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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 12:02 AM        Weekly Movie Review: Watchmen
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 12:03 AM       
Here's the Protoclown take:

Though I'm not sure a Watchmen movie should ever have been attempted, it was inevitable that Hollywood would get around to it sooner or later, and chances were that it would pale in comparison to what many people consider the best comic ever written. I'm happy to say that Zack Snyder's version was actually pretty good, all things considered--he managed to condense the story down into less than three hours and keep all the major themes intact, which is a pretty impressive feat by any measure.

However, I couldn't help but feel as I watched the movie that the plot seems rushed along--too many characters suffer from truncated back stories (Rorshach and Dr. Manhattan in particular), and this really lessens the emotional weight of the film. By necessity of the immensely complex story and the time constraints of film that don't affect the comic, the story doesn't have nearly the gravitas that its print version enjoys. This is one of many reasons why Alan Moore said way back when that he wrote Watchmen to illustrate the things that the comic book medium could do that neither film nor straight prose could accomplish. This movie only serves to prove his point. While the book is an innovative, revolutionary masterpiece compared to other comics (especially in 1986!), the film fails to tower above its celluloid siblings in the same way.

It was a damned fine adaptation, don't get me wrong--I don't think anyone could have done it better--but so much of the mind-blowing synchronicity and symbolism in the comic is completely lost here. Even if they do restore the "Tales From the Black Freighter" story into the director's cut, I doubt its parallels to the main story will be as apparent or as poignant to the viewer. And the fifth issue, "Fearful Symmetry", which is probably the most ambitious and elegantly designed single comic ever put to paper (wherein the second half of the issue visually mirrors the first half) is by its very nature impossible to replicate on film. It's not that the film was particularly lacking by any stretch--it's just that the comic has a whole bag of tricks to employ that the film can't possibly take advantage of.

A friend of mine after watching it said that he couldn't believe that anyone who hadn't read the book could make much sense out of the story, and I'm inclined to agree. Granted, being very familiar with the book it's hard for me to see the film through the eyes of someone new to the story, but I can see where the events of the film might have seemed somewhat disjointed and chaotic to the average audience member who didn't walk into the theater already a fan.

A lot of people complain about the removal of the squid from the film, but I'm here to tell you that swapping out the one MacGuffin for another doesn't really affect the outcome of the story, so I don't have a problem with it. The aftermath of the squid is far more visually striking than what they used in the film, but ultimately the difference means very little. And Dave Gibbons, artist of the comic, endorsed the new ending and even drew up storyboards for it in the style of the comic. If half the creative force behind the book is okay with it, then that's good enough for me.

The most offensive thing about the film to me was the fact that they referred to the group of characters as "the Watchmen". Those who have read the comic realize that there was not only never a team called "the Watchmen" (in fact, the word never once fully appears in the comic--you only ever see portions of the word in various instances of wall graffiti), but that those characters never existed as a team in the first place. They had one group meeting, during which the cheesy name "Crimebusters" was proposed, but the Comedian pointed out the absurdity of their foolish dream and that was that. Some of the characters worked together afterward, sure, but not as a cohesive "Justice League" kind of team, coming back to headquarters after a job well done and giving each other high-fives before hitting the showers. The title refers instead to the concept of authority itself--"who watches the watchmen?" basically means "who's keeping tabs on these guys who have appointed themselves our protectors?" The fact that Zack Snyder utterly ignored that tells me that he either doesn't understand the title himself, or (more likely) he or the producers felt that the average American was too dense to get it. Sadly, they are probably right, but given that the film was smart in so many other ways, shouldn't they have given us the benefit of the doubt, rather than insult our intelligence?

If I hated any one thing about the film, it was that. If I hated two things, it was that and Richard Nixon's ridiculous nose, which made him impossible to take seriously. Any other changes made I can live with, and I suspect (and hope) that the upcoming director's cut may alleviate many of the problems I had with truncated back stories. I look forward to seeing the full version of the movie as Snyder intended, and I think that might be just the thing to bump this up in status from "good" movie to great movie.

Oh, and for my money, the most exciting and interesting part of the movie was the opening credit sequence, where Snyder really got to flex his imagination muscles, putting together an extremely effective montage sequence showing the history that leads up to this alternate 1985, set to the perfectly chosen "The Times They Are A'Changin'" by Bob Dylan. Snyder gave us his interpretation of a bunch of moments that were mentioned but never actually shown in the comic. It was the only time that the movie brought something new and creative to the table, and given how much I loved that brilliant sequence, it's almost a shame that Snyder didn't take a few more creative liberties here and there, fleshing out the previously unseen bits of the story with more extrapolations.

"It's like I'm livin' in a stinkin' poop rainbow." - Cordelia Burbank
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 01:07 AM       
I will enjoy the movie, but all these little changes will probably bother me while I watch it.

Last edited by Nick : Mar 10th, 2009 at 10:04 PM.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 01:23 AM       
I agree that the opening credits were a work of art. Luckily for us, the people who made the sequence were so proud of it they posted it for all to purvey.

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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 02:01 AM       
the movie has him working as a pastry chef, solving crimes at night and then sneaking back to his bakery early in the morning. His living arrangements have also been changed so that in the movie, he is roommates with Dan Dreiberg (aka Nite Owl II). Also, and this really threw me for a loop, he adds a sort of trilling sound (“like a dove,” one of the characters explains) to the end of sentences that contain his superhero name.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 02:27 AM       
This is the first time I've heard of this movie, since comic books couldn't interest me in the least.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 02:50 AM       
OK...hahaha.. I'll be the one to call the joke about the "changes" and I look forward to a real review. I literally stepped back and wondered if it was April 1st.

I liked it. I'm one of the few who are familiar enough with the source that sits back and says, "No one will be happy, let's see what they do". Aside from being one of the hordes wanting his giant squid back, I acknowledge that there was no "right" way to do this and was just happy to see my little fan boy moments on screen. A couple of characters they nailed in casting (Comedian, Rorschach), some were missed (Ozymandias..... yep). But overall I won't bitch. Zach or the screenwriter had big blue balls to push for what they accomplished, and though we may be happy in our displeasure... It was made, it was OK... And if you think about it, that's a feat unto itself considering the source.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 03:35 AM       
I'm in line with Proto on this one. (You have to take the wrapper off the cigar before you smoke it, Dr Boogie!) Overall it's a flawed masterpiece, IMO. Eventually, the full 3 to 3 and 1/2 hour version will come out on DVD, and that will truly be awesome.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 04:05 AM       
I saw the previews for this film, and found it midly intriguing and left it at that until I heard of the HUGE pre-orders of tickets and thought, "there must be something to this". I had heard of the watchmen comics before, but seeing as how I was never a big of these overly thought-provoking social commentary pieces I ignored it all these years until just last week when I read the whole thing in one shot. Simply put, the book itself is AMAZING, even to a guy like me who writes off similar books as pretentious crap. Upon finishing the series though, three things became apparent to me that would make this film IMPOSSIBLE to translate into a single film.

1. This is a very wordy series with next to no filler (The pirate side-story excluded.) Seriously, ingnore the special interviews/documents at the end of the books and just read all twelve issues. I think there's something along the line of 6 HOURS of dialog, and that doesn't include time for shots of action scenes or dramatic vistas. It seems to me this book could only be translated to a mini-series and NOT a film. It is simply too long and there isn't a single conversation that can be cut without removing either a crucial backstory, or a situation that'll be used for an emotional payoff later.

2. Upon first reading the book it becomes apparent that the visual style of the book is terribly terribly bad on purpose. Upon further inspection, this bad visual style is crucial to the comments that the book tries to put across. From the "silver age" first generation to the "holy impractical costumes and pot bellies batman" next generation to the "kids love XTREMEZ" designs of Dr. Manhattan and the final version of the comedian, this book is a quite blatent pardoy of how bad comic book designs were and how badly they translate to real life. Of course a film is pretty close to real life visually and seeing as how hollywood visual designers are complete morons they had to ruin this aspect of the film as just from the previews, it is apparent that even though the film is supposed to be set in the 70's they gave all the heroes modern movie style costumes. Miss Jupiter II, instead of wearing basically a swimsuit with a nightie over it, is in some lame xmen the movie ripoff getup, nightowl, instead of looking like the dork wanna be he is (think addam west's batman) looks all dark and cool and the comedian looks like something out of batman forever, which isn't too far off, but still. Even poor rorshach wasn't immune. See if you read the book it becomes apparent that this guy isn't exactly clean, in fact he's down right filthy. He picks up his costume from a new york alley for christs sake! Also it is explained in the book that his mask is made by suspended fluid sealed between two layers of latex, in other words, those "bloody scream" masks you see at halloween. I'm still on the fence as to if the "magic cloth" look effects the character adversely though.

3. Sort of related to #2, but a unique problem in it's own right is the fact that with the exception of Dr. M, Jupiter Girl and the rich guy (sorry I can never remember how to spell his name right) ALL of the characters in watchmen are down right FUGLY. This is a CRUCIAL part of the book as it mirrors the sentiment "on paper super heroes are a good idea, in real life not so much". Night Owl II is fat pudgy dork who's a glorified fanboy straight out of comicon with too much time and money on his hands. Rorshach is a down right fulgy little imp of a man and his appearance is a CRUCIAL part of his character. I watched the trailer right after I was done reading, and sure enough, all of the characters are pretty boys. They even went so far as to remove the scar from modern-day comedians face, which again, was a crucial part of his character, symbolically representing the emotional scars he had carried all of this years.

And finally something intangible that I'm certain they couldn't put in the film due to all of the above is the thought-provoking ending of the series. This is one of these books in which different people can get diferent things out of it, but for me at least, it came out as a re-evaluation of what exactly a hero is. At the beginning of the series you are introduced to this very dark, almost evil rorshach and this band of goody-goody "true" superheroes as well is this almost imhumanly bad comedian. By the end of the series, due to backstory and the exploration of the reasons this individuals became heroes as well as their reactions to the ending, everything flips. Rorshach, is the only true hero in the book, with the rest turning out to be pretentious, self-absorbed pricks. It's important to realize that rorshach is the ONLY character in the book that simply wanted justice in the world brining about the moral that why you are being heroic is far more important that any herioc deeds you do at the end of the day. The comedian turns out the be the most human of the characters, despite his impressive list of flaws possibly understanding the grander scheme of things far better than the god-like mr. M or the genius pretty boy know it all. This drive home the old "with great power comes great responsibility" gimmick and that knowledge is power and not the other way around.

There's no possible way these things could be fleshed out in a single 2 hours of film and because of this I've ironically chosen to skip the film that inspired me to read the book in the first place. I suggest everyone else do so as well. Simply read the book, realize how terrible the film must be and simply let it got, possibly to watch it on cable some night a year or two from now.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 05:26 AM       
I completely agree with Protoclown on this one. You read my mind, dude. I'm looking for ward to the director's cut, which I've read is over 190 minutes long and restores a lot of the backstory.

The movie is a fine and faithful adaptation without that stuff, but adding it back in may push it over the line into true greatness.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 06:05 AM       
When asked in an interview with ReelzChannel.com about original 'Watchmen' writer Alan Moore's dismissal of his movie, Snyder was quoted as saying "Worst case scenario - Alan puts the movie on his DVD player on a cold Sunday in London and watches and says, 'Yeah, that doesn't suck too bad.'" When this was brought up with Moore himself in a later interview in the British Tripwire comics fanzine, the writer commented "That's the worst case scenario? I think he's underestimated what the worst case scenario would be... that's never going to happen in my DVD player in 'London' [Moore very famously lives in Northampton]. I'm never going to watch this fucking thing."

Doesn't really sound like an endorsement...
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:40 AM       
To start, I have not yet seen it. I was wondering though, for those who have:
My worry with taking out the squid is from the structural end of things. I mean, as far as I see it, part of the idea is that Veidt is so fucking smart that he's planned out everything, and getting Manhattan to abandon humanity just seems like such a big part of that. How exactly does Snyder justify having Manhattan appear to come back? Or is it just that everyone starts going "Space God's a'comin'! Space God's a'comin'!" I mean, look, I'm with you in a way, Proto -- the squid is... well it's a big fucking squid in the middle of a comic book. But still, I've read through "Watchmen" a bunch of times, and the more I've read it, the more I've come to the decision of that, though in a lot of ways it doesn't work, Moore has put in the work to get it in there. Outside of the whole, apparently there are psychics thing.

Also, just to sort of disagree with what HowardC has said... I don't know if Moore would look at Rorshach as a hero. I mean, what Moore is talking about with "Watchmen" is that the hero is a fascist at its core. Rorshach included. Now, Rorshach is the only guy who's willing to go to the mat for his beliefs, that's true, but at the same time... Rorshach is going to destroy the entire world. The New Frontiersmen is going to print Rorshach's journal, and the incredibly fragile peace that Veidt has created on the bodies of millions of New Yorkers is going to vanish. Nothing's black and white in "Watchmen", there are no heroes, just freaks in costumes dispensing some form of vigilanty justice. The reason that Dan and Laurie wind up being the only ones to sort of come out intact on the other end is because of their humanity. That's what Moore's really setting up: the human v. the superhuman. I'm just saying, I don't think you can really see Rorshach as a hero either.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:58 AM       
Zack Snider got My Chemical Romance to cover a Bob Dylan song for the soundtrack to this.

Dead to me.

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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 11:32 AM       
I plan on seeing it later in the week when it opens here. I've never read the comic, so I will have no unrealistic expectations going in. Then later when I do read the comic, I'll write off the movie as an abomination. That's how it goes, right?
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 03:28 PM       
Wait... oh wait, I get it.

I do agree a bit with Proto's review, but in general I really enjoyed this movie. The actors did a great job (especially Manhattan and Rorschach, they were spot-on), the visuals were great, the changes were either too minor to worry about, going to be put back in with the DC (Hollis Mason anyone?), or worked for the film (I'm alright with the no-squid ending, is what I'm trying to say). I suppose a big problem with it, though, is that so much of the movie is exactly the same as the comic (shot-for-panel and line-for-line) that there isn't much new to learn or interpret. But hey, still looks cool (and the prison sequences were exactly what I hoped they would be; sock-rockingly awesome). So, I say good movie, and I'm definitely seeing it again.

And yeah, the Nixon nose was a bit much. Pinocchio connections aside, that's something to tone down (though I had seen Frost/Nixon a few days before I saw this, so that probably put me off as well).
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 03:31 PM       
DB gives it 1/2 pickle, PC 3 1/2 pickles....WTF!!!
Watchman was the best comic I ever read, you have to know going in that no film will ever come close. But hey, it made 55 million in 2 days, thats all Snyder cares about.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 04:21 PM       
I love I-Mockery. All the boards over at Fark can talk about is Dr. M's penis' screen-time. I'll probably wait for the DVD, sounds like the best thing to do, since I read and liked the novel.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 04:24 PM       
Don't hate on Fark.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 05:05 PM       
I've never read the comic, so going to see the movie would probably not bwe the best idea, eh?
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:31 PM       
eh you might actually enjoy the movie more if you haven't read the books
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:38 PM       
I have been waiting to comment here since I saw the Thursday night/Friday morning midnight show.

First of all, I take it Dr. Boogie really hated even the slight changes they made due to his outlandish accusations. I believe you're saying that the film basically did these things just by bastardizing the comic into film?

Now, Watchmen has always been to me a character-driven story. So, the actors need to be cast properly and do their jobs well. The actor playing Dan Dreiberg was born to play the role in my opinion. He was the greatest shlub I've ever seen and so properly overwhelmed. The Comedian did a fine job as the Comedian, and I enjoyed the portrayal of Rorschach by the super ugly dude, though if I were the director I would have expanded his backstory to fit the comic. Silk Spectre did not protray the Silk Spectre that was in the novel. It was a much different type of character, yet for the movie worked incredibly well somehow. She fit with the movie's interpretation, so it fit. Dr. Manhattan was a bit too...obvious, I guess, and a bit too high-pitched for my tastes. They could have done better, but it didn't bother me too much.

Which brings me to Ozymandias. WHY, GOD, WHY? I spent the entire movie thinking: I want to strangle this man. I want to apply a lathe to his skull. Maybe if I believe, and get the theater to all clap our hands, his head will explode. Alas, I had to deal with this fool. Not only was he the worst actor in the movie, not only was he completely miscast and the size of a toothpick, not only were his story and motives butchered to where he actually seemed like a Bond villain, but his speech impediment drove me to madness. Let us sample some lines as they sounded:

"And now, my plan will come to frooithhon."
"Modeled my self af ter the great Alex thander of Mathe donia."

Of course Watchmen could have been done better. That's why there's a comic book. And you guys may insult for this, but I for one am glad the topknots did not bust in and kill Hollis Mason. That is my least favorite part of the graphic novel. And yes, calling them "watchmen" got my guff too.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:48 PM       
I honestly didn't really like the graphic novel, and I don't like Moore as a person or a writer, he's got entirely too much of his own freaky crap that gets in the way of everything he writes. I liked the characters, I liked the plot progression, I liked the well planned out history for everything, but the awkward and garish choices that could have been avoided to increase its artistic merit and emotional impact really ruin it.

Alan Moore also has the problem of writing like someone would if they were writing narration for Morgan Freeman, he tries to use repetition to increase the emotional response as is common in poems and songs, but he forgets to make the repeated phrase take on a new perspective when it "pays" off. He does use it fairly well in Doctor Manhattan's time-travel/flashback sequence, but often when the technique is employed it rings hollow.

I like adaptations of his work though, I really loved V For Vendetta, the Wachowski brothers took a mediocre, pretentious, silly and at its core, faulty story and made a truly fantastic movie on the same level as A Clockwork Orange, by using his talent and eliminating the crap. I had hoped this would be a similar situation, although there was no way it could be as good as V, I really enjoyed Snyder's remake of Dawn of The Dead, and 300 was pretty good the first time I saw it, but from Protoclown and Boogie's comments, I can see that he was just too faithful to the wrong details, and unfaithful to the important ones.

Plus, the whole ending has always bothered me, the story has got such a slow burn build up and then suddenly they put everything together, go to the place, have a ten second chat, some more stuff happens then its over, it always seemed very rushed to me, like they forgot they were telling a story.

Why would Doctor Manhattan keep his genitals after deciding he was post-human and utterly beyond humanity? Post-humans don't breed, they don't need floppy bits, the answer is because Alan Moore is a freak.
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Old Mar 11th, 2009, 02:51 AM       
I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought V for Vendetta the movie was far better made than the comic was...

Also, kinda sucked to be the only one in my group that had read The Watchmen prior to seeing the movie...
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Old Mar 11th, 2009, 06:35 AM       
And Proto, I'm sorry but "The times they are a-changing" as a song to show the transition from the 60's to the 80's? Mmmm, that's not a perfect choice, it's the obvious choice, like choosing "Unchained Melody" for a transition from clay to pot!
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Old Mar 11th, 2009, 07:42 AM       
Originally Posted by Grishnak View Post
And Proto, I'm sorry but "The times they are a-changing" as a song to show the transition from the 60's to the 80's? Mmmm, that's not a perfect choice, it's the obvious choice, like choosing "Unchained Melody" for a transition from clay to pot!

The book is interwoven deeply with Bob Dylan quotes, they bookmark the beginning and end of several chapters and tie in significantly with whats ongoing, so while it is a typical song to use for a transition, it has a deeper importance and connection with the Watchmen then is typical of things that make use of it. So, yes, it is a perfect choice.

The word "perfect" means "bring to completion" at its most basic core, so if if a circle is missing a triangle shaped piece, and you have a triangle piece and two octagons, despite being the most obvious choice, the triangle is the perfect choice, and the song in question is the triangle piece to the opening sequence, no song would have been more appropriate, better fitting or a better companion.
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