So I saw the Watchmen last week, and this post will talk about my thoughts, feelings, reactions to it.
First: It was almost shot for shot from the comic, which was nice. Of course they had to change things/leave some things out, and I do not begrudge the filmmakers for the liberties they took. The comic is a mass of superhero deconstruction, circular and layered narrative, and darkness. All of these things would make it hard to film a movie based on the comic (graphic novel for you purists out there) and I think Zach Snyder and company did a decent job of bringing it to the screen. The characters and their motivations were there (for the most part) as was the sense of desperation and helplessness contained in the comic. So kudos to them for that.
I was worried going into the movie that it was going to be terrible. I am not a big fan of Zach Snyder–I did enjoy his remake of Dawn of the Dead (except for the whole zombie baby thing which was just lame) but I thought 300 was just terrible–even for an action movie. My problems with 300 are similar to the problems I have with The Watchmen. 300, for being an action flick, felt stale to me. Sure, there was a lot of action, but it was shot in slo-mo and freeze frame that really took me out of the action. Sure some of this is cool and visually stunning, but when every spear thrust or movement of foot and fist is stopped so you can see the point of impact it just gets boring. There is no flow to the action, which just makes it boring to watch.
So, onto the Watchmen. The actions scenes, and the whole movie, is a visual spectacle, but again the action is slowed and stopped throughout because of Snyder’s insistence on the new stop motion technique that he “perfected” with 300. The problem is, Watchmen is nearly three hours long, and this kind of matrix style action gets old FAST. By the second time I had to see a slow motion movement from a hero involved in some kind of action scene I was already bored with the technique. A few examples: Silk Spectre II landing on the rooftop and the movie stopping for a frame before she rolls and completes the landing. Or when Rorscharc kicks open the door to the Comedian’s apartment. The door doesn’t just fly open to reveal Rorschac in the doorway, but it flies open at a slowed speed to reveal him in a three second sequence that should have taken half a second. Or the fight in the prison when Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II beat the hell out of a bunch of prisoners. Not only was the fact that they didn’t get touched just downright unbelievable (they are superheroes, sure, but they have no special powers so they should have at least taken a punch or two) but the scene was so unexciting that it felt as gratutious as it was (the scene was made just for the movie; it is not in the comic). Had there been something at stake in the fight then it may have been exciting, but there wasn’t. In fact, with the exception of the opening ass kicking given to the Comedian, and the end when Rorschach and Nite Owl II go up against Veidt, there was nothing at stake in any of the action scenes.Well maybe when Rorschach gets caught by the cops, but even that felt rushed and not very dramatic.
What I am trying to say is that for a movie full of violence, gore, and bones and blood breaking through the skin, there was no tension or drama in any of it. The violence was meaningless (which could have been what the filmmakers were going for, but I have a hard time justifying that interpretation), and therefore boring.
My biggest problem with the Watchmen, though, was that I did not care about any of the characters. I knew who they were and what motivated them from reading the comic, but the movie did not give me any real reason to invest myself in them, even when it lifted things straight from the comic–like Nite Owl II’s feelings of impotency (both literal and figurative). The movie is two hours and forty three minutes long, and that is a long time to spend with characters that you don’t care about.
Also, the editing of the music into the film was hilariously bad. It seemed to me that the makers had a list of songs they wanted to include in the movie, and instead of finding emotionally relevant places to put them, they just kind of shoved them in as an afterthought. This choice really drove me out of the movie, and caused me to laugh out loud in the theater. Also, while the songe were fine, they were uninspired because we have heard the used millions of times in movies and on television. It felt like Snyder didn’t think he could do anything original with the movie because he wanted to be so faithful to the comic. I appreciate that he was faithful, and I don’t know how I would have felt about the movie if he strayed from the source material than he did (I probably would have hated it) but film is a different media than comics so some originality/interpretation is needed. And while he added and cut some things, and changed the ending, these were all minor things to play with, and they found the movie wanting in this viewer’s opinion. The worst of these poor musical editing choices was the sex scene between Dan and Laurie on Archy. I laughed out loud through the whole thing, and rolled my eyes because it was just so bad and campy.
The acting was okay, for the most part, with the exception of Malin Ackerman, who was atrocious. To me it seemed like she was trying to act like Drew Berrymore, what with her doe eyed looks and her timid voice. I cringed at every scene she was in, and was appalled by the fact that she did not smoke a single cigarette during the whole movie. I take issue with this because the Silk Spectre II is a chaing smoking champion, and I think that really adds something to her character. She is just a woman who plays dress up and fights crime because that is what her mother wanted her to do. The constant smoking demonstrates how insecure she is, and that she has to fall back on the crutch of cigarettes. True, this does not change the movie, and I am not saying that I didn’t like the movie because she didn’t smoke, but it would have been a nice touch, especially considering how true they were to the comic in most other respects.
All in all I will say that it was just ok. It is not going to go on my list of favorite movies or comic book movies or anything, but I am glad it was finally made and that I got a chance to see it on the big screen. I do not know if I would watch it again, but I might because there are a lot of little things that I missed the first time around. Still, for being as long as it was, it did not really justify that running length to me.