Desolation Row" was one of the worst atrocities in music ever conceived.

I personally felt that to really, fully appreciate this film, there was a kind of prerequisite to read the novel. I'm sure you feel something similar about the Harry Potter films, right?

In terms of a stand alone movie, I think it does pretty well; the antithesis of what the Superman/Spider-Man films are. It does GOOD, but again, I think there may be a bigger appreciation for the film if one reads the book. After the movie ended, I truly felt like the movie was more like "An Ode to Watchmen", a call to the masses to revel and explore one of the (if not THE) greatest graphic novels of all time.

As a movie though, director Zack Snyder does a superb job. I felt my fanboy urges taking over when I saw subtle deviations from the graphic novel, but I soon got over it. I think the overall plot of the book was achieved, but again, I got very nitpicky when it came to the details, some of which may have been confusing for non-readers of the book.

Friends who have never heard of the Watchmen graphic novel and have watched the movie have agreed with me, but did at times feel a little lost... like, "So what's the deal with Bubastis?" (I don't believe it was explained in the film)

I tried viewing the movie just as such, rather than just a movie based upon a book; and I have to say, I think the content would be very interesting for those who only know superheroes as far as the superhero film genre, albeit maybe too hard to follow at times.

Overall, its a great film, but even greater for those of us who have read the graphic novel.

Lastly, @ashlie... I totally agree with the film and book being separate entities idea. "This is the book, and this is the film", and am very glad that someone who hasn't read the book before watching the movie still enjoyed it!

thomwade said...

I've spoken with a lot of people who did not even realize it was based on a book, and they understood it.

I really enjoyed it, and I am already looking forward to the extended cut Blu-Ray. My complaints were pretty much exactly yours-especially the musical choices. I am tempted to recreate some footage set to more obscure songs as an experiment(I admit, a dream job is finding music for movies).

David said...

First, Nathan Fillion's new series absolutely rocks. Tight writing. Great chemistry. And Fillion's got great timing.

Second, the movie was terrible. Great cinematography, but the rest of it was a mess. Not only was the sound design horribly and laughably clumsy, not only are there FIVE origin stories drenched in voice-over to remove all narrative cohesion and halt its momentum, not only do they remove the C story line that once made you care for three people who die in the holocaust in NYC, but they removed the politics of the story as well.

In the novel, the Comedian's joke is that man's true face is hatred and violence. Veidt tops him by saving the world from hatred through xenophobia, but via a completely faked enemy. Do you think that that might have some connection to the Cold War or to Thatcher? Do you think it might have some connection to the War on Terror, where a real tragedy gets twisted to support self-destructive wars, just like the Cold War, just like the Falkland islands? Not any more!

Now, it's about how a hero nobly sacrifices himself by becoming the villain that will bring out the best in people. Sounds like Dark Knight Returns? It should. (Jon becomes the blue meanie, while Adrian enobles himself by taking the punishment he deserves.) So, really, you don't have to leave the movie theater with any disturbing thoughts about human nature or hero worship at all. A turn of events hich is very profitable for Zach Snyder

And, just like the homophobic 300, a powerful gay guy is the villain.

edgeshat said...

I really liked the movie, but there was still something it about that felt a bit off. The movie loses some momentum going in and out of every characters background story only to come back to the murder mystery around the last half hour or so. Granted, this also happens in the book, but the book has so many interesting layers that you forget what the overall plot is. The book gets away with it, but translating that into a movie presents alot of tonal problems.

I really liked the actors that play Rorschach and The Comedian. After seeing Haley make his comeback in Little Children I felt that he could really nail this part. I was less impress with Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre. She's not a very strong actress and placing her with better talent kinda showed that. However I'll give her the benefit of the doubt by saying that the Silk Spectre character was also the least interesting, even in the book.

I'm a little split on the songs. Some worked and some didn't. I really enjoyed the opening credits with Bob Dylan's song. I also liked the nod in the beginning to Batman. You see the original Nite Owl saving Bruce Wayne and his parents from Joe Chill. However Hallelujah and Balloons came off forced and silly.

Also I was surprised at how violent the movie was. The book had it's share of violence, but the movie made it kinda brutal. The Comedian's death was very gorey, but I loved how they handled the fight scene.

All in all I did enjoy it. I feel I'll enjoy it more with repeat viewings. I hope that director Zach Synder will put out his super director's cut with additional scenes and the pirate story put back into the movie.

Great review Nik!

David said...

And, to defend our blogger, Rorshack says, "Hurn" on page 16 of chapter X.

Brian Douglas said...

Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!

'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I thought the use of the song "Hallelujah" was funny and meant to be cheesy and ironic. It came at the moment where Nite Owl II is finally able to perform sexually, thanks to the fetishistic use of his costume and persona. He's basically impotent without them. It made me laugh.

I agree about the other songs. "99 Luft BAlloons" REALLY!

The people in my audience applauded loudly at Rorschach's announcement in the prison cafeteria.


Corey Redekop said...

I was tremendously gratified that the whole thing worked so well. Yes, the music was a little 'on the nose', but I had no problems with it. I was a little confused in some real world elements fitting into the fictional reality: Adrien's tv shows a clip from RAMBO, but they won Vietnam in that world, so why would they make RAMBO?

But that's quibbles. It was a difficult, challenging work, and if I could see the seams (it was a little too episodic at times), the overall effect was often astonishing. The comments are interesting, this is truly a love-or-hate movie.

But I do miss the squid-monster.

thomwade said...

Why would Rambo get made? I suppose in the world of Watchmen, it's an alternate universe tale... "What if we didn't win?" ;)

ashlie said...

@Nurse Brian -

That's too funny - my first question out of the theatre was, "What was the deal with that cat thing?" I'm starting the book today, can't wait!

joshua said...

I am a huge junkie for the comics (yes, comics, as that is how I bought them, one by one, and will always think of 'Watchmen' as such, but don't get me started on the whole "graphic novel" nomenclature issue, please, or I'll never shut up), and so far, I just can't bring myself to see it. If I did, however, I don't think it could ever be a matter of comparing one medium to the other. Far too much of my youthful identity is wrapped up in the appreciation of this story, silly as that may sound, and there is absolutely no way any adaptation could hold up to the significance of the experience. It would be like someone trying to boil down two or three seasons of LOST into one three-hour movie... How could one even begin to compare the myriad subtleties of detail within a story that had a virtually infinite space in which to stretch its legs to a version that is by necessity so truncated that almost half of its narrative content has been excised?

If I ever change my mind and decide I just have to see it anyway, I'll be sure to let you know what I think. But for now, I think I'd rather read the comics again. And again. And again.

Coincidentally, if you've never read Moore's 'Marvelman' series (which precluded the writing of 'Watchmen' and touches on many of the same elements in an even more intense albeit rather less subtle way), it is well worth the considerable trouble it would be to find copies. The title was changed to 'Miracleman' for its US editions (due to obvious copyright issues with using Marvel's name and property here) and was put out by a small California publisher called Eclipse Comics. The company suffered through several disasters in the late Eighties (a flood in '86 that destroyed most of their back issues, damage from the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987) that eventually led to their declaring bankruptcy in 1994, and the US rights to the book have been in a sort of limbo since then. There have been rumors that it would find republication with either Todd McFarlane (the Spawn guy, probably better known these days for his awesome grown-up toys, including the LOST ones!) or Neil Gaiman (who took up the mantle of writing the book for several issues at the end of Moore's official run), but who knows if it will ever truly be resolved. Meanwhile, it's probably easiest to secure them through a British source now.

Nikki Stafford said...

I love this! It's like my own carefully selected focus group. I wanted to get feedback from the other camps so badly and here you are! I'll tell you how badly... as we were walking out of the movie there were three fanboys probably 10 feet in front of us talking loudly and one of them said, "I just CAN'T BELIEVE they changed..." and I didn't hear the rest. I suddenly broke away from my husband, practically jogging, and inserted myself about 3 inches behind the guy who was talking, walking with my head down, really wanting to hear what they said. But at that point all it was was a series of "Mm hm... yeah... TOTALLY. I agree, I agree..." My husband thought I knew the guys. ;) We headed outside and they took off, and I heard two other people talking so I went over to them, but couldn't glean anything from it, either. So I threw out the question to you and now I realize I don't have to become a stalker at movie theatres. :)

David Drysdale: Thank you so much for your take on it. Only today I saw another reference to the movie as "obnoxious and bloated" so I think there's going to be a serious backlash against it. You pointed out a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way, but when you put it the way you did, I realized they're probably much worse than I was thinking of them.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated the music.

And I agree with you 100% on the post-apocalypse. When it happened, I thought, "OK, we've got a good 25 minutes left" and was surprised that they used that part of the movie as the climax and didn't have the denouement that the book gave us.

And wow, I totally missed all the references to Ozymandias being gay. Where the hell was I? Sheesh... apparently "Lost" is the only show I actually watch closely. I can't believe I missed that.

Anonymous: Thank you! I changed it, even though I see below that he actually does say "Hurn" once. I remember loving the "Hurm" that he mutters, and tried to replicate it, but I could never get the oomph behind it. Haley got it. :)

ashlie: Here's something I wanted to ask someone who's never read it: Were you confused by the switch between the Watchmen and the Minutemen? I tried watching part of the film through the eyes of someone who'd never read the book (which is probably impossible if you have read it) and I remember thinking that it might have been confusing that there were two groups of vigilantes, that there were Silk Spectres in both and Nite Owls in both, but the Comedian is in both of them... I know if I hadn't read the book I would have been baffled by all of that.

Nurse Brian: Agreed all around. I think your suggestion of "Ode to the Watchmen" might be bang on. I'm thinking, reading these comments, that this movie won't be bringing any new fans to the comic itself. I think part of David's anger (and the anger of a lot of the hardcore fans) is because we see this as letting in the "other" people who haven't actually read it, and to someone who wants a newbie to love the book as much as they do, this might be a lousy entrance into it. As someone who read the book and just wanted an enhancement to it, this worked for me.

thomwade: I've spoken with a lot of people who did not even realize it was based on a book, and they understood it.

Wow, interesting!!

David: Re: Nathan Fillion's Show: I was out of town this weekend and PVR'd it, and I cannot WAIT. The commercials for it always have me in stitches.

Otherwise, excellent take on everything. I'm really enjoying the other side of the coin on this one.

edgeshat: I think your review is the closest to my feelings on the film. Really enjoyed it, even if some things were wrong to me.

Brian: Yay! When I was typing this post I actually thought, I wonder what Brian Douglas thought of it? :) I always think of you as my resident comics guy, although now I see there are many of you out there, which makes me happy.

tanyam: Great take on it... especially since it ends with the shot of fire (I read somewhere last night that Alan Moore had originally considered the blast of flame in the comic but didn't do it at the last minute... is that true?) I will give them kudos for using the Cohen version over the superior Buckley version, only because the Buckley version has been overused. That said, that song is devastating to me (when Buckley sings it... maybe it's that connection I can't get past) and I don't like it being used as a joke. But the characterization of Dreiberg always has a bit of a smirk to it, so I think it works as you're seeing it, tanyam.

Corey: Adrien's tv shows a clip from RAMBO, but they won Vietnam in that world, so why would they make RAMBO?
OK, this is my single favourite comment. I TOTALLY didn't see Rambo!!! I think I was so thrilled by how much that scene matched the panel in the comics that I didn't even look at the TVs. How awesome. You watched this movie the way I watch Lost. :)

joshua: there is absolutely no way any adaptation could hold up to the significance of the experience. It would be like someone trying to boil down two or three seasons of LOST into one three-hour movie...

Oh, joshua... you always know the fastest way to my heart, don't you? :) You are absolutely right. Funny how this one line of yours makes all the fury of the fanboys who don't like the movie make perfect sense. I wouldn't even go to a Lost movie that boiled it down to 2 hours. How horrible. I read the book once, but if I'd read it 10 times and analyzed each character, I'm sure the movie would be a massive disappointment to me.

Speaking of which, I really did adore the book, and (please don't throw things at me) only read it a few months ago for the first time. Are there scholarly books that take an academic approach to it? I'd love to read more analysis on the comic, and then read it again. LOVED it.

Teebore said...

I think I was in the best place for this movie: I've read (and loved) the book, but not so recently that I remembered a lot of the details. So the broad strokes were there for me to fill in subconsciously, but I had forgotten some of the smaller details that bothered other fans of the original work.

I definitely think "Ode to Watchmen" is an apt description, but I'd add that it's not a bad thing: there's no way any movie can match the complexity of a book, and frankly, they shouldn't try...movies are complex in their own way, and tell a story differently than the written word, even if that word is accompanied by static images.

I'll run the risk of getting my comic book geek card shredded and agree with you Nikki that I didn't mind removal of the alien squid at the end...that has always nagged at me, a flaw at the end of an otherwise magnificent work. The important thing for me regarding the ending was, again, that they got the broad strokes right while the exact details of it didn't matter much to me, and they did that.

I didn't mind the selection of the music (I'm critically inept when it comes to music, so having the selections be a little too on the nose didn't bother me) but as a film score buff, I definitely would have liked more score and less songs.

A friend of mine did wonder though, similar to the comment about Rambo, if the protest music of the 60s, specifically Bob Dylan, would have been the same in this world where Vietnam ended when it did.

Regarding Dan's howl at Rorschach's death: while I agree it was melodramatic and over the top, I think it was necessary in the film to give the audience some kind of catharsis. After all, Rorschach is presented, for the most part, as the main protagonist of the film, and I think it's important to give a mass audience some kind of reaction to the death of their protagonist.

Such catharsis isn't as necessary, I don't think, in the comic, where the relationship between the material and the audience is a lot more personal and intimate...but for a big audience, the death of (arguably) the main character requires, I think, some kind of reaction that speaks for the viewers.

Oh, and Nikki, the sight gag of Archimedes's fire blast as Dan, um, "succeeds in his mission" was in the comic; it's one of my favorite gags and I'm glad it made it into the film. :)

ashlie said...

Hey Nikki - nope, I didn't find the Minutemen/Watchmen thing confusing, it made total sense to me that the Watchmen were just a new incarnation of an old idea. I should say that while I haven't read the book yet (it's in my bag right now waiting for my lunch break!) I did research it somewhat beforehand in anticipation of the movie. I've been resisting my comic book nerd urges for years and am just now starting to embrace them! I'm so anxious to see what the book holds and then rush out to see the movie again!

doyousmellcarrots said...

I loved the watchmen movie, but I could have done without the cgi nudity.
Nikki, I was curious if you caught the season premiere of castle last night? Nathan fillion looked more comfortable in the role of Richard castle that he ever did on lost, desperate housewives, or firefly.

joshua said...

I've never encountered any significant examples of literary criticism with regard to 'Watchmen' but have heard good things about the related portions of Heather Duda's book 'The Monster Hunter In Modern Popular Culture'. (Which, to be honest, I'm kinda surprised you don't own already -- don't you belong to some kind of mailing list that sends you noisy alerts any time Buffy-related media is released into the wild?)

The following site is cool and worth checking out, if not a bit confusing to navigate at first:

(Use the little drop-down menu in the left hand bar to move from chapter to chapter, I-XII...)

This is a good article but somewhat dated, as it was written before the whole idea of "geek chic" really exploded into the culture like it has in the past 6-8 years:

Let me know if you find anything else!

ashlie said...

Oh, I wanted to know if anyone else is irritated by the movie being referred to as "The Watchmen" instead of just "Watchmen". When I went to buy tickets, the screen for our show said "The Watchmen" but other shows said "Watchmen". I almost didn't get tickets for the showtime that I wanted on the principle that the movie was wrong!

The Alex Ross Collector said...

Totally agree with you. Loved the novel, loved the movie. True, the soundtrack was kinda odd but didn't take away too much from the plot IMO. Except Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Atrocious!

JJ said...

Well, I'm a little late to this party, but I'll comment anyway.

First off, I've read the book (twice, both times in the last year) and loved both versions.

David, I did not feel the film precludes people from interpreting it as you do, as a condemnation of xenophobia. I'm actually a litle confused by all the emotion you put into your complaint -- yes, some peripheral storylines were removed to cut the run time (at 163 minutes, the film is long enough) but audiences are still asked the same questions:

Was Veidt right?

Was Rorschach right?

Why don't I hate the Comedian (more than I do)? Etc....

The book does not drop the message you took from it like an anvil, and I'm glad Snyder restrained himself from using the film as a platform to preach from. He told the story and, like Moore, lets fans figure it out themselves.

On the squid debate, I'm pro-squid in the comic -- the fact that it's completely absurd is the whole point! However, it doesn't "ruin" the film.

I agree with a lot of others here that the second act is too episodic. Not all the storylines (coughlaurie&dansromancecough) can be as cool as Rorschach going to prison, so at times the film drags.

The music was fine with me.

So what does everyone feel about the characters?

Rorschach: Damaged-beyond-repair psycho or the only one strong enough to keep fighting the good fight?

Dan: Flake with a very weird fetish or the most straightforwardly heroic character in the story?

Laurie: Foul-mouthed Sweet Polly Oliver or to-the-point action girl?

Manhatten: Out of touch or ... wait, that's not in question ... uh ... just, what did everyone think of all the characters?

redeem147 said...

I've read the book before, but purposely didn't re-read it before the film. I absolutely loved it. Apart from Silk Spectre II's performance, I think the film was perfect.

My brother is one of those die-hard fans you mentioned. He loved it too. He also preferred the film ending to the book's.

It's been a great week for watching Stephen McHattie films. :)

redeem147 said...

BTW, I liked the music. Though it made we wonder if Nite Owl and Rorschach were cylons.

Thank goodness they cut that stupid pirate story.

helfron said...

I was too old and had seen too many "adult" Hollywood movies and too many European art films to get into that ultimate juvenile bacchanalia Star Wars. I feel much the same way about this. I would much rather spend my time watching Dardennes films, Rohmer films, Mungiu films, and even classic Hollywood and classic European art films. I will be at MOMA.

redeem147 said...

Oh, and what's the problem with having a song about sex during a sex scene? Too on the nose?

Jenn said...

I saw the trailer for Watchmen when I went to see Dark Knight. I was so intrigued by it, I immediately bought the book, read it, and loved it ever since!
I remember telling a friend right after reading the book that I was especially excited to see how they were going to do the giant squid on the big screen. For that reason, I am disappointed that Snyder didn't go for it.
I agree with the majority of you who say that the actress who played Silk Spectre II did a poor job. However, I feel that all of the actors in the film had their work truly cut out for them because the film just didn't have room to provide the character development that you see in the book.
Lastly, I appreciate that this film is reflective of the dark tone of the novel. For one second I was afraid that they might try to take the grim and dismal tone of the novel and clean it up for the masses. Thankfully they did not do this. The raw and gritty tone remained intact, and for that I am grateful.
And I know it's unrelated—but Nikki, I just finished Finding Lost Season 4—your powers of observation rock! :)

RenaissanceMan said...

I have read the "Watchmen" several times over the last 20 years, and have have waited patiently for the movie for the same length of time.
I myself thought the movie was an incredible adaptation... absolutely loved it!!
To all you naysayers and nitpickers out there... I'd just like to ask you if you keep your copy of "Watchmen" in your colon, 'cause you seem to have your heads up your @$$!!!

mgkoeln said...

As someone who hadn't read the novel beforehand (I'm in chapter 3 right now), I really did like the film and understood it quite well. I had already read a very revealing article on the movie's troubled history in UK's "Total Film" magazine, though, so I was in on the whole concept. That surely made it easier.

As I predicted after seeing the advamce press screening two weeks ago, the film didn't do so well over here at the German box office. It opened at number 3. "Watchmen" hasn't got a huge fanbase here - and I don't think that the movie's marketing campain did it any justice. The trailers look like your average superhero flick and selling it with Zack Snyder being the director of "300" makes you expect a dumb action piece (I absolutely hated "300"!) and not a character driven movie like "Watchmen" is. So, the movie will probably attract the wrong viewers who will be totally disappointed over the lack of action.

Much has been written already and I tend to agree with most of the positive opinions. I actually liked the movies twist with Ozimandias trying to blame the apocalypse on Doc Manhattan - and was quite surprised when I heard that it were aliens in the original. I'm looking forward to read how that works in the book.

Just like you, Nikki, I totally missed out on the allusions of Veidt being gay - though being gay myself my gaydar must have been in sleep mode.

Oh, and I actually liked the music. In cases like this, the language barrier might actually be a good thing, as I only found it quite moody and didn't think about the lyrics too much. (Except in case of "99 Luftballons" wich of course, for a German isn't only a piece of trashy 80s pop - which, it is - but has also some cold war allusions in the lyrics that fit the movie quite well.) And I absolutely loved the use of Philip Glass' ecxellent "Koyanisqaatsi"-score during the Mars scenes. This just gave me chills!

So, all in all, a quite unique movie of a probably even better book. And I think every fan of the novel should be thankful to Zack Snyder how truthful he tried to use the original material. They already had scripts shifting the whole thing to the war on terror and other changes like that - so it's great that he came back to the novel's original concept.

Estoye said...

I was surprised how well it held together. While I don't think the acting was top notch, I did find myself caring about Dan & Laurie a bit more than I did in the book.

Some of the soundtrack choices were jarringly bad. but overall, I really enjoyed it.

ashlie said...

Okay, this is somewhat off-topic, but my fiance and I are arguing over whether or not Rorschach is the same guy who carries around "The End is Nigh" sign. I thought it was him when I watched the movie, and I think the same thing from reading the book, but he didn't get that impression. Can anyone settle the argument? (Preferably by saying I'm right?)

Nikki Stafford said...

ashlie: I think it's absolutely the same guy. In fact, I remember when talking to my husband that I was surprised we didn't see more of the poster-carrier (he's in the beginning and we see him at the newsstand at one point, but he doesn't walk by the cemetery like I remember him doing in the book). But yes, Rorschach is the guy carrying the sign. :)

ashlie said...

Ha ha! Victory is mine, thanks Nikki! I thought so when I was watching the movie, and now that I'm reading the book, I was even more convinced. I will be gloating tonight, all thanks to you!

Anonymous said...

ok, I'm in my fifties and read the comic when it first came out as a graphic novel so I kind of agree with the person who said that "his subconcious remembered the movie" so the little changes didn't bother him.
I went to see this film with my 21 year old son who just read the book a couple of months ago so here is our perspective.
I agree that the changing of the blame from aliens to Dr. Manhattan tightenas up the plot and makes it easier to understand for anyone who hasn't read the book. It also makes Ozymandias more of a bastard (supervillian?) and my son agrees on this point.
We both agree that the characters could have used more emotional depth (except perhaps for the Comedian & Rorschach) but feel that can be a problem with any long story trying to adapt it to a film.
I agree that the music (especially the pop songs) for the most part don't work well but my son (not having grown up hearing them in their original time and context had no problem with them.
As to Dan's long "No" at Rorschach's murder being cartharis, I think that is a valid point, not needed in literature but relevant in the film.
The best point someone has made and I agree is that we don't get enough of the real horror of the mass killing involved and the spotty appearance of the reporter who will find Rorschach's journal.
All in all, we both agree, a good job as a film but perhaps it should have been done as a televised miniseries to do the storyline justice.
Can't wait for the longer director's cut (which is supposed to be released to theaters in July), hopefully that will ease some of the misgivings I felt upon my first viewing of this film.


thomwade said...

He is at the cemetery with the sign though. And yeah, that is Jackie Earl Haley.

Corey Redekop said...

Gotta say, I have not talked to anyone who has a 'meh' opinion. It's love or hate, all the way.

David said...

I'm not sure which David JJ's replying to, especially since we largely agree.

I feel like I've written what I have to say about this film:

* You don't care that NY dies, because you never see anyone in NY without a cape who doesn't deserve to die from the action movie ethos.

* The action scenes have more grotesque violence (meant to be thrilling) than the aftermath of the city-wide strike. That allows you to feel perfectly fine in the action movie's arousal of mob blood lust. You are never implicated for your desires.

* The film presents Doc and Ozy as being noble, making the tough calls and being self-sacrificing. And it makes Rorschach's sacrifice be mourned, and meaningful, rather than utterly uncompromising.

* The plot's largely the same, but the theme is radically altered by the shifts to the ending. Saving the world through creating a scapegoat out of Jon is NOT the same as saving the world through xenophobia. The former is the plot of Dark Knight Returns. It makes you feel like you need heroes to make such sacrifices. The latter is a joke to drive a Comedian mad. It makes you wonder at whether superhero narratives promote xenophobia... and makes you ask if you're okay with that.

* The film makes you feel good and presents a clean, simple and ultimately disposable experience. The comic book makes you a better reader by implicating you in your desires and by providing a complexly interwoven narrative that makes you work. With the comic, you'll never read a heroic narrative the same way again. That missed opportunity is what draws my ire.

* Zach Snyder now has a history of homophobia in his filmmaking.

David said...

And, really, if you're going to be an action movie, BE AN ACTION MOVIE. Strip out the five origin stories, tell it in linear fashion to increase the propulsive power of the plot, grab me by the throat and don't let go. I could have respected that decision, especially since that would make the ending that much more shocking. After all, an adaptation should take into account the advantages of the medium.

Instead, every time a bit of narrative momentum built up, it was dissolved by back story. That's the point of the graphic novel; that's not the point of the film. It's faithful, without having much idea of what it's being faithful to.

The moral of this story is that you should make a film that's either an action movie or an extremely pointed critique of heroic narratives. If you try to do both, you better succeed at both, lest you become neither.

Candice said...

I think I disagree with your film critic friend. I went to see it with two friends, none of us having read the graphic novel. I can safely say that we all enjoyed it immensely and had no trouble following the storyline.

I sometimes had some confusion about how old some of the characters were, and particularly what their "superpowers" were, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment at all.

I loved all the ambiguity, not knowing why people had made the choices they had, what things had happened to them in the past to get them where they were.

I walked out of the theatre kind of feeling like I needed a soul shower. I felt a little sullied, cause nobody was right. The one who wanted to fix the world did terrible things to get there and the one who thought the people should be saved also thought they deserved whatever they had coming to them.

I need to see it again cause the heaviness of the topic was too much to process the first time. Maybe on my second viewing I will crave more explanation to tell the story. I'll let you know how the second viewing goes.

redeem147 said...

Fear of Dr. Manhattan IS fear of the other (xenophobia). He is NOT us.

I know that Snyder's being called homophobic, though a number of people I know (including me) didn't pick up on Ozymandias' homosexuality. I felt very sad for Silhouette who seemed to be a victim of gay bashing to the extreme. Then again, I didn't see 300, so perhaps that's why there's a pattern I'm not perceiving.

I thought the ending was morally challenging. I loved the narrative structure.

And one thing I don't think has been mentioned - that was one of the best title sequences ever.

I don't know if anyone else here has seen the rather terrible Phantom of the Opera movie, but Patrick Wilson played Raoul. Nite Owl can sing.

Teebore said...

Nite Owl can sing

Huh. I have seen Phantom of the Opera, and completely forgot that was him.

My point of reference for Patrick Wilson was as Travis in the Alamo movie a few years back, the one with Billy Bob Thornton.

Regarding the squid vs. Manhattan debate, one of the things that always bothered me about the alien squid was that it only attacked New York and killed Americans.

Would that have really united the world in xenophobia? Wouldn't the Russians just interpret/propagandize the attack as proof that the aliens must be communist too, since they attacked the center of decadent Western capitalism?

Rather than drive the opposing forces together in fear, wouldn't a perceived alien attack on New York just give the Russians something to gloat about?

While we didn't see all the destruction, the film made a point of establishing that Adrian's "Dr. Manhattan bomb" attacked cities all over the world, creating a global threat that would unite the world against a common (and feared) enemy.

It's been a bit since I last read the comic (I didn't want to spend too much of the film comparing it) so perhaps I'm forgetting a smaller detail in Adrian's plan therein, but as I recall the broad strokes, the attack only occurred in New York.

Blam said...

I don't want you to think I'm only stopping by for Lost posts, Nikki. I've just been either working hard or under the weather.

The only thing I really have to add here is to Corey's point: I'm kind-of meh on the movie, actually. I certainly don't love it, but I can't hate it, because it wasn't entirely incompetent and I appreciate Zack Snyder's position. I don't think it did justice to the book, although it tried, but more importantly I don't think it held together as a movie in its own right.

I wish it hadn't been quite so literally beholden to the source material, to be honest, and that's coming from someone who's read comics his whole life, written about them professionally, bought the individual Watchmen issues as they were released, and read the collected edition more than once.

More properly I think it would've been both more accessible and more reflective of the graphic novel if it had been truer to the book's sensibility, its methods of storytelling, rather than go for superficial fidelity to what happened plotwise. Ask most devotees what's so special about the work, and you'll hear not only about its exploration of superheroes in a grown-up fashion but its manipulation of time, the back-chapter text matter, the nine-panel grid template, its recurring visual motifs, and other narrative exercises.

What's most frustrating to me is that based on the movie as delivered and what it got right, it actually could've been thrillingly good, had only better choices been made, particularly with casting, structure, and of course the mostly dreadful music cues. I went to a midnight screening when it opened, and there was plenty of spontaneous laughter at the film's expense from die-hard fantasy lovers who had every reason to want the movie to be excellent.

I've talked the nuances of the film to death with both comics and non-comics folks by now, and this thread died down five days ago, so there's no point in rehashing it further. You'll find a comprehensive review clickable from top left of the main page of my blog if you'd like to read it, but I promise I'm not just trying to drive traffic there. I'm glad to hear that so many people here liked it.