Friday, March 06, 2009

Txt Critic @ Watchmen

Received from my anonymous cel friend "txt critic" last night
at midnight IMAX showing of watchmen. Its like a virgin bomb exploded in here
No word on whether txt critic is also a virgin but I doubt it. (P.S. I'm waiting a few days to catch Watchmen myself but if you've seen it already feel free to share your thoughts right here... virginal or otherwise)


Kevin D. said...

That is too damn funny. I'm pretty excited to see this as well. Maybe this weekend? I'm no virgin tho. . .

Dom said...

I saw it at midnight on IMAX, but to me it felt more like a douchebag bomb had exploded, with a few surviving fans here and there.

That being said, I still don't know what to think of the film. I have read the novel so I never felt confused, but my best friend, who has not read it, hated it. He said it was a big mess and he never felt for any of the characters.

I guess it was kind of cool to see on the big screen, but it only made me yearn to re-read the graphic novel. So I guess I give "Watchmen" a big "meh".

Although I do recommend that everyone sees it on IMAX. The quality of the image is bananas!

Dom said...

P.S. I am not a virgin.

Or a douchebag. I don't think...

Kurtis O said...

I was really impressed. I have virtually no connection to the franchise apart from my weekly injection of EW's tireless coverage, but I enjoyed it immensely. I'd say it definitely ranks high in the comic book film canon. My only real complaint, which I don't often bitch about (too many critics do), is the running time. I'd imagine that Snyder tried like hell to squeeze as much in as possible to please the fanboys but, in doing so, he made it a little tough for the rest of us. Good as the movie is, by the 2.25 hour mark, my ass was beyond numb, and it started to spill over to the rest of my senses.

Erin said...

My girlfriend dragged me last night - we're both huge fans of the book, and she was really looking forward to the film while I... erm... have pretty much been on Team Alan Moore all along, let's put it that way. And with films like this along with the other crap that's been adapted from his work, it's no wonder he hates Hollywood so much. The more I think about the film, the more I find wrong with it, so I'm just gonna say that the only parts I liked were any time Patrick Wilson or Jeffrey Dean Morgan spoke and leave it at that. Also, my gf and I aren't virgins. Unless you have certain opinions about lesbians. Oh, and speaking of gay, coming off of this and 300, I'm not entirely sure Zack Snyder isn't. Way to give Rorschach and Nite Owl's bromance more emotional weight than the het romance... I'll stop, I don't have the time it would take for me to complain about this movie, heh.

(First-time commenter. I love your blog!)

James Colon said...

Saw it with a friend who'd read the graphic novel, and his comments were: "It holds about ten percent of the intelligence of the book". Believe it or not, he meant it as a complement.

As for me, I enjoyed it quite a bit and immensely enjoyed the performances from Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup. I didn't care for the stop-motion action or the obvious soundtrack selections, though.

Cengiz said...

I have read the graphic novels. I generally liked it, but it could have and should have been better. The acting wasn't there, with the exception of Patrick Wilson and Jeffery Dean Morgan. I will say that the 2.5 hours flew by, which was good. But I left feeling it was alright.

Rob said...

Totally being self-involved and pasting my 2,000-word, rambling review from my Facebook, but here goes anyway:

Based on Alan Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” has been rabidly anticipated by fans of the source material, myself included. Such a challenging literary work was always going to be tricky to adapt to film, and many other filmmakers have tried their hand at it to no avail. And at the end of the day, there’s no getting around the fact that Snyder was just the wrong director for this material. The simplistic, all-style-no-substance, violence-obsessed fratboy director of “300” was not the person to make the adaptation of a dense, thoughtful, strange, multi-part analysis of human behavior, superhero conventions and political history. For the uninitiated, “Watchmen” is set in a parallel universe in 1985, with the U.S. on the verge of nuclear war with Russia, and masked heroes an acknowledged part of society. However, with one exception, the demigod Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a glowing blue guy with an exposed dong, the heroes are all human and obtain no superpowers. After the murder of heroic/psychotic vigilante The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his former colleagues – a group of crime fighters in their hey day – reassemble for his funeral, and grapple with past demons and struggle to come to terms with the fact that someone might be picking off masked heroes – but who, and why? Besides Dr. Manhattan, said powerless heroes are Nite Owl / Dan (Patrick Wilson) a meek, powerless doof who only has self-worth when masked/costumed; Rorshach (Jackie Earle Haley), a perpetually masked sociopath, and our beloved anti-hero; Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), in love with both Dan and Dr. Manhattan, while living in the shadow of her mother, Silk Spectre I (Carla Gugino); and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), the self-proclaimed “smartest man alive,” who’s achieved a certain celebrity status, and wears Schumacher-esque costumes with nipples built in.

Personally, I didn’t really mind any narrative changes that Snyder made. The infamous climactic giant squid kind of needed to be jettisoned for a film version (though I’m still mixed on what he chose to replace it with), and I was fine with the majority of what was cut – if anything, the film probably should’ve been more focused and streamlined; the book was structured as a 12-part serial, and in adhering so closely, the film feels incredibly fragmented and sprawling. But still, the content itself is not a/the huge problem; what ultimately renders the movie an almost unequivocal failure is the jarringly incongruous meshing of the filmmaker’s sensibilities and the material. Before I tear into him, I do have to give the director props for not dumbing the material down; it’s nearly as dense and complex as the book, all the interesting ideas are still here, and he even throws in two or three nice original moments (more on that in a bit). But rather than misguided narrative choices, it’s Snyder’s stylistic hackery that had me grimacing and feeling sad through much of this movie I was highly anticipating. I hate to sound like a fanboy defending his precious source material against any director who dared to not make the movie they wanted them to make, but Snyder clearly doesn’t get ‘Watchmen.’ He doesn’t get what’s interesting about it, what made it revolutionary at the time of publication, the points it’s trying to make, or the tone that it should really have.

Exhibit A: the action. There’s not a whole lot of action or fight scenes in the Watchmen book – it’s just not that sort of thing – and Snyder commendably doesn’t really add much of either into the film. However, it’s only during action scenes or fight scenes that you can really feel Snyder getting excited by the material, and not just slavishly regurgitating it. This is a problem. Action is SO not what ‘Watchmen’ is about, yet it’s clearly what Snyder loved shooting. Every such sequence (all of which were a mere couple of panels in the book) is bloated out to noticeably extended lengths, with an extreme emphasis on loud, thwacking sound effects, close-ups and slow-motion. And I’m sorry, the frequent slo-mo IS a problem. I’m not against slo-mo in theory, and there are moments when I didn’t mind it here, but Snyder utilizes it a lot, for virtually all the action scenes, and for anything pivotal that involves movement. Around the point of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre beating the shit out of criminals in slow-motion while attempting to break Rorschach out of prison, it had hit me that Snyder had turned “Watchmen” into the very sort of generic superhero action pap that Moore was satirizing/subverting in the first place. In other words, it misses the fucking point entirely.

For a project that is intended to take these superhero/comic book conventions and place them in a realistic, dark (if satiric) context, Snyder frames the movie (tonally and aesthetically) like a cartoon, so nothing ends up having any weight to it. Even with the violent and disturbing acts going on, they don’t have much impact in the broad, stylized, surreal environment our director places them in. You give not a shit about any of the characters’ emotional plight (which is fine, since neither does Snyder), nor do you have any personal investment with what’s going on, and worst of all, the intended devastating/shocking/horrific climax comes off as yet another cartoonish moment in a genre picture. The tonal/stylistic choice also fails to make it clear that Dr. Manhattan is the only one among this group that has actual superpowers – all the other characters on display here seem to have super strength, super jumping power, and super fighting skills, and the decision nulls any potential thematic resonance.

Another huge problem is Snyder’s proclivity towards gore and grotesqueries. I have no personal problem with such things – violence doesn’t really ever make me squeamish – but it feels all wrong and way too jacked up for the material. Lingering shots of dogs chewing on the severed leg of a little girl, a meat cleaver being driven into a pedophile’s head, and (of course, slow-motion) shots of flesh/inner organs dripping off furniture comes off as a gore hound finding yet another way to express his fetishistic love of violence rather than a necessary or organic way to depict such occurrences. There are at least a half-dozen sequences of someone/something being splattered with blood that it starts to become a running gag (watch for the sequence with buzz-sawed off arms). Such a stylistic choice works for “Dawn of the Dead” or “300,” but in “Watchmen” it feels incongruous and gratuitous.

Much has been made of Snyder’s usage of cliched 60s, 70s and 80s music (e.g.: “The Sound of Silence,” “Unforgettable,” “All Along the Watchtower”) to underscore major scenes. While sometimes they work, more often than not, they come off as eye-rollingly obvious and occasionally horrifying. During the film’s softcore-porn-esque sex scene (lots of intense stares, thrusting, and male and female nudity) aboard Nite Owl’s owlship, Snyder awkwardly/awfully scores the proceedings to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a choice that had my fanboy audience in fits of hysterics. So, what should be one of the most resonant scenes in the movie (Dan/Nite Owl can only get an erection and feel like a real man when he’s wearing his costume) is turned laughable and out-of-place.

Trying to look objectively at the film as if I was someone who didn’t read the graphic novel, I can’t imagine I’d be terribly successful at following what exactly was going on (for what it’s worth, the four people I know who hadn’t read the book and saw the movie all hated it). It’s strange: for someone who so butchers the heart of what “Watchmen” is and was, Snyder seems to have oddly only had the diehard fans in mind when making the film, and does a really poor job of explaining things to the uninitiated. I’m not saying dumbing down was necessary, but making it a film that can function without a viewer preternaturally knowing the back story is a necessary elemet. Without a doubt, my favorite sequence of the film is the opening credits (scored to Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing”) which purports to demonstrate that the film is taking place in an alternate line of history than ours (e.g.: we won the Vietnam war, Nixon is still in office for his fifth term, The Comedian assassinated JFK, Dr. Manhattan was on the moon filming Neil Armstrong’s first walk). It’s extremely clever, thought-provoking, and is Snyder’s one display of true creativity – however, even in this, the film’s highlight, it’s not clear to the uninitiated what’s going on as these strange occurrences fly by, especially since they basically open the movie. It’s a remarkably well-constructed sequence, but it’s a major “what the fuck” moment if you’re not familiar with the story.

Still, I’d be remiss if I left out the good stuff. The above-mentioned sequence is pretty fantastic. Dr. Manhattan’s initial retreat to Mars and origin explanation is very well-done. Patrick Wilson is very good – giving one of his better performances as a man whose life has become a disappointment when he’s out of his costume – even if his director largely undercuts the resonance that might’ve been. Haley is, not exaggerating, Oscar-level excellent as the tortured, sociopathic Rorschach, even while giving much of his performance behind a mask. After this, it’s clear “Little Children” wasn’t a fluke, and the guy has genuine chops. Though the character’s raspy voice was mocked pre-release as “Dark Knight”-esque goofy, the way he uses and varies his voice throughout the film has resonance in and of itself and ends up being perfect for the character. If there’s a reason to bother watching “Watchmen,” it’s Haley. Everyone else is fine, if unremarkable, with the women being the film’s weakest spots; Gugino is saddled with goofy old-age makeup, and Akerman seems uncomfortable when speaking (listen for her “Oh my god. We’re on Mars!”)

So, is “Watchmen,” as many have proclaimed, ‘unfilmable’? I refuse to believe that. The mere fact that this movie got made proves that it’s not, and shows that it’s possible to depict the events of the book – Snyder certainly accomplishes it, and accomplishes it capably, just completely wrong-headedly. I’ll be honest, I adore the graphic novel, and it makes me more than a little sad that now we’ll never be able to see another, better filmmaker get a crack at this material. To even think that it all was once in the hands of the brilliant Paul Greengrass – a filmmaker who truly gets it – only makes me sigh wistfully at what have been. I can think of a half dozen filmmakers who probably could have done “Watchmen” justice and made it their own (off the top of my head, Greengrass, Frank Darabont, Alfonso Cuaron, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Sam Raimi), but instead, we get Mr. Snyder. I’m genuinely curious what the overall reaction to “Watchmen” is going to be – I can’t tell if the fanboys are going to be wildly disappointed at what they get, or so desperate to love the film (e.g. “The Phantom Menace”) and/or so excited to see it brought to life on screen, regardless of quality, that they’ll convince themselves it’s great. For the newbies (i.e. the “300” fans super-pumped to see it based on the cool, stylish trailers), I’d count on vicious word-of-mouth – possibly for the wrong reasons (“It’s confusing;” “this shit is weird;” “too much talking, I’m bored,” “this is too long”). Regardless, “Watchmen” isn’t an AWFUL film that made me angry, but rather a wildly disappointing one that made me genuinely sullen. Snyder doesn’t rape and destroy something I love, he merely saps it of what makes it special.

Cactus said...

Saw it. LOVED it.

SolShine7 said...

This movie doesn't excite me at all.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Wrote this another entry so I'll copy and past.

It's alright, but as someone who hasn't read the novel, I can still instantly understand that they put in too much and left out too much. If they cut so many of the flashbacks and such it could've been an awesome 2-hour movie. If they expanded it it could've been an awesome 4-hour miniseries (ala Angels in America). As it is it stands in the middle and doesn't quite gel.

Visually it's amazing though.

Also, there were walk outs in my cinema. Which is odd because Australians don't tend to do that very often outside the arthouse/festival arena. And lots of chuckling at the blue penis.

The end.

Anonymous said...

The movie has the advantage and the disadvantage of having Zack Snyder as the director.

He creates great visuals, the acting is always efficient and he makes us care about the characters. The first one hour and a half is great.

However, Mr. Snyder's excesses almost ruin the film in the second half: too much violence, the films speeds and almost forgets to care for the characters.

As a result, it is a very good film, but it could be better.

Marcelo - Brazil.

Cluster Funk said...

Saw it last night and, my God, what a mess! By the two-hour mark (or, more accurately, that rancid sex scene in the owl), I was ready to take an Ambien and forget about it all.

P.S. Carla Gugino was given short shrift. :-(

Carl said...

I liked it. Didn't love it, but I do not have the problems with it that others do. I do agree that Jackie Earle Haley seems perfect for the role of Rorshach. A solid performance, even better than his Oscar-nominated work in "Little Children", though I doubt the Academy memory will stretch this far.