Friday, March 6, 2009

Watchmen: One Man's Thoughts

Having written today's Medium Large strip at five in the morning immediately after coming home from the theater I fear my above take on the movie may be too dismissive and knee-jerk. But now that I've had a cup of coffee and got a good hour of sleep I wish to explain my reaction a little more.

While seeing Watchmen I had the odd–and the ultimately impossible to address–realization that the movie felt it need far more depth, more background for both the characters and the alternate reality yet was far too long of a film. In short, the visuals were incredible, the admittedly few action sequences were remarkable and the allegiance the director showed to the source material was exceptionally admirable. As most reviewers said, the opening six-minute montage is a work of genius and yes, had that approach somehow been maintained throughout the movie this might very well have been if not a brilliant film than an exceptionally entertaining one. However, to do that one would have to have created a whole new version of Watchmen that could breath within the confines of a film’s length but, alas, would only irate the book’s legions of admirers.

I by no means wish to take the standard but pointless approach of “put something up on a podium only to knock it down.” (One I can completely understand people accusing me of after a full week of Watchmen Medium Large strips). I think Zach Snyder should be applauded for what he did and I fear most directors who work on an adaptation are setting themselves up for a thankless task, not because of any lacking in their skills but because favorite books have played out so often in the minds of their fans without concern of such film necessities as time length and feasibility that they cannot possibly meet expectations.

My "capsule review" is that it was a triumph of technical skill and sheer–for lack of a better word–gumption on the part of Snyder, the cast (especially Haley and Wilson) and everyone involved. By no means should their hard work be dismissed so easily. But, alas, I found the movie dull and often realized I was watching a movie, which leads me to believe I failed to connect with it.

But that is one man’s opinion (much as the above strip is in no way meant to represent what I think the general opinion is nor how believe others should perceive it). Was I victim of my own hype? (I can’t blame others for such because marketing is marketing). Almost certainly. But all I can say is that I felt the time drag and my spirits deflate with it.

Of course, if you want to see the movie by all means do so. You may love it and you have ever right to tell me I am way, WAY off on my assessment. In fact, I hope as many people as possible enjoy it because who would wish others to have an unsatisfactory time?

I look forward to your opinions.


Robert said...

I'm seeing it tomorrow with a friend who has not read the book. I've read it probably four times, but's been a while since the last time and I certainly don't have it memorized. I've read both glowing, not-so-glowing and very negative reviews, and I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself. But I have a sneaking suspicion my opinion may be very similar to yours.

Oh, and keep up the great work on all fronts. You're one funny MF-er.

Francesco Marciuliano said...

Thank you! I really do hope you enjoy the movie.

Rotten Arsenal said...

"While seeing Watchmen I had the odd–and the ultimately impossible to address–realization that the movie felt it need far more depth, more background for both the characters and the alternate reality yet was far too long of a film."

If you replaced "seeing", "movie", and "film" with "reading", "comic", and "book", you would have my wife's opinion of the original GN.
I've been a hardcore comic geek for about 25 years now and finally, last year, I got my wife to read her first comic, Watchmen. She agreed to read that largely because it comes up on message boards for the TV show "Lost", of which my wife is a huge fan.
She wasn't impressed, largely because she felt like there was a lack of development in characters and such. I also think she just has problems enjoying the comic book form (words and pictures), but her big complaints were feeling like the story itself was two dimensional.

I'm not expecting much out of the film myself, but then:
A) I typically avoid comic book movies anyway because they usually disappoint me and
B) my love affair with Alan Moore has waned considerably and I no longer hold Watchmen to level of greatness that I once had for it. It was groundbreaking in its day, but compared to some works that have come since, it doesn't hold near the revolutionary power that it once did.

At any rate, Watchmen LOOKS good, at least in the ads, so I'll see it at some point.

Besides, Jeffery Dean morgan is always enjoyable to watch

Dreadful Rauw said...

I saw the movie and liked it. A lot. But at the same time, it convinced me that Watchmen may be truly unfilmable. I can't think of many things that would have made the film much better, but at the same time, it just didn't hit the way the book did. It's truly written to be a comic book, and an adaptation (even one as faithful as this one) just seems flat in comparison.

The choice of medium is part of the artistic process. And some choices work better than other.

Julia said...

The second long review: The best thing about Watchmen was that is was the most faithful version of the book that it was humanly possible to make. The WORST part about Watchmen was that is was the most faithful version of the book that it was humanly possible to make.

But think of it this way, at least we didn't get THIS version:

Tracer Bullet said...

It held my interest for three hours, despite all the worthless teenagers in the audience snickering at all the boobies and weiners, but yeah, there was something . . . missing. It seemed like there wasn't enough at risk -- other than, you know, 15 million people -- or the characters weren't invested enough. It was good, maybe even very good, but it fell short of great.

D.B. Echo said...

For what it's worth, here's my review:

Another Monkey: Review of Watchmen (the movie)

I agree with Tracer Bullet about the lack of investment by the characters: in the end there wasn't a feeling of suicidal desperation as two guys face off against a vastly superior villain. Rorschach and Nite Owl suddenly had the same strength and agility as their opponent, and Nite Owl's laser weapon was no longer designed to blind, but was actually something that could have cut the bad guy in half. Instead of the desperation of that scene in the graphic novel, it just felt like some equals having an idle bicker.

The next-to-last scene with Laurie and her mom lacked the emotional punch of the book. Plus, I didn't appreciate feeling like someone was setting up a seuel, "Watchmen 2: The Further Adventures of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre."

BlueNight said...

As a lifelong fan of comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, and generally all things fannish, I enjoyed it.

I haven't read the graphic novel, but I probably will now. (I look forward to the day libraries stock graphic novels.) I should have checked the running time before I got a ticket, but I did enjoy it. The main plot twist was revealed to me by Saturday Morning Watchmen, and I knew I had just been spoiled; it was that same moment of pre-recognition I had when The Daily Show spoiled Sixth Sense the day before I saw it. Oh well.

Not enough Bubastis. Too many scenes. Very Alan Moore. Totally awesome in large parts, a few WTF moments, and very comprehensible. It succeeded in making superheroes human in a far deeper way than Stan ever did. Contrast the naked bodies of Nite-Owl and Dr. Manhattan to see what I mean.

The martial arts segments were incredible. I can't remember any better fight scenes since The Matrix. The speed and precision were incredible. Ozy was simply awesome, though I can see why the others are in the top ranks.

Like I said, I haven't read the book. I'm certain it'll be better in large part than the film. I think the film was geared toward me. I'll probably see it again soon.

johnson said...

I haven't seen it yet (in fact , I'm sadly ignorant of the whole 'Watchmen' craze, although I got the collected book last week and have started reading it.)

However, it REALLY sounds like your immediate reaction was very similar to mine upon watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I've read and reread the LOTR trilogy 15 times or more, and the movies left me with much the same feeling, that a lot of the depth was missing, and that there was no way the movie could ever successfully convey that depth.

Really important parts of the story were entirely missing: Tom Bombadil was gone entirely (and with it the reason that Merry's sword could kill the Nazgul) and the Scouring of the Shire, which brought home the fact that Sauron was indeed a world-wide menace.

Then I got the extended DVD version and watched an interview where Peter Jackson discussed exactly this point, and pointed out that a movie is a very different thing than a novel, that slavishly copying the novels just wouldn't work because you experience a novel over the entire span of your reading it, at your own pace, whereas a movie forces its pace upon you.

And you know, Peter was right. LOTR is overly long...there's a good half hour of material AFTER the climax of the film which is largely superfluous to the main tale, without the Scouring of the Shire.

(Which Jackson actually filmed, and ended up only using briefly during the dream sequences in the Elven woods.)

I think having read a LOT of Tolkein and considerably less of Moore, that both authors worked in similar fashions: they created elaborate, detailed universes in which to hang their stories, which convey that feeling of reality and the wealth of detail that simply isn't explicitly present in the book but is there nonetheless, like many layers of paint building up a dense background over which the visible painting sits.

The depth is perceptible even if you cannot see it directly.

This makes these sorts of things almost impossible to film.