by Doug Smith
Hello there, and welcome to Day Three of A Week of Watching the Watchmen!
It's Wednesday! It's new comics day in the USA! It's Hump Day!
(Hmmm...maybe we should have saved the discussion of the film’s sex scenes for today?)
Anyway, we’re going to hit reviews from our Queen Fangirls (Spindle, Liana, and Betsy), our token Canadian (Jon Quixote), and our resident man-without-a-soul, Dan. And we’ll spend a little time chewing on the performances themselves, so if you’re a Malin Akerman fan, you may want to cover your eyes.
Are you ready? Well, then, SPOILER WARNINGS ON! Here we go, kids!
We’re going to lead off today with Queen Fangirl Spindle, who saw the movie with her non-comics-reading boyfriend John, and her son Jackson.
Spindle: First it was so freakin' hot in the theater and it started 20 minutes late.
But I liked it, and John and Jackson liked it. John wasn't lost at all.
Jackson has read half of the comic and found the movie much clearer for him. Course when Jackson says "read" he admits he means scan. Watchmen really isn't something you can scan.
They bit off a lot and there were some absolutely gorgeous moments.
The first few scenes were exactly as I imagined they'd be. They were really the comic alive.
There wasn't as much penis as I expected.
I think the casting was pretty good apart from the younger Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman).
It was pretty engrossing; I forgot that I have loads of crap due this week!
Also, two different families were there with like 7 year old boys.
One boy: THAT WAS THE WORST MOVIE EVER!
The other boy just looked traumatized.
I saw a local review show today in which one reviewer LOVED it and the other reviewer claimed it was just because she had read the graphic novel and that he was lost a few minutes into the film. "It's strictly geared to fans of the comic."
The pro Watchmen reviewer's response was, "So sorry you couldn't follow the plot." BURN!
The General: To my knowledge, Sarah didn't have any trouble following the plot. We actually have still only talked about it a little (for some reason we never actually talk about the movies we watch until a day or two later; I think we both like some time for it to sink in and think it over), but I think the only thing she was confused about was whether or not all the characters had superpowers; she thought all the characters had superpowers because of their fairly supernatural fighting skills. Beyond that she seemed to be able to follow it.
Liana: Honestly, I was a little stuck on that too. Rorschach could REALLY jump. The rest I eventually decided must have been due to some seriously crazy training.
Ye Olde Editor: Speaking of people who’ve been through crazy training….here’s Jon Quixote and his review!
Jon Quixote: After seeing it, I have to say that I find it hard to give an accurate evaluation. I mean, I'm familiar enough with the original that I know I'm filling in all sorts of gaps that just aren't there in the movie.
But I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Overall, I think they basically "got" it. I just don't think I'll ever be able to know how it plays as a movie all on its own, but I suspect it's pretty hit and miss. Some things I think they actually did better than the book. Some things are just painful (especially some of the lines that just weren't written to be spoken; and some of the musical choices just seemed...random).
Ultimately, I think I view it as a supplement to the book. A curio where we get to see (most of it) played out with actors and music. And in that respect, it was pretty cool.
And even though I've heard so much gushing praise for the opening credits, I was still blown away by them. It's almost too bad that the rest of the movie didn't have that audacity and creative adaptation, although it almost certainly would have turned out to be a bad idea in practice. I think that by hewing so closely to the material, they played it pretty safe. It was never going to be great with this approach - it was going to be literal and occasionally limp and all very crammed. But it was probably the right approach.
I had warmed to Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl after seeing him, but I had a bit of a double-take reaction when he was first cast. I think he definitely vindicated himself.
But more surprising was that I really dug Matthew Goode's portrayal of Ozymandias.
Oh, and I have to double-check the original, but was Nixon planning on launching the nukes so brazenly in the book? I don't think so. In either event, I think that was a terrible choice (be it Snyder's or Moore's) as it essentially stripped the ambiguity from the plan. And what was with the Nixon makeup? Almost sunk the entire movie.
Liana: I walked out of the movie with five major complaints:
1. The casting of Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre. That girl could NOT act.
2. The complete stoppage of momentum with the Nite Owl/Silk Spectre scenes (which also happens in the comic, incidentally). The point could have easily been made and understood in about twenty minutes' less time.
3. Veidt's weird cat thing (Bubastis), which wasn't set up at all and had really bad CGI.
4. Nixon's make-up. Geez.
5. The New Frontiersman stuff at the end. It wasn't explained during the movie (passing shots here and there only), so the thing at the end was just a bone thrown to fans of the comic. It's fine, but it had no place in the movie as it was. The director's cut will probably incorporate that stuff a little better.
Otherwise, I thought the film did a fantastic job translating the comic. It looked great, the opening montage was fantastic, the story made sense (we went with one of Dan's co-workers and his wife; she had not read the comic and said she followed it all just fine), it honored the comic and even improved on the ending tremendously. It was gorier than I personally needed, but that fit both the tone of the movie and the director's style, so that's just me being grossed out.
Betsy: I finished the book this morning and saw the movie tonight and was blown away by how faithfully they recreated things (with a few exceptions, the ending in particular). I agree that the ending actually works better here. It's a whole lot less complicated, and that's a good thing.
I also enjoyed Patrick Wilson's ass. Well played.
Ye Olde Editor: Hmmmm...it sounds like Jon Quixote wasn't the only one who "warmed" to Patrick Wilson!
And now, here's Dan, who loved the graphic novel even though he doesn't have what we humans refer to as a "soul":
Dan: I think I'm going to end up echoing various points folks have already made, but here goes.
After reading the book, there were two specific things (other than the pirate comic that I already knew was cut out) that I said should be cut out or cut down in the movie version.
1) The newsstand stuff.
2) The two issues of Silk Spectre & Nite Owl.
Unfortunately, they only cut out the first. The second dragged the story down just like it does in the book.
Loved the opening; a great way to do an info/back-story dump. Didn't care for Nite Owl's line reading (cause that's all it felt like at first) but maybe that falls into the "reads better on the page than in real life" category. I can do nothing but applaud Snyder for trying to stay so close to the source material, even if, at times, he did it to a fault. I was able to keep the beat of each chapter of the book as the first couple hours rolled by. It wasn't until they got to the last quarter of the book that I think they may have mixed things up to keep the movie pace going.
Loved that a couple times they used the first panel of a couple issues to start a new scene. Just a nice nod to the strength of the art in the book. Loved how they were able to do chapter four (Dr. Manhattan's origin narrative) so well as it's probably one of my favorite single comics ever. Loved the new ending.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earl Haley were freakin' awesome in this. Great casting that, unfortunately, put a bit of a negative light on the casting of Silk Spectre, Ozymandias and Nite Owl.
In the end, it was a good flick and I'm glad a studio found a director who wanted to present the original material and not try and modernize it or say something new.
Tim: I think it has to be said that I'm impressed with the fact they managed to adapt it at all.
It strikes me that when you make a Batman film you can write a Batman story for the screen. Same with Iron Man. Or Spidey. Sure you take inspiration from the comics, but you're not directly adapting one specific story. Watchmen was constrained by the fact that it was telling that story, and further by the fact that it was telling a story that was very much about structure and form as much as anything. To manage to do something with that that doesn't feel utterly trite or worthless is, in itself, rather impressive.
And as a second thought; I hope that the 'R' rating and violence means that superhero movies don't have to be kid-friendly. Not that I'd want Spider-man or Iron Man to go that way, mind. But I like that it might convince people it doesn't have to be all-ages just because it has superpowers in it.
(Of course, that was in part the original legacy of the comic; violence that missed the point, so I may end up getting what I ask for and regretting it.)
The General: It's interesting, reading through this how, with the exception of Rorschach (who everyone seems to agree was good), we seem to be all over the place in terms of which actors we thought did a good job, and which stank.
Personally, I thought that everyone did a pretty good job with the lines they were given. I especially liked the Comedian's performance, and quickly warmed to Dr. Manhattan (though it took a moment). I actually liked Nite Owl in this. I thought the actor did a good job transforming himself from impotent schlub to superhero in a convincing way. While I liked Ozymandias' performance, he actually didn't match what I thought he would be like based on the comic. The character, as presented in the comic, was supposed to be this perfect human specimen... but the movie version was a little too slight to meet that description. Still good, just different.
Tim: Having been thinking about it for a bit, my opinion of Watchmen basically comes down the fact that it was an enjoyable film that got so much more right than it got wrong. Imperfect, but enjoyable and ambitious. For something I went into fearing for the life of me how bad it was going to be, it vastly exceeded expectations, and succeeded somewhat on its own merits too.
And I can only imagine Devin hated it, so bonus there too.
Yassir: I agree with this. I only wish the execution of the ending was better; the changed ending absolutely worked for the film, but I just felt zero impact, and that's just a real shame.
Jon Quixote: I wonder if it needed the "I Did It!"
Yassir: Yeah. That and the mass of bodies and the palpable 'silence' of the first few pages of the last issue.
Doug: This is where I think just a little development of the newsstand characters would have had a huge impact. Just a few scenes, 30 seconds each, here and there throughout the movie.
Yassir: Agreed. I wonder if more will be in the director's cut?
Jon Quixote: I'm under the impression that the directors cut will largely consist of moments involving:
1) Hollis Mason
2) The Newsstand
3) Rorschach's shrink
All of which will probably contribute to a more effective ending.
Yassir: Cool. Apparently it will also incorporate the animated tales of the Black Freighter; it will be very interesting to see if it works.
Tim: I think it illustrates something about the nature of this story that we're talking about things that should have been in the film - but I don't really remember seeing anything here about stuff that should have been cut out.
Illustrates just how hard a job cutting this beast down to even 2:40 must have been.
Ye Olde Editor: Speaking of cutting this beast down…it’s time to wrap up day three! Join us tomorrow when we dig into the psyche of everybody’s favorite brutal vigilante! No, we’re not reviewing the 'Punisher War Zone' DVD….we’re going to be talking about RORSCHACH!
by Doug Smith