David Thompson
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March 09, 2009

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carbon based lifeform

"But as the end of the world looms, the pervasive mood is one of stillness and detachment; only Rorschach's prison scenes generate momentum. Elsewhere, there is little tension or urgency. And, told as a film, this matters."

That's the big problem. It looks great but you never get excited. Plus Malin Akerman can't act.

David

Well, Akerman looks like she’s reading lines rather than acting – she just has no presence. Ditto Matthew Goode. I could forgive that, though, and Crudup, Haley, Wilson and Morgan are much better in their roles. But the overall lack of urgency or tension really flattens the film. It’s interesting and often gorgeous, as you’d expect, but aside from a couple of scenes it’s surprisingly undramatic. There’s no real sense of a countdown or of anything being at stake.

longshot

I saw it on Friday and really enjoyed it. It looks amazing.

David

“It looks amazing.”

I enjoyed it too and I’m glad I went to see it. But it seems to me that a huge part of the fun is in seeing how images you already know from the comic are rendered onscreen. The scene in the lab with Rorschach “dropping in” on an enormous Dr Manhattan is wonderful – it’s the comic brought to life – and there are literally dozens of visual treats like that. (Dr M’s apartment is a replica of the hotel room at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which for some reason tickled me no end.) But that’s the thing. The details are great, and there are plenty of them, but there’s not much narrative momentum. (In part, this is due to the structure of the comic, but it’s much flatter in the film.) And I’m not sure a broader audience will share that nerdish pleasure in spotting familiar panels or be willing to forgive the lack of… well, drama.

James S

What about the missing squid? Does the new ending work?

carbon based lifeform

There are lots of squids in the plot…
"Sub Quantum Unifying Intrinsic Devices" (SQUIDs)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen_(film)#Plot

David

“What about the missing squid? Does the new ending work?”

The revised ending is, I think, slightly better than the original. (In the book, the giant psychic calamari was meant to be outrageous and tragicomic, but in a film, amid real people, it would just look absurd.) The substitute plot device is more economical and fits with earlier events, though it’s scarcely more convincing as a bringer of world unity.

Jason Bontrager

Frankly I think the squid was far more plausible as a means of ending the Cold War. The mechanism used would more likely have *triggered* Global Thermonuclear Annihilation given the tensions of the time. And it depended too much on people that Viedt couldn't control doing things the way he wanted them to.

Granted, the movie was visually interesting, and spotting the details was fun, but more than once I found myself thinking "are we there yet?". It would've worked much better as an HBO mini-series ala Rome (never saw Rome, but I've heard good things about it).

And I'm still really bugged that no one smoked in the movie. PC taints everything it touches:-(.

David

I’ve just added the opening title sequence to the post above. I doubt it’ll be available for long. If the embed doesn’t play, try the link.

Anna

Gone. Damn!

David

Okay, different embed and link. Try here:

http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2009/03/watchmen-opening-title-sequence-video

Again, get it while you can.

Anna

Oh wow. That's lovely. Ticket booked.

James S

Thanks for the clip.

Baltar's Beard

"And I'm still really bugged that no one smoked in the movie."

I wanted to see the little pipes the women smoked. I liked it but it was way too long. A $100 million mini-series would've been better. :)

JuliaM

The acid test for me is 'would I buy the DVD and watch it again'.

The answer's a big 'Yes'. It was an amazing conversion to celluloid. But it wasn't quite as magnificent as I'd thought it would be. I can't quite put my finger on why not, though. Perhaps it's the rather flat performances of some of the cast (though I've seen worse..)? Perhaps it's the fact I caught it in a mostly empty cinema on a Sunday morning?

That title sequence though? Pitched perfectly...

sk60

Ha! Just spotted the Batman posters.

David

Julia,

“The acid test for me is ‘would I buy the DVD and watch it again’.”

A good yardstick. I’ll be adding it to my shopping list. As a fan of the comic, it’s worth buying just to indulge in “panel spotting” and to obsess over the details. The problem, I think, is the uneven tone and lack of customary drama. Some scenes don’t quite seem to know whether they’re meant to be serious or ironic. The overly ripe sex scene in which Dan regains his, er, mojo springs to mind. In the cinema you could feel the audience was unsure what to make of it. Was it meant to be funny, poignant, celebratory or just pornographic? Or some combination? That’s the problem – ambiguities that work in the comic don’t always translate to film.

Aaron

I spotted two references to "300" Did anybody else notice them?

Gort

"Moore and Gibbons spend nine pages showing us the cost of 'saving the world'. Snyder's depiction is brief and oddly bloodless - a puzzling decision given his earlier, very evident, delight in viscera."

I didn't mind the dodgy acting (Ackerman) or the low key pace but the new ending really bugs me. Snyder doesn't show the bodies. Jon and Laurie just stand in a big crater –it's sanitized. The one place where you *need* gore to make a point and he doesn't show it. There's no payoff.

David

“Jon and Laurie just stand in a big crater – it’s sanitized. The one place where you *need* gore to make a point and he doesn’t show it.”

Yes, it’s an odd decision, especially given what’s gone before, and a serious mistake. Synder obviously enjoys depicting gore – Jon’s disintegration of the hoodlums is particularly vivid: intestines fly apart and thick blood drips from the ceiling. It’s artful, in a revolting kind of way. Not showing what Gibbons drew in chapter 12 does undermine the Big Moral Quandary. This, for me, is the ending’s major flaw. I don’t mind the missing “squid” and the replacement plot device is no more ludicrous. But the final dilemma has no real weight because we don’t feel what’s at stake and we don’t see what it costs.

apotheosis

I hate, hate, hate hate HATE Bob Dylan's nasal whiny voice. Huge, possibly decisive turn-off. It's like biting tinfoil wrapped around burnt popcorn to the tune of a thousand screeching chalkboards.

I like Armstrong's "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" bit, though. That was cute.

Karen M

I so wanted the "Mr. Gorsky" thing to be true.
http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blgorsky.htm

sk60

Cue Daily Mail outrage:

"This despicable trash will find an audience among sad sociopaths, deranged pseudo-intellectuals and brutalised, immature men of all ages. I just hope that there aren't enough of them to make it a hit. If there are, God help cinema."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-1159801/Watchmen-Superheroes-sick-slick.html

Will someone think of the children?!

AntiCitizenOne

http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/files/2009/03/botchmen.jpg

sk60

And some Guardian outrage too. :)

"Alan Moore's female characters are detailed, thoughtful and rounded. So why are they reduced to victims and objects in the film? ...So dress that woman up in bondage gear! And create a huge blue CGI penis while you're at it! ...The real disappointment of Watchmen the movie is not its stodgy pacing or its unconvincing climax, it's the way it treats its female characters. It's not just the Silk Spectre's costume that's torn up. Her character is also reduced from the book's self-doubting adventurer determined to hold her husband to account as he ascends to godhood, to a dull, histrionic individual who squeals about the end of the world and just wants her bloke back."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2009/mar/06/watchmen-women

David

But of course. Where would the Guardian be without some tendentious, ill-informed claptrap about gender and popular culture? Akerman’s an inadequate Silk Spectre, sure, but the writer seems a little hazy on the details of the comic he claims to have read and the film he claims to have seen. That piece says more about the ideological preoccupations of many Guardian writers than it does about the film.

sk60

The "huge blue CGI penis" must symbolize phallocentric hegemony.

Karen M

So he's worried about Ackerman's clingy outfit because that makes her a victim/object but he's not worried about the guy who walks around naked for most of the film?

Objectify the wang, people!

andy

I rather enjoyed it, saw it on a big IMAX screen which I think made all the difference.

Baltar's Beard

More outrage from the Guardian comments:

"Who could defend his misogynistic approach to sex scenes? Women are receptacles for the man's ego in every film. For a moment it looked like he might actually have turned-over a new leaf. The lingering shot of Ackerman's face as Silk Spectre 2 receives head from duplicate Dr. Manhattans (probably a pleasurable experience when it's being done by a man who can control every atom before him) is perfectly timed, genuinely erotic and creepy. But then it's back to business as usual with the stomach-churning sex scene between Silk Spectre 2 and Night Owl 2 aboard "Archie"."

What was stomach-churning or misogynistic about it? It was cheesy and a bit naff –but misogynistic?

apotheosis

Apparently, it wasn't "creepy" enough to be "genuinely erotic."

Anna

I enjoyed it (mostly) up until the ending. I know the squid would look silly but the new ending doesn't make sense. Wouldn't framing Dr. Manhattan for the explosions just turn *everyone* against America? He was meant to be America's ultimate weapon.

David

“Wouldn't framing Dr. Manhattan for the explosions just turn *everyone* against America?”

It does open a can of worms, as Jason pointed out earlier. Recriminations would seem more likely than global brotherhood, however temporary. But then the original ending – the plot device and its supposed unifying consequences – is by far the weakest part of the story. The critique of Veidt’s utopian megalomania is fun and the moral conundrum is vivid – kill millions to save billions? – but the means of raising the question isn’t convincing. The events of 9/11 were, briefly, imagined to foster solidarity and that didn’t quite pan out. Amplifying the devastation doesn’t make solidarity much more plausible. It ain’t how people are.

And there are other problems with the ending. Unlike in the comic, we don’t get to see Veidt’s moment of doubt on hearing Dr Manhattan’s parting comment. Instead, Laurie says the same words to Dan later in the film, which blunts the impact. It seems dramatically important that - having “won” - the utopian megalomaniac should face his own demons. In the film, he doesn’t.

I enjoyed the film mainly for how it looks. If you start pulling at the threads, it comes unravelled pretty quickly.

AntiCitizenOne

Yep, I saw it in Imax and it did look and sound pretty awesome, although some special effects looked very obviously CGI.

Dr Manhattan is pretty trusting of a man who just double-crossed him, then blackmailed him, then murdered millions.

David

And following Veidt’s logic, shouldn’t Dr Manhattan vaporise everyone who’s privy to the ruse - just in case - including Laurie, Dan and Veidt himself?

What, too downbeat?

Gort

"although some special effects looked very obviously CGI."

Why can't they get the CG consistent? Dr. Manhattan was mostly very good (apart from the tank scene) but Bubastis was awful.

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