A number of weeks ago, I decided to see the film titled "Watchmen". It had peaked my interest from the start of its marketing to the public and I was thoroughly rewarded with a great film (though not one devoid of flaws).
The film is based on a comicbook miniseries developed in the 1980's, which consists of twelve issues. It is a graphic (as in gory) comic series, and this movie is no different (maybe even more gruesome). The gore, to me, was a minor flaw. I think the film could have survived without the carnage, but was certainly not hindered by it.
And now for the good points.
Lets start with the story. The film is set in the apocalyptic year of 1985, and, might I add, in an alternate universe. It is an alternate universe in which the US won the Vietnam War (by the help of super-heroes), Nixon served for two more terms (OH MY GOD), and the Soviet Union is in open conflict with the United States. In the later 1970's, however, all super-people (heroes and villians alike) are forced to retire their masks. This greatly affects the 1985-present because, naturally, who will save humanity from self-annihilation? On top of this, a former hero (coincdently the smartest man alive) decides he knows how to deal with the societal problems at hand........ and proceeds to act inhumanely and issues a violent "reconstuction period" for all of the USA (why do WE get it the hardest?).
What really grabbed me in the film was the expert use of characterization; the characters' personalities really made the film. Not only were the characters interesting, but they were pyschologically different from each other, thus provoking intense conflict. By far, the most intrguing character is called Rorschach. He is a moral absolutist and a firm conservative. He is also a mentally-unstable, and boundless vigilante. He is not a superhero, really, but he posesses great intuitive skills regarding the escaping of tricky situations.
And next, there is The Comedian. He is a dis-establishmentarian (one who relishes the destruction of institutions) and an immense pessimist. He believes that humanity is naturally destructive and that America is bound to fall one day, hence, we should all point and laugh. His excecution by an unknown assailant is what sets the plot line in motion. He, like Rorshach, was a member of a superhero fighting force set on keeping the peace(which was ironically full of equally unstable people).
Rorshach and the others (who need not be named) try to uncover exactly who off-ed The Comedian. In the process, they all uncover an infinitely larger problem at hand, one who's outcome would affect the entire human race (probably).
If this doesn't sound at least mildly interesting, then I am at a loss for words.
If you are not affected by some gruesome images, I'd suggest you to go see it. It's an intruiging piece full of philosophy and symbolic references.
The original graphic novel is a masterpiece I'd say, and I'm still making up my mind to see the movie, because Alan Moore's been done before in movies, badly (The League of Gentlemen) or very unevenly (V for Vendetta). I know they don't do the full story (The Black Freighter is an important parallel narrative, not something extraneous to the action), but the question I suppose is how well it tells the part of the story it does tell. Some of what I've read about the musical choices doesn't sound exactly laudable (is there a more cliche piece of music for an opening montage than 'The Times They Are A-Changing'? As a real introduction to a principal theme of the novel, if you're looking for a Dylan number, 'Forever Young' would fit better. 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' might work even better.) And I dunno--Terry Gilliam tried making this years ago and ended up declaring it unfilmable, and Gilliam's one of the most sophisticated directors there is of fantasy that flirts on the edges of tragedy and comedy, which is precisely Alan Moore's territory.
I will admit, I was a bit scared to see it though, especially after seeing 'V for Vendetta' and feeling like I had no idea what was going on, and almost feeling talked down to by the film for not having read the graphic novel before hand. Also, I thought Natalie Portman was so so in it, although V himself was amazing.
I was quite excited to see Watchmen and we saw it on opening weekend. I agree that the 'Black Freighter' parts were important, and, if it wasn't mentioned, i believe it will be released as an extra on the DVD when it comes out, but if they put everything in, it would have been such a long long film (longer than it already was--not that I am complaining).
And I am no prude by any stretch of the word, but I could have certainly lived without the sex scenes (one of which just did a dastardly job on 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen). This was mostly because i was at a 9 p.m. showing and two families sitting nearby me had LITTLE LITTLE kids (like under 10) with them to see the movie. It was distracting and uncomfortable to say the least that they were there and i wanted to throttle the parents. These families got up and left after the second sex scene (!). I don't know why on earth they would have thought this movie would be appropriate, but i guess i'm not a parent, so what do I know? Meh. That's a whole other discussion that I guess we don't need to get into right now. I don't feel that the scenes furthered the story much (well, the first one did, but the second, whatever, gratuitous).
I am going to have to respectfully disagree about the opening montage. I thought the music and the art was absolutely gorgeous and i could watch that all day. It was just a beautiful way of covering a LOT of the backstory without going into exact detail. Stunning.
And the overall cinamatography was just lovely. They did an amazing job on Rorshach's mask (which was a delightful surprise after reading the graphic novel and the description of his mask in it. I couldn't stop watching it change.) and I think they did a good job with the casting. Nothing thrilled me more than the bubastis showing up at the end. I had almost forgotten about her.
But the story? I think the important bits were there, and I think people who haven't read the graphic novel would get a good gist of the story, and while there were other parts of the movie i could have lived without (besides the above), I think it was pretty fine. Beautiful, thoughtful eye candy. I can't wait to see it again on DVD.
What did you guys think of the ending? I was looking forward to seeing the ginormous space squid (because really, who doesn't), but the ending change didn't bother me that much. It actually made it more cohesive if anything, going along the lines that Jon was being blamed for everything. I wonder how Alan Moore thought about that. I know Alan Moore had pretty much disavowed himself from the project (genius nutter he is).
Maybe sex scenes are invariably more graphic in a movie than in even a graphic novel, but Alan Moore plays them differently than they're commonly played in movies in any case. From descriptions, it sounds as if Zack Snyder went for maximum sensual impact, not for character insight or humour. The use of 'Hallelujah' there seemed miles off too; Alan Moore used Billie Holliday's rendition of 'You're My Thrill'. But I'll absent myself from further discussion of this until I've steeled my nerve and actually seen the film. I hope it has the effect at least of sending a substantial part of its audience back to the novel.
Last edited on Tue Apr 21st, 2009 10:31 am by Martin H
THE GRAPHIC NOVEL-- The ending, in my opinion, is one of the best parts. It is a very potent collection of scenes, one being in which my favorite character is killed (but rightly so). The giant squid was a little too far-fetched for my tastes, but I've come to terms with it (the idea, not the physical squid). It would have been interesting, though, to see the squid in a computer-generated form.
What I think that must be held in comparison is the tone of the ending in each media.
In the comics, there seemed to be no easy recovery from the destruction of Manhattan (and in general, the infrastructure of the US). All hope seems damp as Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl), along with Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II) go permanently undercover by changing their names. Dr. Manhattan departs from Earth (for good causes, actually) and Rorshach is dead (eliminated by Jon). Veidt/Ozymandias is thusly left to gloat in his ingenuity. It is, by no means, a joyful ending.
The film, however, takes the ending and whips it around to a happier tone. The people of Manhattan are not completely lost, Veidt (who can be considered a kind of villian) is not gloating, and the world unites under one frontier, calling for peace. I think this deters from the intent and theme of the comics. But maybe in this now troubled time, people need their spirits lifted up... not really, I don't think. I prefer a powerful and biting story over one that emotionally cushions its audience.
"All you need is love!" No. We need a big, ringing, societal alarm clock.
Have a nice day! (Hope I didnt sincerely depress anyone)
Last edited on Tue Apr 21st, 2009 09:05 pm by RTurco
Veidt doesn't gloat at the end of The Watchmen, he frets over whether the extreme measures he took will actually unite the world and bring the peace he's calculated it will achieve. There's reason to doubt it will, and otherwise your description is pretty much accurate. And it is a magnificent ending. I'd heard that was one of the big changes in the movie.
Ah. I'm not sure why I thought that Veidt was gloating. I might have been thinking of another scene. Nonetheless, I think the somber comic's ending attends more to the overall tone of the story. The film's ending tends to make entire story appear different; just by the changing of a few final, but key elements. I wonder what everyone else would say to this line of thought?
I encourage anyone who is a fan of this type film to go see it. If you seem turned off by the film, read the comics. Either way, in being an audience to this amazing literary/cinematic spectacle, I can say that you are in for a delightful treat to the mind.
RTurco wrote: I encourage anyone who is a fan of this type film to go see it. If you seem turned off by the film, read the comics. Either way, in being an audience to this amazing literary/cinematic spectacle, I can say that you are in for a delightful treat to the mind.
I babbled on and on in my post on Watchmen and you said it perfectly here. Oh, and i must apologize about leaking a ton of spoilers in without properly identifying the post as spoiler filled. I am usually much more on top of these things, but I wrote that yesterday at 3 a.m. I hate being spoiled for stuff, and i hope that if i did spoil anyone, that they aren't angry at me for it.
Anyway, Watchmen equals pretty and thought provoking. There we go.