I watch the Watchmen

It needed the squid.

Keeping with the negativity, Leonard Cohen would be rolling in his grave if he wasn’t alive and on tour. I mean seriously, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to attach Hallelujah to soft core super hero porn? Calling the soundtrack decisions dubious would be a compliment.

With that out of the way, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the adaptation. While earlier I worried about the hyper fidelity of the work, I now feel it worked well in an unintended manner (more on that later). The potentially cheesy moments were not as pronounced as they may have been. I mean sure, the angsty and thin philosophizing is there but it does not serve itself much worse than it did in the actual book. The weak moments of the novel were predictably weak on screen (Manhattan on Mars waxing about the miracle of sex for one).

The stand outs  are the visceral moments. This is a gratuitously bloody film. While this can be held against it, I personally see it as the adaptation’s greatest strength. You forget how superfluously dark Watchmen is while reading it. You don’t while watching it. In action some of the scenes are truly horrific – mostly the Rorschach stuff. The film brings out the nihilism of the novel and asks you to look at the mess for what its worth. Beneath the petty philosophy of the work is a burning core of violence, anarchy, and vacancy. The film nails it. In a way, Snyder’s vision unwittingly acts as an exposé.

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3 Responses to “I watch the Watchmen”

  1. Kevin, while you provide sound examples for why the film did the best it could (knowing or unknowingly) I must strongly interject: I decided upon entering the film to view it just as a film. I re-read the book the week prior, making it a fresh experience and I decided, in keeping with Mr. Moore, that it truly is a comic book incapable of film adaptation – therefore I would not look at it as an adaptation. Instead I wanted to only look at it as a film.

    This provided, I thought it was a terrible film. An absolutely wretched film. I was nervously, pensively, anxiously, et al adjectives, waiting for it to end so I could leave the theater in complete agony of the terrible direction film is going. Throughout the entire film I felt a strange experience. It was like I could see every literal choice that the filmmakers/writers were presented with and upon deciding, making the absolutely wrong choice.

    They should have played up every cheesy/melodramatic/cinematic/over-the-top moment as much as they could. The beginning of the film was fractionally redeeming. Honestly, the best part of the film was the opening credit sequence (see the NYTimes review for more on that). And the initial murdering of the Comedian was also really great: It elaborately heavily and combines the morbid violence (which you spoke of) with a cynical pulp comic attitude/aesthetic. It also nailed the garrish 80s MTV culture in its minor background subtleties.

    But as we get into the 2nd and 3rd act I could see the wind quickly leaving the sails of the film (analogy to Black Freighter comic exclusion very much intended). All the actors and the way the scenes were directed in the last 3rd felt like they were just going through standard filmic motions. Like they were more ready to be done with the experience than I was. And I won’t even begin with Malin Akerman’s (Laurie Jupiter) excruitiatingly terrible performance. … But yes, I do agree with your criticism of Leonard Cohen’s horrid subjection (along with the rest of the completely blasé baby-booming power ballads to give it some “counter-culture” kick).

    Perhaps I’m completely missing the director’s intention. But really I think the director is missing his own intentions.

  2. Looking at it as a stand alone film, I would agree. I went into this one in adaptation mode and actually felt that the film, as I pointed out, unintentionally exposes the thinness of the narrative to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the comic, but there is a lack of depth there that becomes immediately apparent as you watch the film.

    I feel it shows how truly anarchistic the vision was in the first place and separates it from all of these notions that it is a heady novel. Of course much of the acting was terrible. No disagreement there. You said you recently read it though. Laurie Jupiter is something of a joke in the book (imo) anyway. It would be hard make her ridiculous (the comedian is my father star wars esque) moment palatable. The film didn’t.

    I mostly agree with the New York Times review, which I read before hand, although I disagree with anyone saying this was a bad adaptation of a fairly unadaptable novel in the first place. It did it justice (save the ending). I think it merely pointed out that the source material wasn’t all that (and again, I enjoyed the read).

  3. kevin y. Says:

    Yes, I needed the squid, as well.

    However…

    No one…including the director, the actors, or the general vibe of the movie claim that the movie surpasses the novel in any sense. Everyone included in this project knew that they were merely creating a supplement to the novel by putting a collection of still frames into live action.

    Many scenes were hurt by being put on film, but many were enhanced and much more powerful.

    Is Watchmen a good movie on its own? Kinda.

    But, I don’t think that is the question we should be asking…

    The real question is, did Zach Snyder create an accurate, live action recreation that fans can enjoy?

    In my opinion, yes.

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