3.27.2009

A Week of Watching THE WATCHMEN! Day Five

by Doug Smith


Welcome back! It’s the fifth and final day of the Bad Genious gang’s dissection of the Watchmen movie. We’ve got lots of ground to cover today, as we talk about everything from the film’s use of music, to a game of “What If?” with the directors who were attached to the film over the years, to a final discussion of Dr. Manhattan’s …. ummmm…. weapon of mass destruction.


So, you know the drill by now….SPOILER WARNINGS ON!


Let’s start today with a last-minute review from the Professor of Panelology. Hit it, Brandon!

Brandon: Okay… I finally saw the film and I can now participate in everyone’s conversation they had a week ago. If Dr. Manhattan was right about time, it shouldn’t matter. My thoughts…

- Damn, that was impressive.

- The opening sequence was killer.



- I believe just about everything worked for me. I thought this was a superior comic book adaptation film. I thought it was even better than Dark Knight.

- The change in the ending was much more believable than that of the comic itself. Much like the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist, the film version of Watchmen paid homage to the book and improved upon it by altering the ending. The Dr. Manhattan plot definitely looks better on screen than a giant squid would.

- The cast was perfect, even Ozymandias. In the initial photos release, I thought he looked too baby-faced. Hell, I thought everything looked too bright and colorful in those shots. But everything turned out well.

- I liked the fact the pirate ship stuff wasn’t in the movie. That was always my least favorite part of the comic.

- I dug the soundtrack. There wasn’t anything too adventuresome on it, but it wasn’t distracting or totally obvious.

Rory: Some of the musical choices were just awkward and distracting from the story.

Ye Olde Editor: At this point, I threw a couple of pillows on the table and told Rory and Brandon to settle it “Cinemax After Dark”-style, but they wouldn’t bite.

And now, back to Rory!


Rory: One of the distracting choices was “99 Luftballoons”. The other time it bothered me was when "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" was playing softly during Veidt's assassination. I kept thinking "Is that Tears for Fears? No, wait, maybe, YES!", and missing the dialogue.

Tim: Boy do they use a LOT of classic tunes in the soundtrack. Hendrix's version of “All Along the Watchtower”. “The Times they are a Changing”. The licensing rights for that alone...

Dan: The music was a mixed bag. It worked wonderfully in some places, was over the top in others and some was just out of left field.

Doug: I thought the “Hallelujah” scene was terrible. The only real stinker in the movie.

Spindle: “Hallelujah” was not the right song for that scene, but that's the only place they went wrong with the music. Also, I found it ironic that Jackson (my son) was hiding his eyes during that scene.

Jon Quixote: I had the opposite take. Not counting the opening credits, I liked “Hallelujah” in that scene (I liked everything about that scene) and was unimpressed by most of the other music.

I kinda liked “99 Luftballoons”, but nothing really happened when they used it. I think I liked the idea of the movie being scored with cheesy 80's pop.

Even “Unforgettable”... well, I liked it like I liked “Hallelujah”. I think stylistically it worked very well (as opposed to the others I mentioned).

But “Sounds of Silence”, “All Along The Watchtower”, I dunno. Maybe I didn't get it. It was nice, but didn't really seem particularly inspired or on point. It just seemed big.

Doug: The use of “All Along The Watchtower” is straight out of the comic. The issue that scene comes from is titled "Two Riders Were Approaching" and the ending quote of the issue are those lyrics. I thought Snyder nailed that scene.

Jon Quixote: Maybe the whole thing could have been scored with tracks entirely from 1985. Like when the Comedian's TV flashed on MTV before the guy broke in. You could have had “Can't Fight This Feeling”. “Alive and Kicking” instead of “All Along The Watchtower”.

“Careless Whisper” or “Heaven” during the “Hallelujah” scene.

Spindle: Never mind. “Hallelujah” was fine. (Laughs)

Tim: I think the music was mostly rather good. Even “Hallelujah” could have been fine; it just went on a bit long.
The all-from-1985 thing is an interesting idea, but one of those things that I suspect film geeks would have loved, and everyone else would have wondered why were were getting all this electro-pop. I think it was a better idea to go for the timeless pieces.

I'm very glad they *didn't* go for a kewl set of modern bands.



Matt: I didn't care for some of the music choices as well.

Ye Olde Editor: Matt thinks that Queen’s soundtrack to ‘Flash Gordon’ is the greatest soundtrack ever, so his opinion is highly suspect. But we still love him.

Mark: I've been thinking about "Hallelujah”. When I first saw the movie, it didn't bother me. I thought it was silly and added some comedy at a good spot. Now, I like it even better after listening to the words, about King David, The Battle King and his adultery and all that. Good choice. Perhaps it does make the scene more humorous than it was in the book, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Doug: I still think the “Hallelujah” scene was terrible. People were laughing in the theater, and I just didn’t think it was the right tone for the scene. Maybe that's what Snyder was going for, but I would have rather had the scene get more into the freakiness of them getting aroused by the action and the costumes. It should have been more uncomfortable, not funny.

Dan: I think it was supposed to be funny. Yeah, there's the freak factor of the action/costumes getting them aroused, but it's the "I can get it up! Hallelujah" silliness too.

The General: I also agree that I felt there was a bit of humor intended in the “Hallelujah” scene.

Actually, in a lot of regards, I thought the music was one of the weaker parts of the movie. I mean, a lot of the music used just seemed too, umm, obvious. Pretty much all the songs used were "big hits"... music we've seen in probably 100 movies before. I mean, half the soundtrack is probably also on the Forrest Gump soundtrack too. Some of the songs worked within the context to the scene, but I think I wish they'd dug a little deeper and picked music a little more unique.

One of the things that I did actually appreciate was the score at some points. There were one or two points where I was sort of like "what is this Vangelis-sounding music they are playing?" But, then I realized that it really reminded me of the score to Blade Runner... an ‘80s movie with a striking vision of the future. And, after that really enjoyed it.

Jon Quixote: Sex is funny. And that scene was supposed to be funny. I mean, freaky, erotic, but funny. Even in the comic, the whole thing is punctuated with the flamethrower going off.

I just loved that whole scene. But unlike Dan and Liana, I love the Nite Owl II/Silk Spectre II stuff to begin with. I think it's the whole heartbeat of the story. I never really bought the whole Dr. Manhattan "Oh. DNA. You're a miracle." stuff too greatly. But Dreiberg cringing when he's in the dark with Laurie and she starts talking about Jon... that seemed to me to be the most real of anything in the book.

The General: I agree with Jon; while I like Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach, I agree that Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are the heart of the story. To me, most of the "man on the street" characters never really held any emotional weight, so while they show what the average person might be thinking and saying, its Nite Owl and Silk Spectre who are actually the ones you relate to.


Doug: And I'm the exact opposite on everything you just said.

The General: I just don't see how you can put any emotional weight behind the various man on the street characters, with the possible exception of Rorschach’s psychiatrist. He's really the only character I feel you get inside his head on an emotional level.

His wife is a sketch of a character at best, coming off as just shrill and sexually fickle.

The newspaper stand owner maybe has a little emotional weight to him, but is mainly a mechanism for reading headlines and helping play up the paranoia about nuclear war. The kid hardly speaks beyond grouching about his comic book.

The lesbian couple might be interesting, except I feel Moore's done that character too many times in too many of his books, and now it just seems oddly fetishistic on his behalf.

The various knot-top punks are cartoons. And the cops really only serve to move the murder storyline forward, there's no real personality there beyond "typical detective."

See, I think they all do a good job of fleshing out and making the world seem complex and lived in... but there's very little actual emotional meat there.

Jon Quixote: I actually like the lesbian, and really feel something when she starts crying, but other than that I'd agree.

But I think the Nite Owl/Spectre stuff serves a completely different purpose intentionally, that the "men on the street" could never fill no matter how well they were drawn. Because they're not really part of the plot or the central universe of the comic. They're not superheroes. Watchmen needed some superheroes that were only kinda fucked up.


Doug: I do agree with Jon's last statement. But I also think Watchmen needed to show the impact of "playing God" on the population at large, which is why I think the newsstand characters are important.

Spindle: Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are the heroes that are easiest for me to relate to because they have some very human issues. So they're really only as screwed up as any average person is. I really liked the way Nite Owl was acted too, very down to earth, very human.

My favorite exchange was between Nite Owl and The Comedian, because I feel like it really resonates right now, sort of gave me the chills:

Nite Owl: “What's happened to America? What's happened to the American dream?”

The Comedian: “It came true. You're lookin' at it.”




John's favorite quote (he actually giggled and gets a kick out of it every time it's mentioned):

Rorschach: “None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me.”


Jon Quixote: It's probably the line I remember most from the entire book, although as I was rereading Watchmen over the last few days (with the movie in the middle), I was surprised to note that it's not actually "said" by Rorschach on panel. It's the shrink quoting him later.



The General: When I recently reread Watchmen, I remember thinking to myself: This line is going to be in the movie, and it's going to be great.

And it is and was.

Jon Quixote: "Ain't had this much fun since Woodward & Bernstein!"

As over the top as that was, I liked the way Right-Wing paranoia seeped through into all the characters, just in varying degrees. For me the most telling scene was when Dreiberg is talking about hating Nixon and then says "But hey, it was him or the Commies, right?" Just the sort of off-the-cuff comment that said a lot about what was going on inside his head. Yeah, Comedian and Rorschach are over the top right-wing, but even our schlumpy introspective everyman hero still has a "better dead than red" template. That says more about the inherent political brutality of superheroes than an hour of Comedian shooting protestors.



Doug: So, it seems like our general consensus on the film is "Enjoyed it, Snyder didn't fuck it up, admirable adaptation".
There were some other big-name directors attached to this project over the years. Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) tried to make it twice. Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) and Paul Greengrass (the last two Bourne movies) also took shots.

What do you think their films would have been like? The first two directors above are definitely what I would call "visionary" directors. I think they would have made better films but not been nearly as faithful to the material. I don't really have a strong enough feel for Greengrass's work, but I remember hearing the script he was attached to took a LOT of liberties with the source material.


Jon Quixote: I think one of the reasons Watchmen: the movie is so much lesser than its source is that Watchmen: the graphic novel is so audacious and brilliant on so many levels - it's not just the content, it's the delivery. The mirror imaging of the panels. The metafictional commentary on comic book history.

The movie simply struggles to recreate the Watchmen storyline and political analogy, abandoning all else. That's why it could never be as good or as brilliant or as audacious. Its audacity is in its uncompromising desire to pack as much of the plot and adult content into a major movie as possible. But it's not really metatexutal about its own medium (the only thing I could think of there is the "Ride of the Valkyries" scene with Manhattan in Vietnam). It's not visionary in its approach to structure or storytelling (at least, not that I could discern).


Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Gilliam could adapt not just the plot of Watchmen to the screen but its daring and innovation. The movie could become about superhero MOVIES the same way the comic is about superhero COMICS.

But almost certainly it wouldn't work. It's just not really appropriate.

Yassir: I completely agree with Herr Quixote.

Watchmen the comic utilized its medium unlike any other superhero comic; the film was never going to do that.

Tim: I think Gilliam would have done something interesting with the material, but I don't think he would have been anywhere near as faithful. So it's a question of whether you want something faithful to the spirit of the book, or the material therein.

On the whole having seen it I'm mostly happy that it went a faithful-to-the-material route. It gets a bit of the spirit, and doesn't alienate people who loved the book by tacking close to it. I think it's basically right that the movie attempts to reflect the book's glory.

The more I think about it though, the more I think that the best way to bring it to screen really would have been a 12-part huge budget HBO style mini-series. Still, we got what we got, and I'm willing to take and enjoy that, flaws notwithstanding.

Mark: If Terry Gilliam had made it, there would have been a lot more pipes that didn't go to anything in the Owl Cave (and in all the other sets too)!

Devin: Aronofsky would have been an interesting version to see. I think he'd work more to recreate the feel than the actual visual look. His camera would probably not have been a comic panel come to life, but instead convey the same ideas that the panels were supposed to. But that's all in "What If..." Land.

Ye Olde Editor:And now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…the big, blue elephant. We’ve already touched on it (stop giggling, Dan!) a couple of times, but…what was everybody’s reaction to Dr. Manhattan’s lack of modesty?

Spindle: Seriously. There's not that much penis. It's like four scenes where it's front and center, not that big a deal. Or maybe I'm just unaffected by it because I've had so much figure drawing?

Or because Harvey Keitel has desensitized me to the full frontal penis in movies?

Doug: Or because it's a CGI penis instead of a real penis?

Seriously...do you think that the fact that it was a special effect made it a little more "acceptable"?

The General: In an odd way, I think it does make a difference to a lot of people. And, I think the fact that the character is some otherworldly, glowing blue guy makes a difference too. If you think about it, if there was a move where just a standard, non-Harvey Keitel male spent the whole movie walking around naked, we probably would have heard a lot more gossip and fuss about it.

Personally, I honestly don't see the big deal, I just like mentioning it because its fun to type "glowing blue penis." I mean, how often does life give you the opportunity to throw that into the middle of a conversation? Gotta grab that glowing blue penis and run with it!

Doug: Plus, the penis was never sexual, in any way. Did we see the penis during the "multiple Manhattans" bedroom scene? I don't think so, although we saw it right after Laurie got out of bed and found Jon working in the lab at the same time. But, again, not in a sexual context.

By the way, it just dawned on me that all of this time, we could have been talking about "Jon's blue penis". I guess it really IS cold up there in Canada.

Jon Quixote: Sure didn't look like Dr. Manhattan was all that cold!



And with that blast from the Great White North, we will close the curtain on A Week of Watching the Watchmen. Maybe one day soon Devin will bless us with his "In Defense of the Squid" argument, but until then, that's it for our Watchmen discussion. Thanks for joining us! We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed gabbing about it.




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3.26.2009

A Week of Watching THE WATCHMEN! Day Four

by Doug Smith

Welcome back! This is day four of our week of watching the Watchmen! Today, you can grab the grappling hook and pass the popcorn, because we’re going to get into the head of the character who emerged as the most popular of the Watchmen…the vigilante known as Rorschach!

It can be dark and scary inside Rorschach's head. Do you dare to go there? If so, strap on those SPOILER WARNINGS! Here we go!


Let’s lead off today’s discussion with one of our U.K. members; take it away Yassir!

Yassir: Although I think Rorschach was hella cool in the film do you think they missed the tragic nature of the character?

The General: How so? I do feel like they messed up his defining flashback scene, but other than that, I feel his character was pretty true to the comic's version.

Jon Quixote: Yup. I even thought some of their choices played up his human and tragic elements more so than the book did - the scene where he tells Dan he's a good friend and appreciates how he puts up with him, as well as going for sadness instead of anger in his "Do It!" scene.

But, going back to our previous conversation about the violence in the movie, and Tyler's comment about Rorschach's flashback scene - I think I know what Snyder was going for (with the amped-up violence in the Nite Owl/Silk Spectre scenes); "real world" superheroes would have to be pretty brutal if they wanted to last. But there should be a difference between Nite Owl's approach to justice and Rorschach's. Toning down the latter's (child killer scene) and amping up the former's really blurred that distinction, perhaps entirely.

Yassir: You think that scene (saying to Dreiberg that he values his friendship) worked better in the film? It was more of an open question than what I felt. I think the film played up the cool aspect but that's not a bad thing, really.

Betsy: The scene in which Rorschach tells Nite Owl that he knows he is a hard person to be friends with is one of my favorites in both the book and the movie. It showed that Rorschach, despite his incredible awkwardness, has some degree of self-awareness.



Jon Quixote: It seemed more prominent. Also, Movie Rorschach would make some choices that weren't as I interpreted them in the comic - I read them as more aloof. Like in that scene. Another example is when he's set up: "No, No, No No!" I read it like "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" but it was played with more desperation than deprecation.

The General: Yeah, I definitely agree with Jon about the "No! No! No!" scene. That was very self-abusive in a way. Like the nerdy kid who just realized he'd done something dumb in front of the cool kids.

Tim: This is actually not a bad way at all of looking at the character. Given the history we know - son of a whore, fostered, bullied - the adoption of Rorschach as an identity in the first place would have a lot to do with acceptance etc.

I actually think the film added a little bit of depth to the character for me. Not in making-stuff-up way, but its interpretation of him making me think again.

The General: Yeah, Rorschach actually reminds me of a lot of the more extreme fanboys we've stumbled across on message boards, where you get this odd mix of wanting to be accepted and even sort of fawned over, but also being judgmental and unable to keep themselves from saying and doing things to anger and offend people.

Tim: Yes. An interesting analogy there. I think this is actually one of the interesting things about the film as a whole. It's almost as though it really is an individual's interpretation of the source material, so in many ways it's like having a conversation with someone else about the book. What they saw something as, how you read it. Comparing points of view.



Doug: I'm no expert on Ayn Rand, but isn't her view on the world, that everything is black or white, with no gray, very much the same as Rorschachs’? "No compromise, even in the face of Armageddon." I see a lot of people on message boards with that mentality.

Also, Rorschach is usually noted as the most popular character (by far) with comic book fans. Methinks it’s because so many of us can identify with him in certain ways.

The General: Yeah, well, I was referring more to generic examples of "online fanboys" than anything. And, while Ayn Rand and Objectivism (and Rorschach by default) are focused on good and bad, black and white worldviews, I think I was talking more about the psychology behind someone who would embrace that sort of view. And, how, in a way it is a defensive mechanism used to order a life that otherwise seems unordered.

Sure, Rorschach is this objectivist character, but what I thought the movie did a good job of emphasizing is that behind that is a very battered and neurotic person (the type of person how would berate himself if he was surprised, and the type of person who actually secretly wants to be friends with Nite Owl)...and that ultimately, hiding behind the extreme black and white world view was just a way to defend himself against and make order of the word he lived in.

Yassir: Agreed. But the thing is, me personally, I got all that from the comic.

I think it was cool in the comic when he didn't have his mask on he didn't have his 'voice'. They didn't do that in the film, which admittedly, would probably come across as weird.

Mark: I got that from the comics too. I was eagerly waiting for the "Do it!" scene in the movie, because that was always my favorite scene in the book. It really defined Rorschach clearly for me. I was pleased they filmed it pretty closely to the way I read it.


Funny that Jon brought up the "No no no" scene, because that was the one that stood out for me way more in the movie than it did in several reads of the book.

The General: Then you (Yassir) are a better comic reader than I am. Personally, I got bits and pieces of that through his "origin" issue, and through little character moments. But, I don't think that the character crystallized the same way for me until I saw it in "real life."

But, part of that might be that Gibbon's art was never really that expressive to me. And, another part of it might have been that while I like Moore's writing in terms of ideas, I sometimes find his dialogue a little cold.



Yassir: I don't think I'm a better comic reader than you, I'm just better than you, full stop.

Joking aside, I'm not sure how recently you read the comic (I read half before watching the film and half after) and I got all of what you said about the character from the comic. His reaching out for friendship was loud and clear in the comic, and his neurosis was pretty obvious to me. I mean the guy was meticulous to the point of neurotic, he was paranoid, he was capable of extreme violence and his attempts at empathy were clumsy.

The General: See, I reread the comic in the week leading up to watching the movie, and still only got about half that picture. All the things you mention in your last sentence ("...meticulous to the point of neurotic, he was paranoid, he was capable of extreme violence and his attempts at empathy were clumsy...") I got, but the last piece of the puzzle was still missing for me. I think, in the comic, I sort of breezed over the scene with him and Dreiberg where he sort of apologizes for his behavior, so I never really got this sense that he desired respect from the superheroes (even though he would claim he didn't). And it was only when that final shoe dropped that he came together as a character and I realized "he's every anti-social fanboy on the internet I've ever encountered." (I'm not saying it wasn't all there in the book, especially since you obviously got it all from the book. Just that I didn't see it.)



Mark: Another thing I was thinking about Rorschach. In the movie, his alter ego, carrying the "The End is Near" sign, is pretty much just a cover for Rorschach's undercover activities. When I read the book, I knew he was doing covert work while hiding in plain sight with the sign, but I guess I also thought that was something he might do if he wasn't a superhero too. Like, that's how he spent his weekends. So I guess the movie separated it a bit more than I had, which is probably the way it was intended. I'm about ready to break the book back out and see. I haven't even flipped through it since watching Watchmen.

Rory: Also, the guy looking towards Rorschach's journal at the end - appearance wise, he is a fanboy, too. The typical guy who would work at that magazine as an intern, and who would love Rorschach's journal.

Jon Quixote: When I was rereading Watchmen last week, I noticed that the end might be a bit of a fake-out. When the cops capture Rorschach, they also get his journal and they describe it as illegible.

The General: I guess we'll just have to wait for the sequel: Watchmen 2: Rorschach's Revenge.

Dan: The cops never get the journal. It ends up at The New Frontiersman. The first time we see it there, the fanboy type guy starts reading the first page to the editor, who says "Who is this guy, Son of Sam? Throw it in the crank pile."


We don't see it again until the end of the series when the fanboy has to go through the crank pile for stories since the world is such a happy go lucky place now.

That always left me with the feeling everything was about to be exposed because the journal does get into detail. No fake-out there at all. Unless I'm not understanding your point.

Jon Quixote: I think you may have misunderstood my point. I'm not saying the New Frontiersmen don't get it. But you're wrong to say the cops don't get it. The cops get it first - or they get a previous volume - when he's arrested. And the writing is described as "an elaborate cypher or handwriting too cramped and eccentric to be legible." And the New Frontiersmen aren't going to decode it. Unless they know what it is. Which they probably can't without decoding it.

Tim: Unless he wrote the last page or so in a non-cypher for exactly that reason?

Jon Quixote: Even if that was remotely likely under the circumstances, that's still a puzzle box that the intern is going to have to have a reason to solve. Although I guess now I see that Rorschach later says the police only found his notes. And later he says he's done his best to make things legible for his final entry.

Of course, when he mails it, he still doesn't know what the plot really is.

Tim: I think the basic point is: the plot could still be discovered. Perhaps the intern will get intrigued, or flick open to the correct page. Or perhaps he won't, but the book will still be there.

It's continues the same basic theme; nothing ever ends.

Jon Quixote: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that this was supposed to be the basic take away from the final scene. I think that anything beyond that is just speculation.

The General: I think Jon's theory is interesting. But, at the same time, I almost wonder if that's an inconsistency that Moore didn't catch.

Jon Quixote: I think he caught it more than I realized. Even though it says the cops found the journal and it was illegible, Rorschach later says that the cops only found his rough notes and that he tried to make the real journal (at least, the final entry) legible.

Still, while I'd agree that it's possible the plot is discovered (as opposed to definitely not or definitely yes), and that's basically the point, I'd still argue that the way it's set up makes it incredibly unlikely, foreboding end panel or not.


Ye Olde Editor: And now we’ve reached the “foreboding end” of day four. Join us tomorrow us we finally wrap up our week with the Watchmen, get our final review, discuss the musical merits of the movie, debate the heart of the film character-wise, and talk about…“the big blue one”.



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Mr`Orange
Waited for the trade: Annihilation Conquest review
A long time a go, in a galaxy far far away I started my review on the two Annihilation events, and here is the second part. Annihilation Conquest

When I first read this book I wasn’t as impressed as I was with the initial Annihilation event, where the first was a trailblazer this one just seemed to coast off the coat tails of the first.

On reflection, after re-reading the book I have realised that this is so much better, a lot tighter, better woven, and much grander in its scope and execution, the big twist had it not been spoilt for me when I first read the book would have been huge, but with now rereading the book, knowing what I know, you can see the seeds that have been planted along the way.

The four tales that are the prologue to the main event are very well written, and they all do a great job of building up to the crescendo that is the main event. The only book I have any real issue with is the Nova tie in, as the four direct issues that are tied into the Annihilation Conquest event are included in the trade, but the next four that are just as important are not, they are covered in a single page text recap, which though concise is rather disappointing as a few major events all happen off panel.

Comparison with the initial event is inevitable, the scope and scale of the invasion is parallel to that of the initial event. There is that same sense of enormity, the huge struggle that is in play, and even with the immense collection of powers, you can feel that these people are really up against it.

One of the main themes that has run over from the first event is the sense of camaraderie between the people involved, where disparate peoples have come together for the greater good, where enemies forge bonds that would not otherwise have been made to secure the safety of all. You can feel a real sense of kinship between these people, you know there is trust, you can sense that they have been through much together, and though they are all very different people, they will risk their lives for these people.

Through the happier moments and the sadder ones the writers across all the books know how to set the mood, there are many moments that made me smirk and smile, there where moments when you felt their loss and sadness. The writers touched your heart strings, they made you care about some of the most obscure of characters, they made the taking raccoon, the living tree, the robots and the various aliens so real, so human that you cannot help but feel for them.

Had someone told me that one of my new favourite characters, and character teams would be a giant tree and a talking racoon I would never have believed them, but the artistry with which these characters where brought to life within the pages of the Annihilation Conquest event made it so.

One of the more interesting aspects of this book and the last was how many of the characters have been turned on their heads, and back again. Villains have become heroes, to becomes villains again and then once more to heroes. The baser instinct of these people come through, whether they are inherently bad or good. The true nature of these people is on show for all to see, and it is a very interesting ride.

Their motivations, their self belief, their personal views of right and wrong are shown, and dissected within the many pages of the event. It is a hefty tome, well two, and though a bit pricy they are well worth the investment. I know this will be a book that I will read time and time again, it is a book that you can read as a whole or just pick the one story you really like, be it the prologues or the main event. The event has been structured in such a way that you have the ability to pick and choose, while the tapestry of the over all story is shown in all its glory when you read the event from beginning to end, it is still an enjoyable read in parts.

Coupled with the great penmanship through this event is the art work, there are slight variations in the style across the books, by this I do not mean that the work is generic, or all exactly the same, but the work is all of a realistic bent. From the likes of Sean Chen through to Tom Raney and the work of Kyle Hotz and Mike Lilly the idiosyncrasies of each artist comes through but they stay true to the overall realistic style.

The artwork in books like this is very difficult to handle, to bring together the huge scope, the enormity of the events and to couple it with the smaller more intimate moments is hard going. There are no grunts in this book, those on the frontlines are people we know, there is no chance to use generic soldiers and get away with plain backgrounds. These books are all about the details, the expressions the emotion, and all are captured perfectly. Especially by Tom Raney, who for me has always had a cartoony style to his work, but in the main Annihilation Conquest book his style has matured, and the sense of realism brings life to the event that his previous style never would have.

Throughout this book there are a number of seeds planted, story ideas and hints that hopefully will be utilised at later dates. There is the spin off from this book, Guardians of the Galaxy, but to date they have not dealt with any of them, and the next cosmic event may not either, as War of Kings to centre around the Shiar empire and Emperor Vulcan and the Inhumans and Blackbolt. The Shiar where not involved with either of the major Annihilation events as they where busy in their own corner of the universe, and the Inhumans have also had issues to deal with, so it will be interesting to see what is done with these people.

If you have not read these books, hopefully my reviews have given you a little more incite in regards to them, and why I have enjoyed them so much. You don’t have to be a sci fi fan, or a fan of events to enjoy these books, they are so well written and brilliantly drawn with great characters that you should enjoy them. They are immense universe shattering stories, but broken down into smaller more intimate ones, they cover the classic tales of love and revenge, of honour and redemption. Within these pages there is a story for everyone, a character that we can all relater to, it will be someone different for everyone of us, we will interoperate events differently, what one of us might see as a heroic sacrifice the other will see as a bad tactical decision. There will be moments that will make some of grin, while others will groan, we can see and believe the most fantastic to be real, while others, even those that read comic books will just not be able to overcome improbability of these events.

Within these books there is everything you could want from a story, you just need to give them a try.



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3.25.2009

A Week of Watching THE WATCHMEN! Day Three

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!



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3.24.2009

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 clich├ęd. 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!



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