Monday, March 9, 2009

The Watchmen - Movie Review and Commentary

I went to see The Watchmen.

And ALL I have to say is...AMAZING!

Even now, I still have images of the movie in my head….I’m still thinking about how director Zack Snyder literally pulled images from the graphic novel and recreated a motion picture masterpiece.

THE WATCHMEN IS THE GODFATHER OF COMIC BOOK MOVIES and NOT THE DARK KNIGHT!

I’m not here to write a long, detailed account of the movie.

But I will offer some commentary on the movie in relation to some points being made by CRITICS, FANBOYS AND MOVIEGOERS recently.

Since I'm not writing a complete review, I have provided the following movie review that, in some ways, I agree with more than others by the very talented Michelle Kerns of the Examiner.com (SEE AFTER THE FOLLOWING COMMENTARY)


I would like to address some points:

1) Greatest Comic Book Movie Ever (So Far…?)

This is, without a doubt, The Greatest Comic Book Movie Ever…at least so far…PLEASE…KEEP IN MIND there ARE still others to be made.

And please understand, I am not saying “Greatest Superhero” movie. There is a difference.

To this day, I feel that Superman starring Christopher Reeve is the Greatest Superhero Movie Ever because it was the first to take the genre of superheroes and comic books seriously and everything else that came after it has followed in its footsteps.

The Watchmen on the other hand is based on a comic book series released over 12 issues (1986-1987) and collected into one book...AND THATS IT! No more stories. No more adventures of the Nite Owl or Dr. Manhattan. NOTHING.

So, the movie had to be EXACTLY like the book or fans would have had Zack Snyder fed to the wolves!

2) The “Godfather” of Comic Book Movies and why I can’t understand The Dark Knight’s great appeal except for Heath Ledger’s outstanding performance or simply put….The Watchmen vs. The Dark Knight

OK. Everyone wants to compare current movies with those who have tested the strains of time. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is one of those (along with its great sequel) that rose above the fray of 70’s movies and endured as a legacy of great film making. It was filled with so many characters that carried the film and, not so much, centered around the exploits of just one person.

Everyone is looking for the one comic book movie that raises the bar to the Godfather's level of excellence.

The Watchmen, which time will tell if it does the same in regard to popularity, has similar points of plot and character layers.

In regard to the widely popular and highly successful Batman: The Dark Knight: The movie, I felt, was mostly centered around scenes with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger. I’ve watched the thing five times and cannot understand how this thing was so huge. The biggest issue I had was the EDITING….THIS IS one of my many problems with The Dark Knight.

Scenes, especially action sequences, are cut so fast that I cannot tell what’s going on. Heath Ledger’s Joker is the only thing that is worth watching and the ending is just plain ridiculous. Why does Hollywood insist on killing off a Batman villain in almost every movie??? THEY NEVER DIE!

BY THE WAY, Batman Begins is my favorite Batman movie…I felt it was WAY better than The Dark Knight….

Now, I would admit that one thing leads to the other…most of these comic book movies would not be here if not for the success of Blade, X-Men and, of course, Spider-Man….And all of those, I feel, were edited in a way that helps to viewer appreciate each scene…

Which leads me to one of the techniques used in some movies since it was used greatly in the first Matrix movie….THE SLOW-MO FIGHT SCENE!

I love the Slow-Mo Fight Scene…In The Watchmen, when Nite Owl II fights, breaking necks and punching, I can see what he’s doing….I can feel the crunching….I can take time to watch it ALL go down….

In The Dark Knight….YOU GET NOTHING!!….Did Batman punch the guy???? I don’t know, it happened so fast…I’m not sure.

Cue to director Christopher Nolan….The jail break scene in The Watchmen…THAT’S HOW BATMAN SHOULD FIGHT!!! (or watch the entire Bourne Identity trilogy or A History of Violence…those guys can fight AND YOU SEE IT!!!!!!)

Also, the Slow-Mo Fight Scene is perfect for action movies but works even better in comic book based action movies. Because comic book fans are readers and they appreciate a good fight scene or two….

Also, I like it because as an artist I can appreciate what I’m watching….because when I was reading comics with the superhero fighting and/or plasma blasting a villain drawn by great artists like Jim Lee, John Byrne, etc. I saw it happening...visualizing it off the page…

3) The Comic Book Fanboys-Geeks and Watchmen Book Readers VS. Regular Joe and Jane Movie-Goer or IF YOU DIDN’T READ THE BOOK…OH WELL

Now this debate over whether you can appreciate the movie for what it is vs. those who read the book is quite valid.

But what I got to say is….So what!!

For years, prior to the string of comic book/superhero based movies to come out since 1998, Hollywood tried to marry the comic book movie with successful box office receipts….which means COMPROMISING a little. So they began to throw everything but the kitchen sink in these movies to get the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR FROM THE REGULAR GUY AND GAL’S TIGHT HAND.

And I appreciate the valiant efforts of those who had throw a love story, a kidnapped love interest, a few jokes, touches of nostalgia and more to make Spider-Man, X-Men and others a BOX OFFICE HIT.

But, you know, every once in a while, can't they afford to throw the comic book fans a few bones???

I mean, (and this can be related to ALL comic book fans..AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!)…When I was a kid, I was called GEEK…NERD….AND EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE BULLY BOOK because I read comic books and would draw super-heroes…All this while everyone else was listening to and watching whatever was the HOT THING back then….I was in my bedroom at my desk finding out what would happen next to Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Superman, etc….And Everybody Else Didn't Care!

While we comic book readers were READING comic books just like others before us….EVERYONE ELSE LAUGHED…ALL COMIC BOOK READERS WERE LOOKED DOWN ON…EVEN OUR TEACHERS THOUGHT COMIC BOOKS WERE TRASH (FUNNY LOOK AT OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM NOW, THEIR USING COMICS TO HELP KIDS!) AND WE WERE THE ONES SHELLING OUT OUR MONEY TO SUPPORT OUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK STORES AND COMPANIES AND WRITERS AND ARTISTS…

IT WAS OUR HARD EARNED MONEY THAT WENT TO BUY ALL THOSE COMIC BOOKS…NOW, COLLECTING DUST IN OUR BOXES….NOW, SELLING THEM ON EBAY….

NOW, EVERYONE, THE SAME PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT COMIC BOOKS SUCKED AND TREATED US BAD, WANT TO NOW CRY: “OH, I LOVE SPIDER-MAN”…”OH, I LOVE BATMAN”…YOU SEE A MOVIE AND NO NOTHING ABOUT THE CHARACTER!

AND YOU THINK I CARE IF SOMEONE GOES TO SEE “WATCHMEN” AND DON’T LIKE IT???

THIS MOVIE IS FOR THE WATCHMEN GRAPHIC NOVEL READER….NO ONE ELSE…

IF YOU LIKE THE MOVIE DESPITE NOT READING THE BOOK, COOL…

IF YOU DON’T, WELL, WAIT UNTIL THE WOLVERINE MOVIE OR SPIDER-MAN 4 TO GET YOUR FIX OR YOU CAN TRY READING A BOOK FOR A CHANGE! YOU HAD OVER 10 YEARS TO READ THE WATCHMEN DAMMIT!

THE ONLY OPINION THAT REALLY MATTERS ABOUT THE WATCHMEN MOVIE IS THOSE WHO READ
THE WATCHMEN GRAPHIC NOVEL

(Please forgive my little rant....)

Here is the review posted by Michelle Kerns of the Examiner.com that I am in nearly total agreement:

The Watchmen movie review: what worked, what flopped, and how the movie measures up to the book by Michelle Kerns (Examiner.com)

March 7, 4:56 AM
....
Alan Moore's Watchmen has been one of my favorite books (#22 in my top 50, to be Dr. Manhattan-exact) since I first read it at the behest of a friend over 10 years ago.


*****A Word to the Wise: Spoilers follow, proceed with caution*****Seeing a film adaptation that could measure up to the depth and intelligence of the book seemed about as likely as a murderer's chances locked in a room with Rorschach; did Zack Snyder's movie version of Watchmen do it? Let's take a look at a breakdown of what worked, what flopped and how Watchmen, the movie measured up to Watchmen, the book.

What worked magnificently

The Comedian: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is pure genius as Eddie Blake, a.k.a The Comedian: he doesn't just look, talk, and act as if he leapt straight from the pages of the book, his apartment (complete with Hustler and girly poster on the wall) and his every gesture are dead on. The Comedian is the sort of character that, on the big screen, could easily look like a complete bastard that everyone hates; Mr. Morgan managed to make him as likeable as he is hateable -- fantastic.

The fight scenes:
Where to begin here? The fight between The Comedian and the intruder at the movie's beginning; Laurie and Dan taking on the knot-tops and then, later, the prison heavies; and Rorschach fighting pretty much the whole of the NYPD were graphic joys. I particularly loved the Nat King Cole "Unforgettable" touch during the movie's opening fracas. There is something about the surreal juxtaposition of a smooth golden-oldie being played over scenes of utter violence that makes my jaw drop in admiration.

The opening credit scenes: The history of the Watchmen, and their predecessors, the Minutemen, are covered in a nicely compressed fashion in this. Without leaving a jot or tittle out, Snyder managed to get across who the original masked avengers were, what happened to them, and where the new crop of heroes came from, all without a word uttered. That is, unless you count Bob Dylan's "The Times They are A-Changin'", a nice retro choice here.

The itsy bitsy details that only a Watchmen fan will recognize and appreciate: 


Where's the fun of making a film adaptation of a book if you don't
throw in a few nods here and there to the book's devoted fan base?
Snyder did more than throw Watch-heads a few bones in this movie; he practically coated the film from beginning to end with tiny details that, while they may not be noticed by people who haven't read the
book, will be adored and appreciated by the book's fans. From the Veidt label on the aerosol can that Rorschach uses to fend off the police in Moloch's house to the Gunga Diner balloon flying over the city, this is the kind of movie that I can see myself watching obsessively on DVD, trying to pick out more and more and more obscure Watchmen details with each viewing.

Rorschach: 


I loved Rorschach in the book; his film manifestation didn't lessen my admiration one bit. While his Clint-Eastwood-with-laryngitis voice bugged me at first, it soon grew on me. Jackie Earle Haley's interpretations of the dialogue were spot-on and his dead-pan Rorschach sans mask face was as identical to the book as it could get. I confess, I came dangerously close to tears at the end when he and Dr. Manhattan had their little Antarctica standoff. Additionally, I was thrilled that Rorschach's classic, "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me," was kept in the prison scene. Now gentlemen, that's a man's man for you. A man after my own heart

Dan Dreiberg:


Where did they get this guy? He was fantastic -- the perfect mixture of decency, kindness, vulnerabiltiy, and danger. His relationship with Rorschach was well portrayed.

Dr. Manhattan:


Although I always imagined his voice to be deep and monotonous, after hearing Billy Crudup's interpretation, I realized how much better it was at simultaneously conveying the invincible man's weird combination of aloof detachment and emotion. His scenes with Laurie on Mars were outstanding.

The Comedian's funeral:


Although I didn't care much for the choice of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" here, the flashback scenes of Dan, Dr.
Manhattan, and Veidt were exceptionally well done.

What flopped miserably

The dry political bits at the beginning: 
I'm not sure why the McLaughlin Group take-off bits were considered to be a better kick-off for the movie than simply starting out of the gate with the Comedian's death. It might have been less daunting for viewers not familiar with Watchmen if the political yakking came after Blake flies out the window.

Adrian Veidt: 


Veidt was the only hero that didn't match his literary counterpart at all. The Veidt in the Watchmen book looked like a pretty-boy Ken doll on steroids; the Veidt of the movie looked like a twiggy English professor togged up in a Halloween costume. And this skinny guy is supposed to be able to take out the Comedian, Rorschach, and Nite Owl? Please. Also, a number of Veidt's harangues, especially the one he gives just prior to the "assassination" attempt, could have been cut substantially without doing harm to the movie.

The Ride of the Valkyries music during the Vietnam War scenes:
Are you kidding me? The scenes themselves were great, but that awful, awful Wagner in the background just made them seem corny. "The Ride of the Valkyries" should be reserved exclusively for German opera houses and the Loony Toons.

Not enough Rorschach: I was terribly disappointed that Rorschach's time with the psychologist ended up being compressed into one brief scene. Rorschach is really the headliner of the entire story, and the details revealed about him in the book as he talks about Kitty Genovese and his personal development into Rorschach are fascinating. With as good a Rorschach as Mr. Haley was, I would have killed to have seen more of him. Or, at the very
least, broken a few fingers to see more.

Rorschach chopping Blaire Roche's killer in the head:
It's not so much the blood and guts (or brains, if you will), that I
mind in this bit, but that it makes Rorschach look more like a blood
lusting lunatic than the avenger he is. I also sorely missed the
phoenix-like imagery that Rorschach describes to the psychologist when he talks about burning the killer's house down: how Walter Kovacs died that night and Rorschach was born.

Too much tits & ass:
I could have done with much less of the Dan and Laurie peep show and much more Rorschach. O.K., so Nite Owl is getting over being impotent, I get it. I don't need to see every detail. Anyway, Dr. Manhattan shows off enough of his electric blue to more than make up for them keeping their clothes on.

Dr. Manhattan as the bad guy:
I'm not certain why the squid/alien thing couldn't simply have remained
as the destroyer of New York City. Did it really make the story less
complicated to just have it all pinned on Dr. Manhattan? I don't think
so, especially since they had to keep harping on tachyons in order to
make the point.

How the Watchmen movie measures up to the Watchmen book

The Watchmen movie was stunning: it was visually spectacular and the details and character performances will keep Watchmen fans more than happy for years. No matter how hard it tries though, it doesn't come close to matching the emotional intensity and depth of the Watchmen book. There are too many parts of the book that the movie couldn't replicate effectively, such as the policeman talking about Blake's murder at the beginning of the book while their words are placed over the pictures showing Blake's death, or The Tales of the Black Freighter snippets mixed with the newspaper-man's conversations. It's a fantastic movie, but remains a better book.

We Examiners are such suckers for Watchmen, you could surf this site all day and not read it all. But at least give it a try. Take a look at these alternative thoughts about Watchmen, the movie:

The Graphic Novel Examiner, Kevin Smith's review of Watchmen

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