March 8th, 2009, 12:04 PM
I saw this Watchmen movie review (http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/03/09/090309crci_cinema_lane) on the New Yorker. It seems to me that the author completely missed the point of the movie. It wasn't about action, and it wasn't supposed to be funny. It also offended me because I liked the movie and the novel but I'm not a "leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex." Any thoughts?
March 8th, 2009, 01:10 PM
Seeing as how we prefer to quote and not to link:
[BEWARE: LOTS OF SPOILERS!!!]
The world of the graphic novel is a curious one. For every masterwork, such as “Persepolis” or “Maus,” there seem to be shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks. Fans of the stuff are masonically loyal, prickling with a defensiveness and an ardor that not even Wagnerians can match. One lord of the genre is a glowering, hairy Englishman named Alan Moore, the coauthor of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “V for Vendetta.” Both of these have been turned into motion pictures; the first was merely an egregious waste of money, time, and talent, whereas the second was not quite as enjoyable as tripping over barbed wire and falling nose first into a nettle patch. In each case, the cry from readers was that the movie was doomed by its treacherous departure from the original; Moore distanced himself from both productions, and he has done so again with the new adaptation of “Watchmen.” The movie was written by David Hayter and Alex Tse, and directed by Zack Snyder, but nowhere do we see the name of Moore.
The bad news about “Watchmen” is that it grinds and squelches on for two and a half hours, like a major operation. The good news is that you don’t have to stay past the opening credit sequence—easily the highlight of the film. In contrast to all that follows, it tells its tale briskly, showing how a bunch of crime-fighters formed a secret club known as the Minutemen, who in turn were succeeded by the Watchmen. This entails a whisk through history from the nineteen-forties to the eighties, with shots of masked figures shaking hands with John F. Kennedy, posing with Andy Warhol, and so forth; these are staged like Annie Leibovitz setups, and, indeed, just to ram home the in-joke, we later see a Leibovitz look-alike behind a camera. But must we have “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” in the background? How long did it take the producers to arrive at that imaginative choice? And was Dylan happy to lend his name to a project from which all tenderness has been excised, and which prefers to paint mankind as a bevy of brutes?
As far as superheroes go, two’s company but three or more is a drag, with no single character likely to secure our attention: just ask the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four, or the half-dozen Watchmen we get here. There is Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a slip of a psychopath, his face often obscured by a bandagelike mask, on which inky patches constantly blot and re-form. There is Dan (Patrick Wilson), better known as Nite Owl, who keeps his old superhero outfit, rubbery and sharp-eared, locked away in his basement, presumably for fear of being sued for plagiarism by Bruce Wayne. There is the Comedian, real name Eddie Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose tragic end, early in the film, we are invited to mourn, but who gets his revenge by popping up in innumerable flashbacks. There is Laurie, who goes by the sobriquet of Silk Spectre, as if hoping to become a top-class shampoo; she is played by Malin Akerman, whose line readings suggest that she is slightly defeated by the pressure of pretending to be one person, let alone two. Then there is Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode), who likes to be called Ozymandias. Goode played Charles Ryder in last year’s “Brideshead Revisited,” and I fear that, even as Ozymandias murders millions from his Antarctic lair, which he does at the climax of “Watchmen,” Goode’s floppy blond locks and swallowed consonants remain those of a young gadabout who might, at worst, twist the leg off his Teddy bear.
Last and hugest is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who is buff, buck naked, and blue, like a porn star left overnight in a meat locker. Whether his fellow-Watchmen have true superpowers, as opposed to a pathological bent for fisticuffs, I never quite worked out, but this guy is the real deal. He was once a physicist, but, after an unfortunate mishap, he found himself reintegrated as a radioactive being, equipped to peer into the future, nip to Mars for the afternoon, and divide into multiples of himself for nuclear-powered group sex. I felt sorry for Crudup, a thoughtful actor forced to spout gibberish about the meaning of time and, much worse, to have that lovely shy smile of his wiped by special effects. Dr. Manhattan is central to Moore’s chronological conceit, which is that President Nixon (Robert Wisden), having used our blue friend to annihilate the Vietcong, wins the Vietnam War and, by 1985—the era in which the bulk of the tale takes place—is somehow serving a third term.
“Watchmen,” like “V for Vendetta,” harbors ambitions of political satire, and, to be fair, it should meet the needs of any leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex, and whose deepest fear—deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation—is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along. The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon. The result is perfectly calibrated for its target group: nobody over twenty-five could take any joy from the savagery that is fleshed out onscreen, just as nobody under eighteen should be allowed to witness it. You want to see Rorschach swing a meat cleaver repeatedly into the skull of a pedophile, and two dogs wrestle over the leg bone of his young victim? Go ahead. You want to see the attempted rape of a superwoman, her bright latex costume cast aside and her head banged against the baize of a pool table? The assault is there in Moore’s book, one panel of which homes in on the blood that leaps from her punched mouth, but the pool table is Snyder’s own embroidery. You want to hear Moore’s attempt at urban jeremiad? “This awful city, it screams like an abattoir full of retarded children.” That line from the book may be meant as a punky retread of James Ellroy, but it sounds to me like a writer trying much, much too hard; either way, it makes it directly into the movie, as one of Rorschach’s voice-overs. (And still the adaptation won’t be slavish enough for some.) Amid these pompous grabs at horror, neither author nor director has much grasp of what genuine, unhyped suffering might be like, or what pity should attend it; they are too busy fussing over the fate of the human race—a sure sign of metaphysical vulgarity—to be bothered with lesser plights. In the end, with a gaping pit where New York used to be, most of the surviving Watchmen agree that the loss of the Eastern Seaboard was a small price to pay for global peace. Incoherent, overblown, and grimy with misogyny, “Watchmen” marks the final demolition of the comic strip, and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?
Seems to me to be another one of those reviews by those who are not us, and have little idea of how things have changed/grown/evolved in recent years. That last line sums up his lack of understanding for me.
March 8th, 2009, 04:56 PM
I'd pay good money to see the writer interview Moore.
March 8th, 2009, 06:24 PM
Mr Moore doesn't do interviews.... or at least not very often. He's just not interested, I understand.
Comment HERE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKebCtCTbCA&playnext_from=PL&feature=PlayList&p=22642ACEE2D6C506&playnext=1&index=4)...(about the graphic novel, not the film though)
Just got back from seeing the film myself: it's not bad at all, though I'm not sure what some will make of it. One comment by the audience as I was heading out - "considering that the film was nearly three hours there's a lot it didn't cover."
My thought: True, but for a Hollywood epic, I'm amazed it kept as much as it did....
March 8th, 2009, 08:06 PM
Yeah he does some and every one I've read or seen is smart, insightful, witty - which surprised me and interesting. My point was that it may, hopefully, have changed the reviewer's perceptions on what Moore was attempting and how well written Watchmen and V for Vendetta are. The NewYorker is famous for it's cartoons and the reviewer seems to have gotten mixed up between them and comics :) as Amaunette said in the original post.
March 8th, 2009, 10:52 PM
Seeing this thread here is hilarious, because I already read this review a few days ago, and sent an email to the New Yorker to join my voice with the others who were upset by this review.
Primarily, by the fact that HE RUINS THE ENDING with MASSIVE SPOILERS, with no warning whatsoever. Very unprofessional for a movie critic; the man should know better.
Also, it's a ridiculous review, lamenting the lack of "humour" (since when was Watchmen supposed to be funny?) and the death of the "comic strip" (since when was Watchmen a comic strip?).
Anyways, I just got home from seeing the movie, and I am happy to report: It was bloody fantastic! Totally faithful to the graphic novel, very fun to watch, and absolutely gorgeous to look at. Rorshach was so good!
March 8th, 2009, 10:54 PM
And as for the last line of the review ("where did the comedy go?") I saw one user comment which summed it up perfectly: Where did the comedy go? The Comedian is dead! :)
March 9th, 2009, 11:18 AM
This reviewer is a clueless twit who went into the film with an agenda - an agenda of hating the film at all costs.
March 9th, 2009, 01:02 PM
Yeah that review is a bit out to lunch -- the reviewer is clearly more adept with banal witticisms than with film criticism.
As an adaptation, I thought it did a reasonably good job of mirroring the text (which is really just an accession for the purists -- personally, I prefer adaptations that actually adapt the text). But as a film, Watchmen left a lot to be desired.
Technically, the effects and cinematography were bloody amazing (tho' Dr. Manhattan's wang had a tendency to swing a bit unnaturally, IMO ;)). The casting was generally great (though I thought Ozy was weak, and the chick who plays Laurie has been nude in every movie I've ever seen her in so it was hard to take her seriously while waiting for her to get her kit off). The acting itself is tough to criticize in the same way it was for Lord of the Rings, but I thought the guy who played Dan was particularly good. I thought the violence and gore was used appropriately, not gratuitously. The sex was... well, probably the funniest part of the movie. Not sure that was the intent, but it generated a good laugh (more laughs even than Rorschach's one-liners in the Mr. Figure scene!).
The direction was lacking, but not horribly so. I think someone closer to Spielberg's style would have produced a more solid narrative and made better decisions in the cutting room. Fincher would've been great, too. The major issue overall, IMO, is the narrative structure.
The more-or-less straight-line translation of the novel's narrative style to the film's is its greatest weakness (but also the hardest to change without offending the fans, so I get it). I went to see it with my partner yesterday (who has not read the novel) and her opinion was in line with the comments I overheard from most of those in her boat: "I couldn't keep track of what was what and who was who, so I just didn't care."
I know the story quite well, and even I had to figure out where I was and what was going on from time to time.
The film didn't do itself any service by retaining the asynchronous timeline in the same narrative structure as the novel. It works in the novel because you can track the shifting relatively easily on the page -- it's uniquely suited to the comic medium. But on film? It rendered the plot into a confusing mess.
I also noticed that there were several leaps in the plot where the exposition got totally lost. Poor cutting decisions, I imagine. Again, more confusion to the inexperienced viewer.
In the end, I think its fair to say that the film was made mostly because the technical expertise in film and film-technology now exists to pull off the look of the Watchmen universe well. So as far as that goes, the film was a success -- a successful vanity piece. But as a story-telling exercise, it was a pretty major "so-what?"
Personally, I would've liked to have seen Watchmen made into a 6-part TV series rather than a 2.5 hour film. It could then have achieved what it was going for, with the major benefit being time between episodes for the viewer to ponder what's going on and allow the world to construct itself in the viewer's head -- a book-luxury that film does not ever afford, yet TV can approximate. 2.5 hours of film was not nearly enough to pull off the intended effect. Alternatively, a Kill Bill-style 2 volume movie also would've been a better choice.
Amazing visuals, but lacking in narrative execution. Worth seeing on the big screen, but less-so as a rental.
2.5/4 stars from me.
I was impressed with the change to the ending as far as updating the story goes. If executed more coherently (or just more deftly), the ending would have been very, very impactful and deeply resonant. Instead, it's somewhere between beat-you-over-the-head obvious and watch-closely-or-you-might-miss-it vague.
March 9th, 2009, 01:48 PM
Although I'm more positive (http://blogorob.blogspot.com/2009/03/there-are-no-endings-watchmen-mini.html) about the film, Fung, we largely found similar missteps and I may be a bit more forgiving. If I were to give at a star rating, I'd probably go 3.75 out of 4.
I agree with what your spoiler says, too.
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