Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Always Liked the Pun

See, Jon Osterman wanted to grow up to repair timepieces like his father... making him a watchman...

I guess nobody needed that explained to them. Or maybe you did.

Anyway, I saw Watchmen last week. Short review - if you liked the book, you'll like the movie.

If you haven't read the book, you might be a bit confused. At the very least, you'll wonder what all the hype was about.

If, however, you're fanatical about the book, you may bitch and complain about the minor changes and omissions and the alteration of the ending.

I, however, thought a giant squid was always kind of dumb. I like the idea BEHIND the giant squid, but the actual execution was goofy. The change in the movie makes more sense I think, although the build-up to it is poorly done.

The movie strips away anything that isn't of primary importance to the story. Even then, it comes in at 2 1/2 hours. What's sacrificed by this? Layers.

Snyder's vision gives the plot, and gives us the first layer beneath the surface. This causes an emotional detachment from the world. The movie focuses purely on the Watchmen themselves, not the people who they affect. So when bad things happen, we don't actually care that they're happening to people, because those people are little more than set dressing.

In the book, there are conversations occuring all around, panels dedicated to seemingly minor people. An entire storyline about Rorshach's psychiatrist going mad. These are missing on the screen, so our view of how fucked up the world really is gets changed. Our pathos for the innocent people disappears. This doesn't even touch on the absence of Under the Hood or Tales of the Black Freighter.

But apparently all these things will be on the DVD. Another hour of cut scenes exist to be reintegrated, and that secondary material is already produced. I imagine the DVD will be very different experience.

The acting is sufficient for the movie. Jackie Earle Haley is excellent as Rorshach. Billy Crudup is TOO detached as Doctor Manhattan (I think Crudup is talented enough that he could have added an iota of charisma to the blue guy, but that doesn't come through until the story demands it, which I think is too late), but I don't fault him for it. Malin Akerman is fine as Laurie - she's not good, but she's not so terrible as to be distracting like some critics claim. Matthew Goode as Ozymandias is far, FAR worse. And Patrick Wilson? He's a whiny Nite Owl, but mostly carries off Dan Dreiburg's awkwardness and lack of joy well. The supporting cast, what there is of it, are fine. I feel like Sally Jupiter was hurt by editing, and reserve judgement on Carla Gugino's portrayal of her until the DVD.

Seeing Matt Frewer as Moloch was cool, and Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason was great. Then again, I'll pretty much watch anything with McHattie after Pontypool.

Oh, and let's get Laura Mennell in more 50's outfits... looked good on her as Janey Slater. Way better than 10 years ago when she was a medieval catholic girl in a Stargate SG-1 episode.

I digress.

The film looked great, and did an unbelieveable job of lifting the scenes from the page to the screen. The violence and sex were also no worse than the book. In fact, I think the sex was toned down. Complaints about Snyder's slo-mo are barely warranted as those moments create a sense of watching a graphic novel come to life before your eyes.

Speaking of that style - the opening credits alone are worth the price of admission. A gorgeous, silent recap of how we got to where we are, all to some classic Dylan.

Good soundtrack too, except I still think "Sounds of Silence" was an obvious choice that sticks out. It wasn't inappropriate, but a touch of originality in song choices there would have been appreciated. At least it wasn't Terry Jacks.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the movie. It won't be for everyone, but I think it will satisfy the fans, flame out at the box office, and then find classic status on home theatres everywhere. I seem to recall some talk about a Director's cut being released in the summer in theatres... I may pony up again to see that, but in the meantime, I have the book if I need to revisit the movie.


Wolfshead said...

Thanks for the review. Wanted to see the movie last weekend but didn't get the chance, maybe this one. Liked the book but as I came late to it I doubt I'll be fanatical about it as some others.

VinNay said...

I am a total Watchmen fan boy.

I loved the opening credits sequence, one of the best ever. Haley nailed Rorshach, who in my mind has always been the hero of the story.


I too thought the Cthulhu inspired squid man in the comic was pretty lame, and it has always sort of disappointed me.

I was initially really pleased with the alternate ending, but then got to thinking - with the squid alien thing, humanity could band together for the protection of the world against an alien invasion. But with the alternate ending (i'm trying to not spoil things) why bother? You can't fight a god, no matter if the world finds peace enough to work together or not. It just doesn't work for me.


All in all, I really enjoyed it, and even got a cigarette break 1/2 way through when someone pulled a fire alarm in the theater.

Please refrain from the smarmy remarks about fires in Buffalo.....

Astin said...

Vin - But the problem with squiddo (other than its lameness) was that there was never a follow-up. No aliens would ever be found. But with the new ending, the "cause" is a known entity, so should be more believable to the world at large.

Even if they could never win, governments are very good at looking busy (see: current economic crisis), and their efforts at finding a defense should be enough to placate the masses, an combined with fear of a known danger, it should cause the peace to last long enough for it to stick. Or so I imagine the theory goes.

1Queens Up1 said...

I never read the original book, but XBOX Live started offering the downloadable motion comic so I got to expierience 6 out of the 12 chapters thus far.

Looking forward to see the movie.