On Saturday morning, a slew of us got together bright and early at 9AM to take in Watchmen. While most of us had read (& loved) the source material (Adam, Sean, Keller, Katie, Perry), others were not quite finished (Erica), and one of us had not even read it at all (Jesse). So, buzzed on coffee, we had varying degrees of expectations going into the film. And being that I simply can't review a film without taking the Watchmen graphic novel into account, that is what I'm going to do - and so, spoilers ensue --
Still, I sit here staring at the screen with so many thoughts about the movie, but with no idea where to begin. I'll start with a succinct summary: I enjoyed watching it, and it was impressive to a degree (not wholly), but it had one major dealbreaker.
I was extremely excited when I sat down in the IMAX, with great seats. The opening sequence of The Comedian's murder reeled me in, and the credits were fantastic. Seriously, some really tremendous work in those credits with the montage of the history of the Minutemen and Watchmen and the parallel and skewed universe these "superheroes" exist in. My excitement was bubbling.
Zac Snyder, fanboy that he is, really didn't stray much from the novel. It was practically the drawings come to life - which, was interesting, but, as someone who read it, it kind of distracted me for all the visual recognitions being conjured in my head. It was so close to the book, that I didn't gain anything new. Which is fine, I can settle for a serious fanboy adaptation, because it's incredibly spot-on, and I'll admire it only because I probably would have wanted to do the same thing and not mire the inherent awesomeness of the novel. And so many directors translating from comic books have tried to do it before - bravo, Snyder, for getting it almost right.
Almost. Somewhere between the written page and film, something was lost. I don't kow if it was because the brevity of the dropped storyline (being released on DVD later this month) really did affect the whole, or maybe Snyder's stylistic choices weren't necessarily right for many of the sequences. Let me just say - this movie would have perhaps been only two hours long (instead of 2:40) if he had given up some of the slo-mo. But again: neither were dealbreakers.
Here's what was: the music. It distracted me, and took all the needed seriousness out of every scene. The music did the opposite of what I think it intended to do - I think the musical supervisor chose certain songs for their recognition and iconic status. But it didn't help anything - instead, I was cringing most of the time (perhaps only the opening credits' Bob Dylan-set montage was music well-chosen). The worst, obvious to anybody who saw the movie, was obviously playing of "Hallelujah" during a sex scene. From "99 Luftballoons," to "The Sounds of Silence" during The Comedian's funeral - ugh!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think I've ever been so disgusted or disappointed with music choice - because I've never been so distracted to think about it too much! The thing is, we all relate to these songs because they're so iconic, and in this alternate America, it doesn't pull my senses in to relate to it - it simply makes me shake my head because I'm thinking of Blondie's feathered hair or @&#%#*$^ Forrest Gump. And the choices weren't just limited to these giant pop songs; there was also a score thrown in every now and then, and holy crap, when they decided to set Dr. Manhattan's emergence over Vietnam to "Ride of the Valkyries" ?!?!?! REALLY, MUSICAL SUPERVISOR? REALLY? Horrendous. Like I said - dealbreaker.
Okay, I have to step back from the ranting, raving Jessica - I know, I know. I'll get back to some of the good parts; because yes, though the music choices were mish-mashed and quite awful, I'm still able to recognize all the great things about the movie.
Like some of those actors! Seriously, Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach was spot on. And I believe he needed to be: Rorschach is one of the best characters in literature (I'm serious). Snyder knew this - if he had to get ANYTHING right in the movie, it had to be him. And hiring Haley was a smart choice. He brings to the screen all the raspy condescension and disgust that Rorschach embodies. A note - some people were saying his voice was very Christian-Bale-as-Batman - but Rorschach's speech bubbles were wavery, so I always had this growly voice in my head, Batman or no Batman. Just because last year's best comic book movie had a raspy voice, doesn't mean Rorschach shouldn't. And let's be honest, Haley did it better. Also, regardless of whether he was wearing his mask or not - Haley delivered.
Patrick Wilson, with all his nerdiness and flab, perfectly captured Nite Owl II - sex scene or no sex scene. Billy Crudup's detached Dr. Manhattan, the grizzly near-inhumanity of The Comedian by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and even Matthew Goode turned his not-like-the-book look into something believable as Veidt. Silk Spectre II was one-note, as Malin Ackerman tends to be in her roles. She fit the look, though. The original Silk Spectre (her mother), played by Carla Gugino, was well-done, but her on-screen presence always felt brief.
Speaking of looks, I have to share this post-movie conversation we all had, because it was so funny -
Keller: So who was good?
Me: I think they did a really good job with The Comedian...
Keller [laughing]: OH! Jessica likes Robert Downey Jr! What a surprise!
[Everybody stares at Keller, then -]
Many people: That wasn't Robert Downey Jr.
Me: He was that dude in Weeds and Grey's Anatomy...he's always the dead dude...
Keller: What? Seriously?
Me: He looks like RDJ. Meets Javier Bardem. Jeffrey Dean Morgan! And he was engaged to Mary-Louise Parker, who was pregnant with Billy Crudup's baby when he left her for Claire Danes...and hm, they had scenes together...[trails off...]
Keller was seriously dumbfounded. Also, I don't know how I really store all this information, but it's there.
Back to the topic at hand! I did enjoy the movie - it didn't feel like two hours and forty minutes, even with all the slo-mo. It kept going, and I kept anticipating the next scene simply because I had read the book. There were some great scenes (though my favourite is still probably the credits, which apparently you can find online now). I thought the funeral scene with The Comedian flashbacks was great, the initial Dr. Manhattan-on-Mars scene (NO MUSIC THERE!), and Rorschach in prison for delivering that great line. There was also a lot of gore, and I definitely looked away a few times. I don't think it was unwarranted; the book itself is a bit gory, but I think the impact of seeing it "realized" makes it much more in-your-face. Plus, Snyder loves that stop-action, slo-mo, sped-up sequence during action scenes. So you get every detail. It didn't annoy me that much - at least he was consistent?
The ending, though different, wasn't too bad. I understand where it needed to be changed, but it seemed to stretch. There were too many snippets of endings; it felt a bit haphazard. Also, the ending in the novel is far bloodier than in the movie - surprising, I know. There was one part that I did like better than in the book. [Serious Spoiler!] When Dr. Manhattan vaporizes Rorschach, his blood and guts leave an imprint on the snow; this didn't happen in the novel - he simply vanishes. I liked that touch.
So, I could go on and on AND ON about this movie, but I will conclude here. Snyder did an accomplished job at bringing the comic to life; I'm not sure if anybody else's attempt would have been as good. It's too hard to translate every meaning the book gets across, in my opinion. The movie comes across with less impact, and becomes just a movie to those who haven't read all the insinuated commentary and layers of the book. Because the book is anything if just a book. And for just a movie, it was good. Not great, but good enough. Again, Watchmen almost gets it - I think I would have had a much higher opinion of the movie if the music hadn't sullied my experience.
What did you think?