Sunday, March 08, 2009

At the movies: Watchmen

Went to see "Watchmen" yesterday afternoon, and while I'm no longer quite as gung-ho for the film as I was when I saw the first 18 minutes at Comic-Con, I'm glad I saw it. More specific thoughts (complete with some spoilers) coming up just as soon as I go to the men's room...

A few casting issues (which I'll get to in a bit) aside, I thought Zack Snyder and company did as good a job of adapting the story of "Watchmen" as I think a movie can. I thought the revamped ending worked fine (especially since I always found the alien squid from the comic to be really cheesey), and there were a number of moments (Rorshach in the cafeteria, Dr. Manhattan alone on Mars) that played out so closely to how I imagined the comic would look as a movie that they gave me a massive fanboy thrill.

But simply telling the basic plot of "Watchmen" kind of misses the point of "Watchmen." Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were trying to deconstruct superhero comics, examining everything from the psychology of it (what kind of lunatic/pervert puts on a mask and tights to fight crime?) to the impact superpowers might have in the real world (Dr. Manhattan wins Vietnam, turns Nixon into a dynastic president, and alters the course of the Cold War) to the actual layout of comics (Gibbons' brilliant use of the nine-panel grid and his transitions from one similar image to another). And that's not even counting all the supplemental material that was either left out for time (the pirate comic, which is getting its own DVD before being spliced back into the DVD cut of the movie) or because there was no way to incorporate it into a film ("Under the Hood," the psych profiles, magazine excerpts, etc.), but that made the world and point-of-view of the comic so much stronger.

Even the character material has to unfortunately be condensed for time. Even in a cut that runs close to three hours, I realize there's no realistic way to give us all of Rorshach's backstory. But the rushed way they do it(*) doesn't really capture all the motivating forces behind his gradual descent into madness, and Silk Spectre's realization of her true parenthood comes so quickly that it loses the impact of finding out after a long swing through her biography.

(*) In thinking back on it, the only stuff the movie really omits is the Kitty Genovese incident and the glimpses of Walter Kovacs as a young man out on his own. But the way the scenes of his childhood come across is really illustrative of the difference between the two mediums. Comics are static; you can linger as long as you want on any given page or panel. Movies are constantly moving forward (even though you can freeze-frame DVDs, people don't usually do much of that the first time through). So a scene like little Walter listening to his whore mom yell at him feels much longer and more powerful on the page than it does on the screen, even though Snyder is basically using Gibbons' images to storyboard the sequence.

Some reviewers have suggested that people who never read the comic won't understand the movie. I disagree, in that the story the movie tells makes sense and is relatively linear (other than the flashbacks and the occasional Dr. Manhattan digressions). I just can't imagine anyone new to this world understanding what the big deal is.(**) Without all the things that Snyder had to or chose to leave out, "Watchmen" the movie is a very violent, very bleak, very odd movie with a bunch of superheroes no one's ever heard of beating each other up.

(**)I suspect word-of-mouth on this movie is going to be awful, and it's going to have one of the steepest week two box office drops in recent memory. The ad campaign has done a very poor job of selling what the movie actually is, and the big crowd I saw it with was silent throughout and even after the credits rolled -- not in a "We're so engaged we don't want to miss a thing" way, but in a "We have no idea how to respond to this" way. And I've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence from other people who saw it that my crowd was not atypical.

As for the casting, Jackie Earle Haley is as perfect as I assumed he would be as Rorshach (like I said in the Comic-Con post, it almost feels like all the previous attempts to make the movie were destined to fail until Haley resurrected his career for this part he was born to play), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is as charming and evil on screen as the Comedian was on the page. Patrick Wilson is surprisingly good playing a paunchy, middle-aged dweeb, though he's still not pathetic enough for a moment like Ozymandias telling Nite-Owl "Do grow up" to sting as much as it should. Snyder obviously wanted to cast young for the flashbacks and then age up a guy like Wilson with make-up and other prosthetics, but there's a part of me that wishes they'd actually cast a dweeby middle-aged guy to play him, and found a workaround for his brief '70s appearances.

Still, Wilson mostly maintains the illusion, which is more than I can say for the miscast Matthew Goode and Malin Akerman. Goode always seems too young, but more importantly seems too slight and effete to play Adrian Veidt, who's supposed to be as perfect a physical specimen as he is an intellectual one. Also, the weird mash-up of British and German accents feels like a blinking neon sign that he's the bad guy.

Akerman, meanwhile, doesn't look like or have the gravity of a thirtysomething Laurie Jupiter (I know she's 30, but she comes across much younger and flightier). She has a very flat affect, and her voice sounds distractingly like Drew Barrymore's. Carla Gugino, who's fine as the original Silk Spectre, would have been a much better choice (with an '80s hairdo, of course) to play Laurie, or any one of a number of actors of the right age and talent level.

I want to be clear: "Watchmen" isn't a bad movie. It's probably about the best possible movie that could be made out of this material, and features some dazzling moments. (The opening credits, with Snyder transforming a series of iconic American moments from the '40s-'70s to show how they might have played out in a world with superheroes, is both the biggest departure from the book and the best thing in the movie.) But I think the only way to even come close to capturing what "Watchmen" is really about would be as a 12-part HBO series.

And, really, I feel like it's really best off being experienced as a comic. They called it the unfilmable graphic novel. Snyder showed it could be filmed, but the movie makes me question whether it should have been.

What did everybody else think?

84 comments:

Dweeze said...

I've been telling people it feels like the tribute band version of the comic - the notes are right, the lyrics correct, but something fundamental is missing. I think you can appreciate it as a superhero movie without knowing the original, but I can't imagine a newcomer would leave the theatre understanding why the comic is so highly regarded.

Karen said...

They called it the unfilmable graphic novel. Snyder showed it could be filmed, but the movie makes me question whether it should have been.

Oh, that's beautiful, Alan. It sums up why I have no burning desire to go see the film. I never wanted it to be made into a movie. I love the comic way too much.

I also like your graf on how telling the plot of Watchmen somehow misses the point of Watchmen. It would almost have worked better if Snyder had used the film to comment on recent superhero films in an analogous way to how Moore had used the original story to comment on superhero comics. But I think that would have required a subtler hand on the wheel than Snyder's.

I don't doubt he loves the original book, but sometimes that's not actually the best criterion.

Omagus said...

I saw the movie with a friend Friday night. Neither of us had read the graphic novel, although I'm into comics and he is not. I'm a fan of Alan Moore but Watchmen was just something I had never gotten around to reading (I was only seven years old when it first published and I didn't get into comics until I was around 12 or so).

Both of us enjoyed the movie although I think it was for somewhat different reasons. He enjoyed the dark story and the violence because he's into that kind of thing. Even though I hadn't read the comic I have heard plenty about it over the years and understood that the story IS meant to be a deconstruction of the superhero archetype. I think the movie captures that but it's probably not very apparent to someone who isn't privy to that concept prior to seeing it.

Our theater was packed and there were some chuckles and gasps throughout the showing. At the end there was a little bit of a buzz going on. I'm not sure what the consensus was but they people in my area seemed to be generally positive about it.

However, since then I have spoken to a few other friends who have also seen it and their opinions seemed to be much lower. It seems to me that Watchmen is a very good (not great) movie that will really only appeal to certain types of people. It isn't The Dark Knight.

Jordan said...

I saw it with my brother on friday, neither of us having read the comic or really knowing much if anything about it. We both really liked it. To give you a few scattered thoughts, the music choice was excellent, especially in the opening and Leonard Cohan, wow.

Our audience was much more involved, although I would bet a lot of them had not read the comic. Could it be the demographics of where and when you saw it?

I'm sure we would have gotten a lot more of it if we had read the book, but I think for the most part we got a pretty good idea of what was going on. I'm sure the comic, with it's legions of devoted fans is deep with complicated mythology, but this was fairly straight forward.

As for the casting, I'm with you on Veidt but not Spectre. Since I have no idea what she's supposed to be like, I thought she was fine. She nailed her big emotional scenes and I think her youth worked for her. An older (looking) actress would have made her big reveal less believable. Also, because of her youth, she had a certain detachment from the whole "superhero" mindset and when she came back into it, it was more childish rebellion than anything else.

So yeah, in short, I liked it. It may not be the be all and end all that fans of the comic wished for, but it was a pretty sweet movie.

Peter D Bakija said...

I'm certainly a huge Watchman geek (for example, I found the Watching the Watchmen coffee table book by Gibbons utterly fascinating), and while I thought the movie was a reasonably good and entertaining version of the story, yeah, it had some flaws. My biggest problems with it were:

A) They somehow managed to not even remotely set up the revelation as to who Laurie's dad was. Which, even in the movie, is a huge mechanism to make the rest of the movie go (without that revelation, Manhattan doesn't decide to go back to Earth), and seems wildly out of left field. In the book, the 1970 "Team Meeting" scene is kind of a pivot for the rest of the story, and we see it 4 or 5 times, each from someone else's perspective. SO by the time we discover that Comedian isn't saying "My, ya know, friend's daughter", it has impact. In the movie, while it is still played as if it *does* have impact, it just isn't there. They probably could have removed about half the cringe inducing sex scene to make room for an earlier flashback to that, so when it replays in the last act, it has a context.

B) It was, as noted, kind of gratuitously violent. Don't get me wrong; I like head explosions and defenestration as much as the next guy, and certainly the Dan and Laurie beat up the street gang violence was completely appropriate in that "How come whenever Wolverine fights people with those claws, no one ever seems to bleed?" kind of way, but by the time they get to the prison riot/grinder scene, I was like, "Uh, yeah, that doesn't actually help the film..."

C) Dan being present and reacting to the final Manhattan/Rorschach confrontation. In the book, that Rorschach dies resignedly, unnoticed and alone is a virtually perfect moment. Which there was no need or reason to change.

This being said, still totally worth seeing and enjoyable. I'm sure plenty of people will see it and just be like "I don't really get the point...", but if a few of those then go out and pick up the book, well, then the film has done a good thing.

beebobob said...

Well, see here's the thing. I decided to see the movie first and read the comic after, and inversion that i thought would work on several levels: 1) because i wanted the experience of book/movie or movie/book to be an expanding experience rather than a contracting one. I wanted to feel as if the secondary experience offered me more of a world to inhabit. And I'm pretty sure that's what's going to happen.

I totally disagree that it's "impossible" for someone who hasn't read the comic to "get it." if that's true, the filmmaker isn't doing his job.

It's also not that complicated. The big move that Watchmen is purporting to make isn't, to me, the world-changing shift that everyone has led me to believe. Almost every intelligent comic book that I've ever read and every intelligent superhero movie I've ever seen have dealt with precisely the ambivalent nature of the superhero, the hero/alter-ego duality, the good/evil, normal/perverted, savior/outcast mask/face dyads are what superhero comics have always been about. I know, this goes back to 1985, but I also seriously think that many of these themes lay under everything from the 50's onward.

I really liked some of the archetypes they worked with, Rorschach's mask is a fantastic symbol of the "we see what we want to see" in the superhero.

BUT, Alan, your review neglected to get at what the real problem with the movie was and it had nothing to do with either pandering to newbies or the incomprehensibility of a such a masterwork of western civilization. It was just a plain uneven movie. There was a lot of very cool and very interesting stuff in there, stuff to really hook your teeth into and think about (i.e. The Comedian as symbol for the perverted-daring-yourself-to-go-further style of american adventurism; rorchach's struggles with his own hardened moral center and the immorality it forces him to see everywhere; Dr. Manahattan's role in shifting the course of human civ. and concurrently distancing himself from it). These are all things that come across loud and clear (sometimes, often, TOO LOUD AND CLEAR, i.e. HEAVY-FREAKIN-HANDED, which is another way of saying that a director thinks his audience is stupid, which its own superhero metaphor in its own way too, one that was only really explored in Hancock, which was bad for a host of other reasons).

But the point isn't that stuff. It's the whole two part, coitus-flaccidus-interuptus / sex scene to Halleluiah. That was laughable, and maybe intentionally, but if it was intentionally so, it's kind of worse, because it just plain didn't work and the fact that it CLEARLY doesn't work, but that the FILMMAKER CLEARLY emphasized the scene meant that he CLEARLY didn't get that it didn't work and that breaks my trust with him and reinstates my disbelief and there was a lot of stuff like that. A lot of cheese stuff that wasn't "oh it's brilliant if you've read the book," it was just plain cheesy. Which sucks for all the non-cheesy awesomeness that was also there. Like in the Comic, it may look the same when Dr. Manhattan is striding through vietnam calming leveling his hand had the people, but what you the movie gets right is this weird slow deliberate inevitable PACE at which he does these things.
Though I do kind of disagree on Veidt (which i mean come on, are you really expecting there to be any suspense as to who's the bad guy when 1) he's the 2nd one to get hit, but 2) he SURVIVES and 3) he's got the same last name as Major freaking Strasser?). I think that kind of ubermensch is physically lithe. His weapon is his speed and I thought the actor's ephemeral quality was kind of perfect for him. The only problem with veidt was some of the stupid shit the FILMMAKERS chose to focus on, but I don't think the problem was the actor.

So my review boils down to this. The stuff that was good was really really cool, and the stuff that was terrible was really galdarn awful-terrible.

Matthew said...

I saw it yesterday with my wife. I read the comic within the last year and loved it. It had a real "wow, that was really, really good" moment when you finished reading it. And the movie is essentially an exact copy of the book. But when it's over, rather than "wow" I was thinking, "well, it was extremely accurate." Even today, I'm not sure how it makes me feel. It was as well done as it could have been, which might put me in the camp of those wondering if it should have been made at all. It was enjoyable, but probably not something I'll think about buying.

My wife, on the other hand, absolutely hated it. When I asked, she specifically noted that it was even worse than "The Spirit." Now that is hatred. The only positive of taking her was the chuckle we got when she noted, "wow, that sure is a glowing blue dong."

Absolutely agree that that casting of Veidt was terrible. This guy is supposed to have off-the-charts ability, speed, AND strength. Guys that size just aren't believable as being that strong. It was hard to buy.

I didn't hate the casting of Laurie, but didn't like it either. Though I believe my impression of her was probably due in part to having seen 27 dresses a few too many times, and having a hard to time connecting how one could be both "Silk Spectre the superhero" and "Tess the crazy fiance."

Wrenn said...

I'm a gigantic Watchmen fan, and I very much enjoyed the movie on first viewing. I was basically reading the comic in my head as the film played, recalling lines of dialogue, identifying what was added and what was missing and so on and so forth. So my love for the book shone through those three hours in that theatre. HOWEVER, perhaps my love of the material has blinded me to the film. Maybe it doesn't translate well. Maybe you need to do more than just tell the story. (this has been a common thread in negative reviews of the film-- that somehow, even though the material is so fantastic and dense, that it's just not enough for a film) There were people at my midnight screening that loved the movie, some who were unsure what to think, and some who hated it, and I think it will be like that everywhere.

I talked to a friend who saw the movie not knowing what she was in for, and she said initially she didn't offer up an opinion on the film, but after sleeping on it, she was leaning towards "liking" than "disliking". And even for a guy who has read the book annually since buying it, I still maintain it needs to be seen twice to really grab every bit of information you can. And for me, being I was just so happy to actually see this on screen, I think I need to see it at least once more to actually judge it as a MOVIE, not just "OMG IT'S WATCHMEN!"

I didn't mind Goode's casting, I think he made some interesting choices with the role, like his slight German accent. It would've been distracting, but I realized that he only uses it in private company, and uses a perfect American accent in public or for the cameras, which I found neat. He also brought a disconnect to those final scenes which are essential to Veidt grappling with what he's done. I will, however agree that Goode should've beefed up at the very least-- he did not look like the perfect physical specimen that he is in the book.

I didn't mind the ending change so much, because the events of the film play out the same, and Manhattan's teleportation powers are used for both the film and novel. The only part it gets a little dicey is "The super man is real and he's American". If the whole world accepts that Manhattan is American, wouldn't his supposed involvement in nuking all those cities bring about the war FASTER, rather than bringing the US and USSR together? The reason the squid worked is because it was an outside force, alien if you will, that the tiny earthlings realize that there's more serious threats than themselves and the come together. But if I was Moscow, I'd be all "America attacked first! Let's get 'im!".

The only way out of that obvious flaw is "God is real and he's American". If the whole world has come to accept that Manhattan is more than a man and more than a country... if he is actually perceived as a GOD... then I can see the world coming together over that. If the fear of him watching over them at all times is enough to save the world, I can accept that in the film. (And actually, the film does touch upon this point, it just doesn't hit it home).

There were only two problems I had coming out of the first viewing, one minor, and one kind of nerdy. First, Nixon's make-up. REALLY? Bad, any way you cut it. The second was the omission of the scene at the end of the book between Manhattan and Veidt. Manhattan tells Veidt he's going to another galaxy, and Veidt says "I thought you have a newfound appreciation for life" and Manhattan says "I do. Perhaps I'll create some". And as Manhattan leaves, Veidt asks "Did I do the right thing, in the end?" to which Manhattan replies "Nothing ever ends".

Now, some of this exchange is in the film, just between different characters. But Veidt asking that question tells us he is really torn up about what he's done, and I think that's a necessary character bit. Veidt questions himself in the film while he's fighting his teammates, but you've seen movie villains say the same speech in countless movies, it's hard to take him at his word. But that quiet moment when no one is watching, that's when you know how Veidt really feels. Oh well, maybe in the director's cut.

Well, I think that's all I have to say for now. I'm not sure when I'm seeing it again, but I definitely will soon, maybe then I'll be able to judge this as a movie, not just my favorite comic come to life.

HonTea said...

Alan, I'm feeling your review.

Just saw it in a theater in Seoul.

If you think it played poorly to a crowd in New Jersey, imagine how it played to a crowd who didn't have that 50+ years of comic book culture resonating in their collective consciousness.

A lot of people went in expecting another Iron Man. Which is certainly not what they got.

srpad said...

I had the same reaction as you. I enjoyed it and think it was about as good a movie as could have been made from the novel.

My audience had the same reaction as yours. Silence with quiet whispering as we filed out.

A friend who is not into comics who saw it with me said, "I liked the action sequences; I just wish there were more of them." I think that will be the mainstream audiences' reaction as well.

I loved the opening as you did. In fact, for me, the most disturbing scene in the movie was in the opening seconds: the soldiers firing on the flower children. That hit me like a punch in the gut and stuck with me to the end.

Like you I loved the Cafeteria scene and thought Rorschach was pitch perfect. Dr. Manhattan, however, did not quite work for me. There was something about his delivery that felt off for me and for some reason his mouth movements seemed strange. I can't put my finger on it.

I have seen it written that instead of putting the Graphic Novel on screen, a Watchmen movie should have done to Superhero movies what the original book did to comics. That would have been something ambitious and I can’t help but wonder what *that* movie would have been like.

Martha Flynn said...

The first thing I raged on when I exited the theater was Akerman's casting (I'm surprised more people are focused on Goode) - especially when they had Gugino, a far superior (and way hotter imho) actress RIGHT THERE to take on the role.

Akerman had absolutely zero chemistry with her two romantic counterparts which was especially unfortunate since their relationships set off pivotal moments in the plot - thereby making them totally unbelievable.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Srpad, the soldiers firing is more or less what happened at Kent State in the real world, and one of the few tableaux in the credits that had nothing to do with masked heroes.

Chris Littmann said...

Totally agreed on the Akerman/Gugino complaints. Akerman, 30 probably plays a more convincing 20-year-old. And Gugino, who is 38, can easily play a few years younger. That's no stretch.

I will say my whole movie going experience was made somewhat uncomfortable by the fact that some people sitting near me brought in two really young kids (I'm guessing neither older than 8). And every time one of the more graphic sex or violence scenes came up, I was horrified for them more than anything. Real parents of the year there.

Since I wasn't familiar with the source material, Rorschach was the only story that really resonated for me. The Comedian a little bit, too. The rest, I wasn't sure how to really feel.

Rick said...

But I think the only way to even come close to capturing what "Watchmen" is really about would be as a 12-part HBO series.

I keep saying, the Motion Comic was perfect.

The movie, I can now say, not so much.

Jordan said...

Ok, here's the thing. A lot of the criticism I've read about this movie seems to boil down to "I dreamed up the perfect Watchmen movie over the past 20 years and this is not what it looked like." Fine. Say it's unfilmable enough times and you'll believe it, but here's the thing: you've got to ask your self what you wanted to get out of this movie and what Zack Snyder was trying to make. People complain that there's so much background and understanding of the characters that got left out, like and interview with so and so and ten million other things that are tangentially related to the plot. My biggest problem with Watchmen (and again, I really liked it) was that it was long and it dragged.

Lord of the Rings is similar in that it's so huge and has so many fans that people would be furious when things got left out, because movies can only be so long. But why it works better is that at it's heart, it has a great story. Watchmen, from what I've read here and elsewhere is about the characters and deconstructing the superhero, etc., while LOTR is about telling a great story. Maybe the Watchmen just doesn't have the story to cary a movie and make it what it is to it's fans. And that raises Alan's questions about should rather than could.

Tom said...

I agree with Wrenn on two points. I'm also a huge fan of the book, and found myself asking "How does this compare?" at nearly every point. I think I may have enjoyed the movie more if I'd immersed myself in the comic less (or just never read it).

Secondly, on Veidt's plan. I think the fake alien invasion works much better (and unlike Alan -- and a lot of other fans -- I've always found the squid thing vaguely terrifying in how strange it is).

Look at it this way: let's say you owned a really vicious dog that kept people out of your yard. One day, the dog goes nuts, bites you and your family, and then attacks everyone else in the neighborhood.

Assuming your neighbors agreed to help you track down the dog, do you think you'd be friends after that?

Nathan said...

"To give you a few scattered thoughts, the music choice was excellent, especially in the opening and Leonard Cohan, wow"

I STRONGLY disagree. (but I'll get to that in a second)

Overall, I thought the movie was very well done. I left with a very good understanding of the purpose and depth of the story and characters. Could it have been better? Sure. But what movie is entirely perfect in hindsight?

The music on the other hand was quite odd. From what I've read, some of the songs used are mentioned in the book. Its obvious that not all these choices work as well on film as they do in print. The Leonard Cohen Hallelujah had to have been the worst choice, especially when Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright have exceptional covers of the song, that would have fit better with the film. Besides Hallelujah, 99 Red Balloons stuck out to me. Mostly because all I can now think about is 30 Rock when I hear that song.

My other complaint with the movie, and maybe some die hards can answer this, is "Whats the deal with Roarchach mask?" Where did it come from and why does it change? I get the symbolism of the shifting face and all, but what are the mechanics of it? Is it explained at all in the book?

Bitsy said...

I knew almost nothing about the comic book, only that it incorporated superheroes into an alternate history. I read V for Vendetta and saw that movie, which is part of why I was drawn to Watchmen. I saw it last night and was amazed. I understood it and loved almost all of it. The only part that bothered me was the soft-core porn sex scene between Laurie and Dan, maybe because (I agree with you here, Alan) Ackerman was so weak as Laurie and so uncompelling. I found the other characters to be very compelling, especially the Comedian. I found the whole movie thrilling, maybe because I love history and politics so much, and the character development and writing (owed mostly to the original comic book) was so strong. I understand what you mean when you said how excited you were at seeing the first 18 minutes. I was in love halfway through the opening credits, against "The Times They Are A'Changing."

Alan Sepinwall said...

In the book, teen Rorshach has a job at a dress shop, and the mask is made out of a dress made from a specialty fabric that's one of the many products (like the blimps and electric cars) made possible by Dr. Manhattan.

Do a Google search for Kitty Genovese, a real-life person who in the book is the one who ordered that dress, then inspired Rorshach's career.

Holly Martins said...

I pretty much agree with Alan's review. As someone who really loves the book, I'm not sure I gave the film an entirely fair shake on its own terms, but I think on the whole it was pretty good -- or at the least, very interesting.

One of the major issues I had with it was the over-the-top nature of the action -- these are supposed to be regular people, except for Dr. Manhattan, not actually superpowered. That's part of the point, and I wish they could have choreographed accordingly; it's hard to see the Comedian fight in the first seen or Nite Owl and Laurie at the prison and not assume that these people have some kind of powers. And there were other little things, here and there, that seemed to me slightly off-base, tonally wrong.

Also agreed that they made Veidt a bit too supervillain-y, when he should be more of a misguided hero -- he really thinks he's saving the world, so what's with all the sneering? (Though I loved the muzak version of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" playing during the assassination attempt scene).

That said, I really loved the opening credits sequence, Rorschach, the Comedian, Wilson as Nite Owl... I think that while the movie didn't nail everything, it did sink its teeth in and give its best shot, with a lot of attention to detail, and on the whole I enjoyed it.

For what it's worth the crowd where I saw, in Brooklyn, seemed really into it... maybe that's not a representative audience though.

srpad said...

Alan,

Really? I thought it was a reference to the incident pictured (amongst other places) here:

http://illinois.edu/blog/view?topicId=2046


Also I wanted to mention, another poster complimented the music. For me, many of the music transitions were jarring and awkward, such as the Flight of the Valkyries (although I appreciate what that is an homage too, it seemed off).

electricia said...

I don't have anything meaningful to add to the conversation, since you pretty much said everything that I thought, but I wanted to chime in on one point. I was SO DISTRACTED by the Drew Barrymore voice. I was already not that engaged in the movie and found my mind wandering and myself checking the watch fairly frequently, and the rest of the time I was thinking "Who IS that chick? She sounds just like Drew Barrymore!" to the point that I was breaking down her speech patterns and slight accent in my mind and comparing them to Drew's.

Carl the Hat Making Elf said...

I was really disappointed by this.

Here about the only things I enjoyed:

The opening sequence with the Bob Dylan song.

Rorshach.

Some Comedian scenes. Actually, as far as casting goes, I thought Comedian and Rorshach were the only great choices.

My problems:

Veidt's character - ruined. Could it have been any more obvious that this guy was the villain? Veidt was never supposed to be blatantly sinister and creepy.

The over stylized slow motion Matrix-style fight sequences were completely absurd. I guess that works for something like 300, but it didn't work for Watchmen. Everytime they did some ridiculous slow-motion effect I was rolling my eyes.

Also, these guys, aside from Doc Manhattan, aren't supposed to have super powers, so how in the world is it that Veidt kicks somebody and they go flying 15 feet through the air?

I also think the film simplified and glossed over all the complexities of the graphic novel. For one example, I thought it was pretty lame that Laurie realized the Comedian was her father because she remembered her mother specifically stating that fact.

Richard Nixon was a joke.

I don't think this film should have been made. I actually think it would have worked far better as some sort of HBO miniseries, with 6 or 7 hour-long episodes, but I suppose miniseries don't bring in the cash the way a film does.

It wasn't a terrible film, but it wasn't very good, and I don't think it was a great adaptation. I don't know if any film adaption would have been great, but I do think there could have been a better attempt than this.

EOTW said...

I just came from the movie about an hour ago. I read the GN in 1990 and again last summer. Alan Moore is right. It should never have been made.

I liked the stuff most of the fans liked but there IS SOMETHING missing and I'm not sure what it is.

Glad I saw it, might catch the full version on Blu Ray sometime, but I get a headache just thinking bout it all.

Anonymous said...

"Srpad, the soldiers firing is more or less what happened at Kent State in the real world"

Alan, I don't want to start a political argument, but that's not even remotely true. The shootings shouldn't have happened, but they were at students throwing rocks and tear-gas canisters, not point-blank at flower children.

The tableau in the movie was a recreation of Marc Riboud's photo outside the 1967 Pentagon protest, albeit with a better-looking flower child.

http://www.shinnpark.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/flowerpwr2.jpg

Separately, Akerman is very very hot (she was the best thing in "The Comeback"), but she ruins it when she opens her mouth.

Carl the Hat Making Elf said...

At least one of the students murdered at Kent State was just walking between classes. I don't think the Watchmen scene was supposed to be an exact recreation though, to me at least the implication was that it was worse than what had happened in real history, because Nixon was assuming more dictatorial powers than he did in our real history.

At least they got it right that Kennedy wasn't killed by Lee Harvey Oswald! (Although, quite honestly, how necessary was it for Kennedy's assassination to be MORE graphic than the actual assassination?)

Alan Sepinwall said...

You guys are right on the Kent State thing. I was, sort of like the movie does, conflating the two incidents. I had a passage from a (different) book stuck in my head, where an aging hippie complains that they stuck daisies into gun barrels and got shot at for their trouble.

Craig Ranapia said...

I suspect word-of-mouth on this movie is going to be awful, and it's going to have one of the steepest week two box office drops in recent memory. The ad campaign has done a very poor job of selling what the movie actually is...

I think, for once, I'm going to give the marketing department a break. I think the word of mouth is going to be awful because, if the audience I saw it with is any indication, people are going to walk out during the rape scene, laugh during every non-coercive sex scene involving Dan & Laurie (and every time Manhattan's lovingly rendered penis hovers into view), and cringe every time another nauseating piece of violence hits you in the face.

Oh, and the ending? Oy...

Sean said...

Everything you said is pretty much on the nose.

I didn't like Matthew Goode because he didn't look like Ozymandias physically and the accent was so distracting, especially in the exposition-heavy Antarctica scenes. They also (and this REALLY bugged me) left out much of the stuff in the comic about Veidt's corporation and how it was ingrained into virtually every aspect of society.

The suits from the oil companies was a decent touch, especially with how it tied into the ending, but I needed more; the posters and flyers papering NYC for Veidt's various marketing campaigns; the company's household products and TV ads between news breaks, and how even his fellow superheroes used them. In the novel, he takes a meeting with his assistant to set up the whole "Millenium" campaign, one to set the tone for the world post-disaster before he even unleashes said disaster; in the film, however, the billboard is relegated off to the side, barely noticable, in the final shot.

I think the problem that is going to rise in how this movie is recieved is summed up by my experience in the theater last night; parents were walking out with their kids throughout the movie. There was a pair sitting next to me, and the dad kept shielding his son's eyes during the sex and violence scenes, and I just kept thinking to myself "Are you effing KIDDING me? Did you people think this was going to be Spiderman 4? R-RATED, PEOPLE!" And that's the problem; everyone's going to go in expecting a typical comic book blockbuster, only to be severely dissapointed and/or traumatized.

For me though, I got my money's worth. I really liked the film, and didn't realize until I got home and flipped through the novel again about how many things Snyder actually put in there that I had forgotten about. And one can hope the DVD will have all the tidbits he left out.

Craig Ranapia said...

parents were walking out with their kids throughout the movie.

What! The! F**k! What kind of demented, abusive lunatics would take any "kid" to that movie?

Anonymous said...

The flowers in the guns was the 1968 Republican National Convention, if memory serves. And the soldiers didn't fire. I can understand, however, how in this alternate history, the soldiers would have.

I think the fundamental problem with the movie is also an issue with the graphic novel. It isn't for the uninitiated. so much of the Watchmen graphic novel counts on the reader to have a history with comics and how they work, the assumptions we are expected to make, and the characters that are represented. (Nite Owl and Rorschach are two sides of Batman, Comedian is Captain America, Ozymandias is a sort of Reed Richards/Tony Stark type).

I had a friend who wanted to get into comics graphic novels, and he started with the best, so he read Watchmen, and absolutly didn't get it. Had no idea what the big deal was. A year later, after reading everything he could get his hands on, he decided to re-read Watchmen and finally understood. Without the context, it is just another superhero adventure story, and the movie lacks the same context for most people.

Craig Ranapia said...

I thought the revamped ending worked fine (especially since I always found the alien squid from the comic to be really cheesey)

So, it's not really "cheesey" having the rich, charismatic villain just setting off bombs? The whole point of "the squid" is that it's abso-faking-loutely barking mad. Then, the first six pages of the last issue (the only splash pages in the whole series) rub your nose in the reality of what happens when you murder millions.

And the film ending only works if you accept that Doctor Manhattan was stupid beyond reason at the one point where the contrived plot required him to be.

Anonymous said...

The characters were actually based on the Charlton Comic group that DC purchased. When DC deceided to go in another direction with the characters, Moore went on to create his own version.

Manhattan = Captain Atom,
Nite Owl = Blue Beetle,
Comedian = Peacemaker,
Ozymandias = Pete Canon, Thunderbolt
,Rorschack = part the Question part Mr A

Alan Sepinwall said...

What! The! F**k! What kind of demented, abusive lunatics would take any "kid" to that movie?

Most people don't pay attention to stuff like ratings, reviews, etc. They just know it's a superhero movie and assume that means they can take the kiddies. Two similar encounters with willful cinematic ignorance I've had at movie theaters over the years:

-A dad who took his two young kids with him to see "Casino Royale," complete with its genital torture climax. At the end of the movie, the kids looked completely stunned, and the sheepish dad said, "So, uh, that was some kind of intense movie, huh, kids?"

-A quartet of old ladies who spent the first 45-minutes of "Punch-Drunk Love" loudly complaining to each other about how strange the movie was, including frequent interjections of "But it got four stars in the paper!" (They would've spent the whole movie complaining, but eventually my friend Steve went to get management and they were invited to either pipe down or leave.)

Most people just pay attention to the genre, or maybe the four-star rating in the ad, or any other superficial thing that helps them spend s little time as possible making their filmgoing choice. And that leads to people bringing their kids to "Watchmen."

This is an ideal example of a movie that would have an NC-17 rating if the major movie theater chains would actually be willing to book an NC-17 movie.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The characters were actually based on the Charlton Comic group that DC purchased.

And originally, they were going to be based on the Archie Comics superheroes, whom DC later tried to revive as part of their Impact! line.

Ryan said...

Tricia Helfer would have made a good Laurie "Jupiter." No?

I'm stuck for Veidt, though, I can't think of anyone.

Peter D Bakija said...

Apparently, something I missed, was that the Dr. Manhattan created energy generators (that were the mechanism of destruction at the climax of the film) were called:

"Sub Quantum Unifying Intrinsic Devices"

Which makes for a really cheeky acronym...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm stuck for Veidt, though, I can't think of anyone.

Someone over at Throwing Things suggested that Veidt would have been the one character well-served by casting a big name, preferably someone very likable so we'd implicitly go with the idea that he's this beloved hero-turned-corporate-do-gooder who has everyone's best interests at heart.

Or, failing that, could Guy Pearce have bulked up enough to make it work?

Anna said...

Apparently Matthew Goode himself was worried that he was miscast, which probably made it even worse. Those sorts of feelings have to bleed through into the performance too. Too bad.

Michael Cowgill said...

In general, I agree with your take. I liked it but didn't love it, but I went into it half expecting to not even like it, partly because of the sacrifices that would clearly be necessary and partly because of how much I disliked 300 and to a lesser extent Sin City (the other by the book movie). 300 left me cold and drained from overkill, but I actually felt something in this -- not in all the right places, though. Laurie's realization didn't work in part because of miscasting and in part because, though they left plenty of clues, they didn't leave the emotional clues.

Rorschach was pitch perfect, which made his emotional moments work. I also liked the performances by Wilson, Crudup, and Morgan, and other than the accent, I didn't mind Goode's performance. I might be giving him more credit than he deserves because of his bravura turn in The Lookout.

I agree about the change to the ending working in this context. The alien squid/fear bomb works fine in the comic, but it also takes a lot of explaining because the psychic effect is the big whammie there, not the squid itself. Cities exploding makes sense pretty instantly from a visual standpoint.

To me, the cause of its unevenness comes from Snyder, et al., trying keep it simple and yet have as much of the complexity as possible. It sort watered down that complexity but still suggested its presence. Of course, one of the things I like best about the comic is the way it uses specific comic storytelling techniques so effectively. The trick in pulling that off would been to find the cinematic equivalents.

LoopyChew said...

Russell Crowe could swing either good or bad. I think he could have made a good Ozymandias.

I think we used up our twelve-month quota of typecast subversion with Wanted last year.

a-Ron said...

having never read the comic i took my son to see the movie because he's been a fan.

my impression of the movie is that it was 1 part Powder, 1 part League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 1 part The Fountain...with a little smurf porn thrown in for good measure.

if they had stuck with the style of the opening credits and even the original hero characters that were killed off/pushed aside in the beginning, the movie might've had a chance.

i was not impressed. scenes became uncomfortable to watch and then were ultimately capped off with a joke that always rang hollow.

the saving grace of the night was the All Along the Watchtower nod...since i missed BSG to take my son to the movies.

also, i assumed, and maybe incorrectly so, that Veidt was being portrayed as gay? it appeared they even gave him a Stonewall cameo.

someone else said Nixon was a joke. i couldn't agree more. his whole character was reduced to a throwback to a dan aykroyd character from "nothing but trouble".

KB said...

I enjoyed it very much. Rorschach is my favorite all time comics character and he was awesome in this film. Perfectly casted. He alone was worth the price of admission for me. Some of the other casting is not ideal, but solid overall.

To me the real problem with this movie is that it took itself way too seriously, was way too grandiose at times. It was amazingly faithful to the novel for the most part, but when they got creative and had more fun with the material, like in those fantastic opening credits and the Nixon scenes, the film was far more engaging to me. The changes to ending work for the film, and I understand why they cut out what they did. But without the artist/writer/island plot, and without Tales of the Black Freighter, the film simply lacks a lot of the suspense and intrigue of the novel.

But all things considered, its a visually stunning and very accurate Watchmen adaptation and I loved it. And I cannot wait for the Tales of the Black Freighter DVD! The trailer looks amazing.

Mrglass said...

Thank God Alan is not a movie critic. Not a single word in this post about whether the movie is good or not. Instead, it is all about whether the movie is a faithful adaptation of the comic book or not.

Well, fanboys be damned. I didn’t read the comics, but greatly enjoyed the movie.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not a single word in this post about whether the movie is good or not.

No. Not a single one. Not anywhere in the review. At all.

Andrew said...

I'm not sure I get the logic behind the idea that it'd be better as 12-part miniseries. Most of the reviews I've read seem to indicate that the movies main flaw is its determination to remain absolutely loyal to the comic nearly all the time. So the solution is to make 12-part series that can be even more loyal?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's as loyal as it can be as a two hour, 40 minute movie, which still isn't long enough. They have to leave too much out of what makes Watchmen Watchmen.

Mrglass said...

Just to add: I think Watchmen is the first and only great movie with superheroes. Really great. For a much more thoughtful and intelligent review, see Roger Ebert's article and blog.

Oh, and if you haven't yet, go and see 'Watchmen'! I will watch it for a second time (in IMAX), something I haven't done for a long time.

Master Prudent said...

I thought the sex scene was intentionally played for laughs which probably made it a little more palatable but even then I was tapping my foot, looking around the room and thinking that, like all crude sex jokes, it started out amusing and then devolved to plain old icky.

On the whole I was fairly impressed (as someone who has never read the comic); the characters were genuinely rich even if some of the backstory felt a little perfunctory and we never saw anything of Ozy's personal life (I think the actor was just fine with what he got). The Comedian, Rorsach and Dan were very well drawn. (And that goes double for the Comedian. I've never seen a character so monstrous and yet intelligent and likable who nonetheless felt like one person rather than a collection of traits.)

Laurie on the other hand felt pretty thin. I think that the actor did okay but didn't quite sell the big scenes and didn't get the right material to make us care about the little ones. One gets the sense that there is a whole lot more to the unhappy childhood home and getting pushed into vigilante business that didn't make it onto the screen. The end result being that the whole reconciliation with mother at the end felt pretty trite.

On the topic of the violence it was so ludicrously over the top that it never really made an impact (aside from the oil) and most of the audience was giggling when it should have been shocked.

Mrglass said...

For a much more thoughtful and intelligent review

Oh, and I meant, a much more thoughtful and intelligent review than I could ever possibly write; I didn't mean to compare Alan and Ebert's reviews.

Alan's point of view is fine, but in my opinion he misjudges the appeal this movie can have on people unfamiliar with the comic books. Again, go and see it.

Omagus said...

Most people just pay attention to the genre, or maybe the four-star rating in the ad, or any other superficial thing that helps them spend s little time as possible making their filmgoing choice.

That reminds me of when my sister and brother in law went to see Blood Diamond a few years ago. As they were walking out of the theater at the end, they observed a middle aged couple. The woman was very distraught from what she had seen on screen and her husband was trying to console her. Finally he said, "Look, it's just a movie. It's not real. Stuff like that doesn't really happen."

It both saddens and angers me every time I think about that.

Omagus said...

Just to add: I think Watchmen is the first and only great movie with superheroes.

Really?

Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
The Incredibles
Iron Man
Superman (Richard Donner's 1978 version)

You don't consider any of those great movies?

Mrglass said...

Really? [...] You don't consider any of those great movies?

Let's see (this is of course just my opinion, and I am not a movie critic):

- Batman Begins; The Dark Knight; Iron Man

Great movies, up until the last 30 minutes that ruined them. Why Hollywood thinks every action movie has to end in mindless violence is beyond me (see: Transformers).

- Superman

I saw it as a kid, but never felt the need to watch it again (unlike, say, 'Airplane'), and don't remember much about it.

- The Incredibles

Ah, that is actually a pretty good movie. But great? I don't think so, just very entertaining. It doesn't rise to the level of Wall-E as far as CGI movies go.

What sets 'Watchmen' apart from other superhero movies is two things:
1) the idea that our society could easily become a quasi-fascist state is haunting.

(I must add, unlike Alan, people in my New York theater reacted strongly, and in a very disturbing way. For example, when Rorschach burnt that guy's face, or when all those Vietnamese got vaporized, they applauded and laughed. Scary.)

2) characters like Dr. Manhattan or Rorschach belong to the pantheon of movie unforgettable heroes; unlike any other film superhero I can think of.

Carl the Hat Making Elf said...

You're aware that Watchmen ended with Adrian Veidt engaging in absurdly violent and acrobatic slow motion kung fu battles with Rorschach, Laurie, and Nite Owl, not to mention New York city being exploded with a magical blue blast of energy? How is this different than "mindless violence" which ends any other superhero film?


It is interesting however to see the opinion of someone who hasn't read the graphic novel. I read the graphic novel, and it is far, far, far superior to this film adaptation. The movie simplifies and glosses over the deeper aspects of the graphic novel, a few characters (particularly Veidt) are in my opinion ruined in this film, and the cheesy Matrix style editing of the action sequences bordered on ludicrous.

The film itself was just alright, but it definitely, to me, doesn't even come close to approaching the quality of Dark Knight. If you want the real Watchmen experience, I highly recommend the graphic novel.

I also want to comment that some of the music choices were just outlandishly awful, aside from Dylan and All Along the Watchtower. The song that played during the riot in the street completely killed the mood, and the ridiculous music in the Nam scene with Doc Manhattan just made the scene comical, when it should have been disturbing. I get the homage to Apocalypse Now, but it utterly failed in my opinion.

Carl the Hat Making Elf said...

And also, speaking of "mindless violence", the Watchmen film really kind of amped up the violence from the graphic novel. Showing half of President Kennedy's head being blasted off, for instance. Or Nite Owl smashing an arm bone out of a thug. Arms being sawed off. The axe into the guy's head. Doctor Manhattan exploding people, plastering bystanders with blood, and their guts hanging from the ceiling. His similar killing of Rorshach.

All of this either didn't happen in the graphic novel, or was greatly exaggerated in the film. The entire prison fight sequence never even happened in the graphic novel at all.

I don't think all of that was entirely necessary, but that's not really any of my main complaints about the quality of the film. I just found it interesting that somebody would complain about "mindless violence" in other Superhero films, when Watchmen had more "mindless violence" than any of them.

Mrglass said...

Carl the Hat Making Elf,

I realize that the movie ends on unimaginable levels of violence. But it is not mindless. In fact, since I watched this movie on the 42nd Street and live near Times Square, it felt all too real.

What I meant by "mindless violence" is the fact that Hollywood producers think the end of every action movie should be much more violent and action-y than everything that preceded the ending. It worked for 'Commando' and 'A Better Tomorrow'. It doesn't work for every movie, though.

Look at 'Iron Man', for example. It is a superb take on the superhero genre, until the last half-hour. Then it literally copies the awful first 'Hulk' movie, with only one purpose: giving us as much "action" as possible, never mind if this action is plausible or if we even care about it. And the same could be said about 'The Dark Knight'.

Denis said...

I always thought some of the Archie heroes were used for the Minutemen. I kinda figured the Fly was used for the MothMan and Black Hood for Hooded Justice. I guess the Shield was for Captain Metropolis. I can't remember if any of this was in the old fancy-pants hardcover from the early 90s and I'm not exactly sure where I put mine, so I can't find out. Sorry.

Anthony Strand said...

Supposedly Jude Law expressed interest in playing Ozymandias. I think he would have been a great choice for the "Well-known actor we trust immediately" angle.

Sure, he's played his share of cads and scoundrels. But Jude Law as a superhero? Chances are he's a good guy.

Anonymous said...

Gee whiz you folks are tough.

I'm one of those who didn't read the book and only had other genre movies to compare it to.

I LOVED this movie. I loved the style, I loved most of the characters (especially Rorshack), I loved the way it wasn't really about it's plot, I loved how meaty it was, and I already want to see it again on Blu-ray so I can better appreciate the details.

After all that I thought I wanted to read the book, but after skimming these comments now I think I might be better off not knowing what I'm missing.

Master Prudent said...

I've been rereading the comments and I've got to say that the whole parents bringing children to graphic film thing seems to be effectively headed off in countries with a graduated rating system.

In Australia films that get an R in the US are given one of three separate ratings: M for movies like Thank-you for Smoking or Shanghai Knights which merely recommends that people under 15 stay away, MA for movies like Casino Royale, Watchmen et cet. which means you have to be 15 or accompanied by an adult and R for truly soul wrenching experiences like Requiem for a Dream which restricts the movie to those who are 18 or older.

It isn't perfect and it doesn't stop people making bad decisions but it does provide a clearz warning to those who can't be bothered to do their research.

fgmerchant said...

I'd been hearing about the movie for about a year now, with the buzz on the internet and so forth, and I was hating all the people who would not shut up about the movie. I had never read it and I did not have the connection or comic love that some of these fanboys had.

My roommate bought the book, last week, because he wanted to read it before seeing it. I decided to give it a read after him, and I easily saw where this could be a great movie, but I found it to be an extremely boring read. Not a bad read, just not a good one either.

The movie was a great retelling, but I left feeling like anyone who hasn't read it might not understand what they just saw. Another friend of ours saw the midnight showing with us, and we convinced him to read it beforehand (because it is quite complicated so we thought that might help him understand). He started reading that day, and got through about half of it before we had to leave for the theater. He also liked the movie version better than the book.

I'm not sure that this movie has enough staying power to break even at the box office, but I am sure that the DVD release will cover the bottom line for the movie.

renton said...

I came in cold, knowing very little about the movie or the original source material. (The theater I saw it in was only about 10 percent full).

My reaction... eh. Why is THIS so revered?

Didn't hate it. Not in any hurry to see it again. Ask me in a month what movies I've seen lately, I'll probably have a hard time remembering.

Veidt's character, I remember thinking at the time, reminded me of Rolf, Liesl's Nazi boyfriend from The South of Music.

Anonymous said...

Rolf, huh? I was thinking Draco Malfoy.

Marquis said...

I liked it. I'll probably see it again in imax at some point.

I didn't really have a problem with the casting. Even moore admits at the start he never really had an idea about silk spectre and what to do with her.

I do think they cut the revelation scene too short. They really needed that scene at the party where Laurie throws the drink into his face. "'You tried to rape my mother!' 'Only once.'" is a great bit of dialogue.

Hopefully that's part of the last 30 minutes snyder said he cut.

I think part of the problem where the film fails a little is snyder cut out all the man on the street newsstand stuff. That's where you get the sense of just how bad the world is. How close they are to war to mutually assured destruction.

Also how do you have the line read "whatever was left of Walter Kovacs died that night." When you could have said. "It was Walter who closed his eyes and asked for mother it was Rorschach who opened them again."

dez said...

I pretty much agree with Alan's review. As someone who really loves the book, I'm not sure I gave the film an entirely fair shake on its own terms, but I think on the whole it was pretty good -- or at the least, very interesting.

ITA. I think I was so nervous about it sucking (since a friend of mine told me right before I saw it that all her friends who'd already seen it said it sucked) that I couldn't enjoy it fully. Now that I know it doesn't suck (IMHO), I will see it again so I can relax and enjoy it (or at least, enjoy the parts I already like more). There were parts I found too pulpy, and I agree that Ackerman and Goode were weak links, but Jackie Earle Haley was magnificent as Rorschach, and Billy Crudup and Jeffrey Dean Morgan each rocked as Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian, respectively. I liked Patrick Wilson fine, too.

One thing that did bug me, a lot, was the "300" on the door when Ozy is beating the crap out of The Comedian (the address read "3001" until The Comedian got knocked into it). Nice hackery there, Zack (for the record, I hated "300" with a passion).

Or, failing that, could Guy Pearce have bulked up enough to make it work?

Oh, hells yes!

I might be giving him more credit than he deserves because of his bravura turn in The Lookout.


I didn't even recognize him from that! He looks manorexic now--at least, he does in IMAX.

I saw it at a midnight show at a local IMAX with a theatre full of hardcore fans and the general feeling I got coming out was a positive one--lots of clapping at the end, lots of audience reactions throughout. Did hear some people having the "comic vs. movie" discussion, but none of it was overly negative that I could tell. I took a friend's son with me (his parents didn't want to stay up that late), and he loved it. He's never read the novel, but now he's jonesing for it. Oh, and I covered his eyes during the sex scene (he's 15, so it's a joke when I do that) :-)

After all that I thought I wanted to read the book, but after skimming these comments now I think I might be better off not knowing what I'm missing.

Please don't deny yourself the pleasures of the novel because of some of the posts here. It's such a good novel that it inspires passionate devotion in its fans, is all :-)

jim treacher said...

Dittoes on Goode. He was so friendly/menacing in The Lookout, and yet so bland and lifeless here. And in a movie with a butt-naked blue guy and Carla Gugino in old-age makeup, he managed to looked ridiculous. He looked like David Bowie in a leftover Batman costume.

Ackerman has the jawline of a Dave Gibbons character, but little of the acting ability.

Whereas Haley was amazing. I hope he doesn't go away as long this time. And he got the benefit of the few added scenes that actually improved on the comic. Like Rorschach's post-defenestration fight with the cops, and pulling on his "face" in front of the shrink: "Your turn, doc. WHAT DO YOU SEE?" Chills, man, chills.

Vaguely dissatisfying overall, but about as good as any movie version could have been. I'll probably buy the DVD like a sucker. (Assuming I have any money left by then.)

Kenrick said...

I enjoyed the movie a lot. I'm a comic geek, but never went gaga for Watchmen. Let the flaming commence.

I understand why it's so highly regarded. I understand its impact. But that was twenty years ago by the time I read it. I was like one year old when it originally came out. I found it... to put it bluntly... boring. I guess that highlights that I'm not a literary man.

As a single narrative it's hard to stay engaged. The emphasis is on all the back stories of the characters. The murder of the Comedian sets up the story, but is lost in all the history. The Black Freighter intercuts the narrative, making it difficult to move forward. A story that could have been told in six issues was expanded to twelve. There's a lot of stuff in there. It's certainly dense. If you have the patience you'll probably be rewarded. I don't have that patience.

This is why I liked the movie. I remembered enough about the story to have no problem following along. It hits all the major themes - sure maybe not as fleshed out as it could have been, but it was enough to give you something to think about.

I tried rereading Watchmen afterward. I ended up skipping all the same things (the prose, Black Freighter) and ended up thinking Snyder did a good job compressing the interesting parts of Watchmen into a 2.5 hour movie. I see the point that this maybe isn't a movie that should have been made, but I'm glad it was.

I'm just going to make random comments in response to previous comments:

I agree that Laurie's revelation came very sudden in the movie. I was not impressed by the actress.

I would've liked to see more of the psychiatrist, although that would be too much of a detour for the movie.

The sex scene might've been cheesy, but it's in the book, including the fire climax, which I found amusing. I'm juvenile.

The movie is R for a reason - blame the parents.

I like the slo-mo, speeding up, and zooms. I think it's an interesting experience. Like when reading a comic book, when you move through panels, the artist may zoom to different parts of the scene or you can take your time to admire a certain sequence.

By speeding up time, I think Snyder can get away with a lot more violence without it being too uncomfortable. A lot of discomfort is the anticipation or the act of violence, not necessarily the final result. He speeds up time to the point where he's almost just cutting to the bone finally breaking or the cleaver having entered the skull, and so he can illustrate what has happened without putting you through the act of it happening. He presents you with the shocking image and relieves you of it quickly.

I still think the original squid ending, a truly external threat, makes more sense in uniting the world.

Rorschach was awesome.

Craig Ranapia said...

I agree that Laurie's revelation came very sudden in the movie. I was not impressed by the actress.

Well, sorry, but I'm going to defend Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode here, because NOBODY could have made the frankly underwritten and poorly motivated and developed characters work. I don't care how good an actor you are, if you haven't got a decent script to work with you're left trying to make bulls**t taste like chocolate mousse.

Bryan said...

I concur with Alan almost 100% on this one. We saw the movie at a midnite showing Thursday night and the crowd had pretty much the same reaction.

I didn't read the graphic novel until two weeks ago so I was completely unfamiliar with it. The graphic novel really touched a nerve with me it did an excellent job of conveying the sense of dread and the cynicism we all lived with back then. And that's what was missing from the movie - the Cold War is just cold dead history to anyone under 30 or so- an updated story using terrorism or something similar would've had much more impact.

On more thought re: kids and this movie- Alan had said he thought this movie should be NC17 - I disagree. Yes, this is certainly not a kid's superhero movie - Dark Knight wasn't either - but I think many kids under 17 are mature enough these days to understand it. Because of the graphic novel and movie my kids (16,13) have had terrific discussions this weekend about the Cold War, dread, absurd-ism, etc.

Craig Ranapia said...

On more thought re: kids and this movie- Alan had said he thought this movie should be NC17 - I disagree. Yes, this is certainly not a kid's superhero movie - Dark Knight wasn't either - but I think many kids under 17 are mature enough these days to understand it. Because of the graphic novel and movie my kids (16,13) have had terrific discussions this weekend about the Cold War, dread, absurd-ism, etc.

Have you also explained to your thirteen year old why some men like kicking women in the ribs before throwing them over a pool table, and anally raping them? Serious question -- because where my thirteen year old grand-niece is concerned, that conversation is way above my pay grade.

My God, would it really be so terrible if children weren't that "mature"?

Bryan said...

Have you also explained to your thirteen year old why some men like kicking women in the ribs before throwing them over a pool table, and anally raping them? Serious question -- because where my thirteen year old grand-niece is concerned, that conversation is way above my pay grade.

My God, would it really be so terrible if children weren't that "mature"?


I agree Craig it is a serious question and one my wife -their mother- and I have had many times. Yes we did talk about the attempted rape (my impression was he was stopped). I honest to God wish we didn't live in a world where kids were so mature- but we do. Kids today can see that rape scene on regular tv nowadays - it sucks but that's the way it is. With internet, television, video games (even cell phones that now have internet access) we can't bury our heads in the sand and say how terrible (I'll bet your 13 year old grand niece can find a porno website as quick as you can) - I'd rather know what they're seeing and talk about it.

Kenrick said...

Well, sorry, but I'm going to defend Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode here, because NOBODY could have made the frankly underwritten and poorly motivated and developed characters work.

I'm not going to comment on the strength of the material, but Ackerman was passable. I just felt some parts she sounded wooden, and that she would twitch and bobble her head a lot.

Have you also explained to your thirteen year old why some men like kicking women in the ribs before throwing them over a pool table, and anally raping them? Serious question -- because where my thirteen year old grand-niece is concerned, that conversation is way above my pay grade.

If you take your kids to an R-rated movie without doing the proper research first, then yes, it is up to you explain whatever content is on screen.

Again, it's rated R for a reason. Kids under 17 are not admitted, unless with the consent of an adult! Okay we could argue back and forth about kids managing to find ways to get in, but the examples we've been discussing are parents taking their children.

Just to clarify, it was attempted rape (so *phew* I wouldn't need to explain what anal raping is), and Laurie was born out of a later consensual coupling. Doesn't make the attempt less despicable, but this was a plot point that was unclear for some people I've talked to.

Archie said...

Alan - I followed your rules and read the comments. All of them. Excellent insight into the world of both fanatics, non-readers and everyone in between and how they all saw this movie.

However, at the end of it, your "could v/s should" principle (like Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park) and Jordan's comments were the only ones that made sense.

I have not read the comics. I discovered the wild world of Watchmen 3 weeks ago when Wired mag featured this movie and its "unmakability" and why it is so important to fans, why it inspires such fanaticism.

I saw the movie on Friday, even missing one of my beloved BSG episodes in the process (did anyone else catch the song that turned the Cylons on as part of this movie's final scenes???) and - horrors - I enjoyed it.

I agree with Jordan point - say something is "unmakeable" enough times and people will believe it. I am a HUGE fan of the Harry Potter books. Now hear me out. I know it's not even close or the same genre or anything. But fanatic fans are fanatic fans. And as I see each movie from that as it comes out, I see the outcry that follows. It's like they say about even the LOTR movies - put enough fans in a room and sooner or later, they will all find something to complain about. Some of it will be legit, some not. I think the bottom line is to find one storyline that makes most sense, has the most relevance in a given world - and then tell it as best you can.

I'm sure history buffs who know the battle of Thermopylae will find inconsistencies in that story. I know how much I've complained about bits in the HP movies. I know fans who've viciously ripped the LOTR movies and Peter Jackson for ever daring to make them.

It was a good movie. Period. Let's face it, we're not comfortable with being confronted ever with the thought that people like the comedian really exist. In your face never makes anyone comfortable. Those scenes didn't feel gratuitous to me. Uncomfortable, yes, and yes, maybe the reveal of the Comedian as Laurie's father might have been a bit better.

But it was NOT the comic, just as the LOTR and HP movies are not the books. You cannot expect to put that much detail into any visual medium because, like someone said, a movie by its very nature is moving forward, while a comic is freeze-frame.

Judge the movie for how good it is.

Kenneth said...

"I saw the movie on Friday, even missing one of my beloved BSG episodes in the process (did anyone else catch the song that turned the Cylons on as part of this movie's final scenes???) and - horrors - I enjoyed it."

This is a very famous song from the 1960's. It was first recorded by Bob Dylan and it is most known for the version sung by Jimi Hendrix, which appeared in the film. I loved it's use in BSG, but I am irritated (no offense) whenever people refer to it as "that BSG song." The song has been quite famous for about forty years before BSG ever aired.

Tyroc said...

I think Jude Law would've been perfect as Viedt. Ah well.

Ackerman I think was okay. She certainly looked the part. To me her voice doesn't sound like Drew Barrymore's but Cameron Diaz's. And no offense to Ms. Diaz, that voice doesn't make her seem that bright or thoughtful.

Overall I thought it was really good. Flawed for sure, but for the first 2/3rds of it I was in fanboy heaven. After the jail break I thought it lost its way a bit, and felt rushed (odd in such a long movie.)

And poor Carla Guigina got stuck with some of the comic's worst lines (especially about the rain during the funeral.) A lot of her stuff plays better on the written page than actually hearing it aloud (where it sounds awfully cheesy.)

Overall... A-

Chris said...

I'm looking forward to seeing Watchmen--on DVD. Mostly because I've heard it's long. I'm finding it hard to stay in a theater for three hours these days. But in the comfort of my own home--I think I'd enjoy this movie more.

Teev said...

I read Watchmen when it came out and tonight went to see the movie with two friends who'd not read it. We all liked it, but had some issues. I agree that it might have worked better as a 12 part series, not just because more could have been fit in and there would have been time to digest the information and speculate on the reveals (like when it came out), but because of the pacing issues the movie had. I felt like in staying true to the source the movie had a meandering episodic feel. Of course the gradual build of tension in three acts culminating in the cathartic climax is rote for superhero (and most other) movies, and I did appreciate how The Dark Knight denied us the catharsis (but still built the tension), but Watchmen just felt a bit flat. I've not read it in 20 years, so its not like I had every detail in my head and huge expectations. I guess maybe what I was really expecting was that same feeling of "holy f-ing shit this is amazing and different and awesome" that I had when I read the comic. That is alot to ask. But I just watched Wall-E a couple weeks ago and even though it is a cartoon about a mute little robot it totally made me cry. I spent twice as much time with the living talking people of Watchmen tonight, and never felt particularly invested in any of them. That is not too much to ask.

Carla said...

@ Jim Treacher

'Whereas Haley was amazing. I hope he doesn't go away as long this time.'

Does this mean you missed Haley's fantastic performance in LITTLE CHILDREN (2006)? You should check it out.

jim treacher said...

Yeah, that was another movie that didn't really work, but he was the best part of it.

Jason Potapoff said...

I don't understand the complaints about Goode being too skinny to be a believable Ozymandias. Pull out the graphic novel and take a look at Ozy, he aint buff in the comic. Does he come across as too skinny to be able to toss a person around? Yes, but that matches the comic since he didn't look like he could pick up a man half Comedian's weight never mind pick him up and throw him through a thick window after beating the crap out of him. In the comic he never looked like someone who could hold up in a fight against any of the others, never mind against Rorschach and Nite Owl at the same time. Which was probably intended to make the fact that he takes those two out in seconds in the comic without any effort all the more surprising.

I could have done without the wire fighting (I would prefer to have gone more real world fighting) but my movie going friend pointed out that they had to step up the fights to a) punch up the action bits to help offset the pacing of the rest of the movie, b) to compare favourably to fight scenes in every super hero movie made in the last 8 years and c) to help build up the fighting abilities of Nite Owl and Rorschach so that them being beaten by Ozy better sells how good Ozy was.

That said I would have preferred less wire fighting and more realistic fight scenes.

The "matrix style" slow motion fight effects, as some comments has referred to it, was to convey the feeling of comic book panels.

I'm shaking my head at the comments calling the Dan having erectile dysfunction aborted sex scene as an attempt at making a joke. I guess it was being too subtle but those two sex scenes are essential, character defining moments of the Dan/Nite Owl character. In a nut shell the point of that was: Dan is a paunchy middle aged, nerd with low self worth, broken up by worry and concern (with life in general but specifically with the whole impending nuclear holocaust plus the possibility of a mask killer out there) who is uncomfortable around women and susceptible to performance anxiety. Hence him being unable to get it up when the hot woman he has been eyeing for literally years finally makes a move on him. But get him back into his costume and suddenly he's found himself again, he's regained his confidence and self worth he feels like a whole man again, he has lost his anxiety, and is no longer ruled by his fears. Hence him being able to not only perform sexually but perform considerably better than his nervous, awkward interactions with her previously would lead you to believe.

In other words out of costume he was half the man he is when he is in costume playing the role of Nite Owl. I thought it was rather obvious really. The whole leaning on the flame thrower button during climax was straight comedy. Silly yes, but hey sometimes you want to throw humour into an otherwise pretty dark and serious movie. Plus that was taken straight out of the comic.

Was the sex scene a bit longer than it needed to be to convey that? Perhaps. On the other hand cutting the scene shorter would also imply that Dan "fired quickly" which would have undercut the whole point of the scene. Fading out during the scene would have fixed the whole "showing how long Dan lasted" aspect but would have removed the flame thrower joke. Which would have ticked off many fans since that is a fan favourite joke and not too mention it would have removed a humorous moment from a movie that needed a bit of levity.

OF course the scene was also there for the other level, titillation and to help sell the whole "this aint your standard super hero comic book" since at the time the comic was made sex scenes weren't done. And for that matter has there been another super hero movie that had a graphic sex scene with nudity in it? And of course if you have a hot woman in the movie it's nice to show case that to give the guys some thrills. Especially to help offset the number of shots of Dr. Manhattan's wang. (I'm not complaining about that, I thought it was appropriate. But for the average male movie goer seeing that much wang means you gotta balance it with at least one good sex scene).

I thought Akerman was pretty good as Laurie. She looked perfect for the part (although perhaps she could have looked a touch older. But then it is not unusual for a 30 year old woman to look hot). Were some of her lines a bit off? Yes. But I don't get the complaints that she didn't have chemistry with either of her lovers, I didn't think that when I was watching the movie. I think "she had no chemistry" is touted a lot when what the commenter is really saying "she looks too hot so she sucked". She filled the role nicely since in the comic she really was a cutout character. Just there to look pretty, and help define Nite Owl and Manhattan's characters more. Akerman did what was needed for the role. I found it believable that both Manhattan and Nite Owl were infatuated with her. And she carried herself well enough in the fight scenes.

As for the Flight of the Valkyrie being played during the Manhattan in Vietnam scene... I don't think it was a homage to Apocalypse Now but an inside nod to fans of the comic. That song was mentioned by Hollis (the first Nite Owl) as always reminding him of a sad scene he remembers from his dad's garage. I believe it was thrown in there as a nod to the comic, very, very inside homage which quite frankly I didn't catch and had to have that pointed out to me. But I think that is why it was chosen. It was jarring though. But I found a lot of the music cues to be jarring (especially every Dylan one used). But then again it is hard to use 0s music to set up the time period without it being jarring, 80s music is just jarring in general.

dez said...

That said I would have preferred less wire fighting and more realistic fight scenes.

The aftermath of some of the blows (the blood, the bruises, the broken bones) was a lot more realistic than most superhero fights, I think.

In other words out of costume he was half the man he is when he is in costume playing the role of Nite Owl.

I think that's part of what made the scene funny, though. He can't perform unless he's put on his Nite Owl persona, where all his confidence resides. Plus, "Hallelujah" really didn't help. The friend I saw it with was annoyed because it ruined it as a love scene, she said, and I responded that I thought they were really just going for a sex scene.

The other song that didn't work was "The Sound Of Silence" playing at The Comedian's funeral. That bothered me a little the first time, and annoyed the crap out of me the second time I saw it.

coffee said...

i haven't read the Watchmen comic series, but i can't imagine them packing any more into one movie even if they wanted to, which is good for me, makes me feel like i got my money's worth

John E. Winchester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edl said...

Good review, but I think it is a bad movie. I am now reading the comic book, and I must say I think the movie completely missed the point. Not only is it's soundtrack (apart from the opening tune) and a lot of the acting terrible. It only tells plot points, and it doesn't give enough context to what's happening or any depth to the characters you are watching. Therefore making it a shallow movie, the exact opposite of the novel. If you only tell the plot, with stretched out slo mo violence, without giving real sense to how the world they live in has become as it is, how these characters have become what they are, the whole point is lost. The makers of the movie didn't seem to get most of the characters (with the most obvious example being Ozymandias), they didn't seem to get how the government used the 'superheroes' in their own advantage in the Novel, thereby making the novel a critique on America. They just copied cool images, and some dialogue, and the basic plot (while differing from it at the ending), focused on the violence, put a very bad soundtrack under it and people call it a faithful adaption. No it isn't. It would be more faithful if it didn't squeeze as much violence and information in a 2,5 movie as possible, and get across the main points of the novel.