Watching the Watchmen
Since I can only spend so many hours a day tossing resumes out across the ‘net before I start to go buggy, I decided to take a few hours out of the day and head out to catch the matinee of “Watchmen“. I got home a bit ago, and I’m going to see what I can do as far as getting my thoughts down. Perhaps a little jumbled, but so it goes.
First off, a few thoughts on what came before the movie. Remember when you would go to a movie, find your seat in a relatively hushed theater, and have a nice few quiet moments before the movie? Heck, at this point, I’m nostalgic for the stupid advertising slideshow we got for a few years, rather than the constant, loud bombardment of noise and flashing lights we get from the moment we step in the theater these days. Of the many reasons why I don’t go see movies in the theater these days, the advertising barrage is a big one.
This time, I scribbled little notes on my iTouch as the drivel went by…
“Last House on the Left“: Ugh. So not interested.
Worst thing about going to the movies these days: the stupid Kid Rock/National Guard music video.
E*Trade’s freaky talking babies don’t benefit at all from the big-screen treatment. Oh, and I get two of those ads. Yay.
“Knowing” still looks interesting.
The Kia Soul hamster wheel commercial was cute, but will probably get old fast if it goes into wide release on TV.
Hmm…the “no calls during the movie” blurb has been updated to “no calls or texts.”
- “Wolverine“: Okay, so this one could be fun. Still likely a rental for me.
- “Angels and Demons“: Another rental.
- “Star Trek“: So, so, so nice on the big screen! This one, I’m there on opening weekend, if not opening night.
- “Public Enemies“: Looks intriguing. Good cast, good director, could be worth seeing. Again, though, I put it on the rental pile.
- “Terminator Salvation“: I just can’t get excited about this. Much like how (in my universe) nothing exists of Highlander beyond the first film, nothing exists of Terminator beyond T2.
- “Observe and Report“: Oh, dear god, another mind-numbingly stupid mall cop movie? And to make it worse, it’s the last trailer we get, so after a lot of geektastic goodness, we’re left with a bad taste in our mouth (almost literally, any movie that features vomiting in the trailer is guaranteed not to get my money) before the main event. Nice job of programming, dolts.
And now, Watchmen.
First off, the good: it’s an incredibly faithful screen translation of the comic book, even with the changes made to the ending (no big spoiler there — that changes were made has been well-known, it’s what those changes are that have been kept more-or-less secret). From an artistic and technical standpoint, the film is astounding. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see someone make an attempt at a mashup between the comic book’s boxes and text and the movie’s images once the DVD comes out and they can get good screengrabs. You’d be able to stay incredibly close to the original work, save for the last issue. Very, very nicely done.
The casting was also incredible. Most of the cast were actors I didn’t know very well, if at all, but who fit their characters beautifully. I also got a kick out of seeing some old favorites pop up, including Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, as Moloch. Spot-on perfect.
That said, the movie ended up leaving me cold. It’s not at all that it’s a bad movie — as I just said, on a technical and artistic level, it’s amazing — it’s just that it completely failed to engage me, and in quite a few scenes actively repulsed me. I’ve been trying to work out why, and I think it boils down to two main points: first, that while I enjoy the original graphic novel and recognize it’s importance to the geek world, it was never the “event” for me that it was for many other geeks my age; second, I find that as I get older, I’m getting less and less desensitized to overly realistic depictions of violence.
To the first point: I’ve never been a huge comic geek. I don’t have anything against comics at all, I’ve enjoyed reading many, have a few collections and graphic novels in my library (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight Returns, Marvel 1602, and the entire Sandman series being the standouts), but I was never hugely into either reading or collecting them (with the sole exception of The Tick, of which I still have the first ten issues — first prints of 2-10, and the second printing of issue one — carefully preserved). While I’d heard about Watchmen many times, I didn’t ever read it until I picked it up a few years ago, and even now, I’ve only read it twice: once when I first bought it, and once again last week. Because of that, while I find it a good read, and have read enough about it over the years to recognize it’s importance to the comic world, it doesn’t hold any particular personal importance for me. Good book, worth reading, that’s it.
To the second point: Yes, Watchmen is a violent book. I know this, and I wasn’t expecting there to be a strange lack of violence in the movie. However, I was more than a little put off by just how much, and how graphic, violent imagery there was. In some instances, it was simply the director being faithful to his source material. In other instances, though, the movie actually ended up being quite a bit more graphic than the original work did, and not simply because of the transition from drawn artwork to live action.
The rest is going beyond a cut, as I’m quite likely going to be more than a little spoileriffic here. If you’re reading via RSS or on Facebook, stop now or don’t whine.
I’m continuing on with the second point, here. A few particular instances where I felt the movie went a little too far:
- The dogs chewing on the bones of the little girl in Rorschach’s flashback. In the book, the dogs are chewing on a large bone, one that’s obviously a human leg bone — but that obviousness is due to its size and the context of the scene. In the movie, we’re treated to a mangled, shredded leg, still with meat, gristle, and a girl’s foot (still in its shoe) attached.
- When Laurie and Dan are mugged by the top-knots, I didn’t particularly need to see one assailant’s compound fracture breaking through the skin of his arm and splattering out blood.
- During the “assassination” attack on Veidt, the loving close-up of the bullet puncturing his assistant’s leg. I suppose she’s lucky, in that in the book, she’s shot and killed (unless she’s shot again in the film and I missed it).
- One of the biggest “was that really necessary?” instances for me was when Big Figure and his thugs are trying to get to Rorschach. Once Rorschach traps the big thug in front of the door, in the book, Big Figure has the big guy’s throat slit (somewhat unnecessarily) so they can muscle past his corpse (couldn’t he have just stood out of the way, then?) to cut into the lock. The movie’s version of events, admittedly, makes a little more sense, in that they actually manage to get him out of the way — but I really didn’t need to watch as they used a rotary saw to chop through his forearms.
There were others here and there, but those were the ones that really stood out in my mind.
As far as the much-rumored and (in some corners) very worrisome changed ending, I thought it worked quite well. No, it’s not a giant space squid — but I’m in strong agreement with those who’ve said that the giant space squid, while workable in the comic medium, would not have worked in this live-action adaptation. Their solution managed to believably bring about the same end result, while being far more credible.
So, in the end — worth seeing, and if you’re interested, certainly worth seeing on the big screen. But, for me at least, this is one that definitely will not be joining my movie collection.