Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watchmen Review

So I finally saw Watchmen the other night. What can I say other than: fan-fucking-tastic. And yes, I stand by this review, as opposed to others. I won't waste time going over the extensive plot here (you can read that at the Wikipedia article) and the reason you can do that and know pretty much what you'll get in the theatre is because this film stayed truer to the original source material than almost any other project currently coming out of Hollywood.

The look of the film was taken straight from the graphic novel, at times recreating entire panels from the book down to the smallest detail, and the casting was spot on: from the roughed up visage of the man who played Rorschach to the milquetoast fellow who played Owlman Nite Owl, the characters from the novel came alive onscreen (I have to be honest though: I heard Doctor Manhattan's voice at least half an octave lower in my head, although Crudup did a fair job imparting the character's indifference towards human affairs; and yes, he is naked and swinging some blue pipe in several scenes). My one complaint was the music: it seemed a bit obvious and ham-handed to me. From the use of Dylan's "The Times They are a-Changin" over the opening historical montage to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" used in the Vietnam battle sequence, the soundtrack felt like it was overreaching and at times all too obvious.

There were a few essential changes from the original story that I disagreed with but I understand why they were made. While Dr. Manhattan does retain his ambivalence about most things human several of his lines from the graphic novel were changed to make his character appear slightly less cold and indifferent and a significant plot point in the ending was exchanged for something that seemed more believable and contemporary but for the most part the movie remains very true to Alan Moore's original vision. I was surprised that they left out Manhattan's explanation for the symbol upon his forehead (it represents a hydrogen atom, something he respects more than the cheesy atom cloud the government PR people try to force on him) but I will say that I was entirely OK with the removal of the pirate novel The Tales of the Black Freighter, the novel within a novel that I found rather tedious to read but a trailer before the movie tells us that it will soon be coming out on DVD if you're interested.

One caveat: when I say that the movie remains true to Moore's original vision I'm not kidding. This is not your standard, watered down, PG-13 comic book movie; it's a movie for adults that seeks to challenge what you think you know about the genre and the world we live in and it does it violently, even gruesomely at times. What I'm saying is do not bring young children to this flick, partly because it's not appropriate for them and partly because I don't want them talking or crying in the same theatre as me when I'm watching it. Take them to see The Pink Panther 2 or the Jonas Brothers 3D Experience, there's no way we'll cross paths at those shows.

On the parody front, we have the Futurama mash-up of the original theatrical trailer (you can watch them side by side at the link), a graphic novelization featuring syndicated comic strip characters in the same vein as Frank Miller's Charlie Brown and a hilarious animated spot portraying the novel as a mid-eighties Saturday morning cartoon (and if you don't know why the line "Rorschach's friends to the animals" is so hilarious you really need to see the flick first). And as I said above, reading the Wikipedia article before you go to the theatre will definitely help you keep the plot straight in your head. I hope you like this one as much as I did.


Anonymous said...

While I liked much of it, I didn't love it, and I actually found it to deviate from the original in some key ways. I wouldn't normally care too much about this. But, the filmmakers worked so hard to stay true to the book in so many other places that those deviations stuck out like Dr. Manhattan's junk.

I thought they completely dismantled Laurie into nothing more than T&A. And Rorschach was way too emotional to me.

Did anyone get up and leave during your showing?

StevenErnest said...

I thought the movie was wonderful. I saw it a second time, and liked it even more. When a longer Director's Cut comes out on DVD, it will be even more awesome.

One nitpick: You called him Owlman, and it's Nite Owl.

I find it funny that people have to comment on a blue penis. We're so uptight about sexuality, but love our violence.

I've been having a discussion with some friends on YouTube and Stickam, who thought the film supported the Noble Lie. I think the ending is ambiguous as the novel was.

Van Zan said...

I had never read the graphic novel nor really even heard of it (this damages my geek cred probably, but I'm fine with that) so it was all new to me. 300 was more my thing.

I liked the bit where the abandoned Vietnamese mother says "you will remember my country!".
I felt the truth in it.

JBW said...

Good eye, SE. I've obviously read my copy of JLA: Earth 2 too many times and was thinking of Batman's doppleganger. And I only made mention of blue cock because it seems that it is an obligatory part of every review about this flick, so it was done a bit ironically.

DLW, I think Laurie's and Rorschach's characters suffered from a lack of time to sufficiently develop them. We were shown how Manhattan moved away from his former humanity and to have shown Laurie's continual and escalating isolation from him would, in my opinion, have eaten up too much time.

Same with Rorschach. He is mostly subdued throughout the entire novel but his best scenes are when he gets upset and those were featured more prominently than in the novel, again for the sake of time.

I do think that the film supports the Noble Lie but is left ambiguous on purpose, just as in the novel, for the reader/viewer to make up their own mind. Thanks for reading and commenting, guys.