A Week of Watching THE WATCHMEN! Day Two

by Doug Smith

Welcome to Day Two of “A Week of Watching THE WATCHMEN”! Yesterday, we started our week of Watchmen discussion by talking in great length about the movie’s ending. Why? Because we’re backwards like that, OK? Today, we’ll spend some time talking about how newcomers to the world of Watchmen reacted to the movie; our first fairly negative review of the film; and how some of the film’s changes from the source material may not have worked for us.

So let’s get down to it, and as always, SPOILER WARNINGS ON!!!

Let’s lead off with The General, who went to see the movie with his (non-comics-loving) wife, Sarah (a.k.a. “The Admiral”):

The General: Overall, I liked the movie. It was flawed to be sure. But, as far as trying to distill an "unfilmable" comic into a nearly 3 hour movie, it was probably as good as one could expect. I honestly think it hit most of the major plot points and ideas that are core to the series, even if they sort of get reduced to sound bites at times. And, while I still have some misgivings about amping up the fight scenes and making characters like Nite Owl and Silk Spectre more capable fighters (it sort of undermines the "realism" of the series), I do feel it was probably necessary -again- to make something that is more engaging to the masses, so to speak.

I did think that it was a bit surprising how gory it was (for lack of a better word). There were lots of scenes were Snyder upped the blood and gore. For example, in the Veidt assassination scene... where instead of Adrian just fighting the assassin, we get the assassin shooting the secretary in the leg, and then gunning down a couple other business men in slow motion. Or, in the scene were Nite Owl and Silk Spectre fight off the knot-tops... there was a level of brutality to those scenes that was sort of surprising, and seemed out of character in some regards... but made sense in a way too.

Anyhow, I know it was the most off-putting part of the movie for Sarah. And, while I probably should have expected it given the director's past films, it still sort of surprised me. I was leafing through the Watchman hardcover just now though, and looking at them again, the two fight scenes I mention are actually fairly brutal in the comic too... I just think the difference might be as much a matter of seeing things depicted "in real life" as opposed to in illustrations.

Doug: I thought that the film telegraphed Laurie’s parentage, and the identity of the “villain”, far too obviously. Since Sarah hadn’t read the comics, what was her reaction to those two plot developments?

The General: I thought they made both of those things too obvious, but when I asked Sarah she said she didn't realize either thing until it was officially "revealed." So, I think it might be because we've read the book that they seemed obvious.

Tim: Same here. And the main comment I got about the Silk Spectre/Comedian thing from my friends was that it felt a bit tagged on, interestingly. I'm not sure they even saw the setups.

The General: I thought I'd mention the Silk Spectre rape scene. I thought it seemed possibly more brutal than in the comic. And, there was something sort of extra-disturbing about seeing a scene like that play out with characters wearing bright, colorful outfits. It's surreal and a little scary.

Anyhow, while it wasn't the perfect film, I did think it was very good overall and wouldn't mind watching it again sometime.

Tim: I don't know if I want to see it in the cinema, but I think I'll end up owning it on DVD to rewatch.

The General: Yeah, I doubt I'd even get a chance to see it in the theaters again, if I wanted to. But, I was just talking about watching it again someday on DVD. I could easily see them giving this the Lord of the Rings treatment, where they release a DVD with an extra 30 minutes or more.

Doug: There’s supposed to be a director’s cut released to theaters in July, with an extra 30 minutes of footage. Although with the movie dropping quickly at the box office, I don’t know if they’ll follow through with that plan.

Ye Olde Editor: Just a reminder, kids…the Tales of the Black Freighter DVD was released today! That has a lot of the material that didn’t make it into the film.

And now, here’s Rory, with the first fairly negative reaction from the BG Gang:

Rory: Oof, fellas.

There was some stuff I really liked. The opening credits have been raved about. The Comedian's funeral was great - the opening shot with the pull back through the cemetery gates I thought was an homage to Citizen Kane. Rorschach in prison basically stole the show. And Mickey from Seinfeld!

But, hooboy, there's a lot sick in this puppy. I thought the new ending was really bland, and not so much less confusing than the original (one of my friends I saw it with thought the Squid was MORE plausible). And why have Laurie deliver the "nothing ever ends" line? It was so much more effective in driving home the point of the story when Dr. M said it to Ozy. Also, way too much Nixon. I don't remember him being in the comic so much.

AND, Dear Lord....STOP....THE....SLOW....MOTION! How can anyone enjoy this? Action scenes that are slow, then hyper fast, then slow...or an emotional moment with loud dramatic music with characters moving at a snail's pace?

Overall, I'd give it a 4/10 (tough to do letter grades, but higher than a D+ but not quite a C-). I don't think I could sit through this again.

Matt: For the most part I enjoyed the movie. It made me appreciate the book a whole lot more.

There were two parts that bugged me (aside from the Zack Snyder sex scene that I should have seen coming after watching 300):

First, the scene when Rorschach kills the kidnapper. I was not happy that Rorschach just kills the guy brutally. Anyone can kill, that doesn't make Rorschach crazy; that is why there are crimes of passion. Maybe in that situation I would have killed the kidnapper if it was my kid, and I tend to think that I am pretty normal. In the comics, having Rorschach torture the guy by letting him saw off his arm before he burns to death shows that Rorschach changed and was more methodical in inflicting punishment.

The General: Yeah, I definitely agree with this. I can see why they didn't do the "saw off the arm thing" since that as already been done in Saw and a dozen other movies, and would seem clichéd. But, changing the scene so that Rorschach just starts whacking away with the ax on the guy’s head definitely changes the transformation. In the comic, it's about him crossing a line but still being methodical (like you said)... while in the movie it becomes about him just becoming a crazed killer.

Matt: The other thing that really bugged me was when Dr. Manhattan confronted Rorschach. When he killed Rorschach no one else was there; Nite Owl was not part of it at all. He already made his choice to keep quiet and then Dr. Manhattan disappears. They don't know that Manhattan goes and kills Rorschach. That might have been in the back of their minds but if they were not there, then they could justify that they had no part in it.

The General: Agree again. I actually really, really liked Rorschach in that scene. I think what Jackie Earle Haley did really showed how emotionally complex that moment was (you can see that Rorschach, on one level agrees with what they are doing, but also realizes that it goes against his personal code and that for them to succeed, he has to die). I thought his performance was great. Oh, and the blood splatter was nicely done.

THAT said, I have no idea why the fuck they had to include Nite Owl in that scene (just to scream "nooooo!" and fall in the snow?). It really just struck me as a pointless addition.

That scene alone really shows what the movie did right, and what it did wrong.

Spindle: I'm not sure. I looked at the book again last night for the first time in years, because I really wanted to go in to the movie fresh. So I didn't go in remembering every single panel.

If they were all in this room together and Rorschach goes to leave and everyone knows he's going to tell and that they can't let him do that, wouldn't his friend follow him and try to talk to him? I would if I were Nite Owl. I liked how they'd set up this odd friendship and sort of warmth between the two. Nite Owl just letting Rorschach walk out without any concern for his welfare wouldn't make sense. Of course he follows and of course he's struck by his death. It gives the event some humanity.

Also, I like it better without the poolside sex scene (from the comics), which given what has just happened seems odd to me now.

Jon Quixote: I agree with the pretty lady. Dan getting his freak on with Spectre while Rorschach gets atomized always seemed... inhuman. And when I say "inhuman" I mean both callous and unrealistic. "Well, we're in an Antarctic base. New York has just been destroyed. The guy whom we just risked our lives to bust out of prison is storming out of here, fuming, and swearing to to do something we don't really agree with. He's probably taking my ride too. You know what that means, don't you Laurie? It's time for LUUUUUUV!"

Devin: See, I always found that part incredibly humanizing. Dan and Laurie are the two most human characters in the story and at that point, everything has been thrown out the window. They don't have sex in a pleasurable, "let's get it on", it's sex of desperation, of trying to find some semblance of their former lives, their understandable humanity to hold onto. Hence, the perfume she wears is nostalgia. They have lost their world as they know it, where they weren't partially guilty for the deaths of millions, where there was some line between good and evil, where NYC was still alive. All they have is their nostalgia and each other. They can still have sex like they did in Nite Owl's ship over the still-living NYC.

Matt: I agree with that. It was more a relief and possibly a way to forget what has happened.

The General: Actually, reading all of this and Spin's thoughts does turn me around on Nite Owl being part of the scene, a bit. I guess I do agree that it helps play up the Rorschach/Nite Owl friendship storyline which makes sense a bit. But, I think to acknowledge that, we cross into the territory of acknowledging that the comic is less than perfect. And, while I'm willing to admit that, I'm hesitant to get into it because, as a pirate map might say, “thar be monsters”.

All that said, while I guess Nite Owl's presence in the scene does play toward his humanity, I don't think I ever thought there was anything wrong with the pool-side sex scene. As Devin points out, I never saw that scene as romantic, but rather desperate. I just always presumed that the two characters were retreating to something they could (literally) get a handle on. The death of several million people and the dramatic change in the new world order was too much for them, so they were using sex to cope, so to speak. It's the sort of thing that makes people get it on in movies all the time, and makes teenage characters fall back on the whole "I don't want to die a virgin" line.

Jon Quixote: It's still kind of awkward - it could have done without the Nooooo! (which did make for an okay visual for the trailer though), because he's just standing there watching while it's happening only to have an extreme reaction when it does. But I think it makes so much more sense for Dan to follow Rorschach out. At the very least to fire up Archie for him.

Liana: I didn't find that awkward. I took it as Nite Owl actually realizing what just happened on a personal level. Ozymandias explaining that 15 million people had to die for world peace is both overwhelmingly devastating and fairly abstract when you're standing in a secret base in Antarctica with a glowing blue penis and the guy who claims to have just both destroyed and saved the world and you're all watching it on a whole bunch of TV screens. I thought Nite Owl believed Dr. Manhattan was going outside to stop Rorschach by talking some sense into him. Maybe on some level he knew Rorschach had to die, but it wasn't any kind of conscious level until it happened. It shocked him. His friend being decimated, realizing that's just what happened all over the world and realizing that he's condoning it.

Matt: Despite my feelings about the final Rorschach/Manhattan scene, I thought it was a pretty good film. As far as the production goes, I was really impressed with Dr. Manhattan. I liked the glow he had and how it seemed like atoms were floating around him. I really liked the actor who portrayed the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and my favorite scene was the funeral. I didn't care for the actress who played the Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) at all. I could have done without some of the gorier scenes like the chainsaw and Rorschach cutting the kidnapper's head and some of fight scenes with the broken arms and legs but I can live with it.

Yassir: Good points, Matt. I agree.

It's hard to coalesce all my thoughts and that after seeing it only once. I think I can sum it up with one sentence: It was never going to be as stylish and sophisticated as the comic but for all its flaws it was fun, and it makes me love the comic even more.

And that, my friends, seems like a good stopping point for day two. Join us tomorrow when the Queen Fangirls of the Bad Genious (Spindle, Betsy, Liana, and Jon) finally share their full reviews with us!


Donte said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Doug Smith said...

Thanks for the kind words! We hope to have some more good stuff coming your way next week!