Reviewing the film version of Watchmen is inevitable but I’m going to give you two reviews. The first is the shorter one, the one for the more spoiler conscious, and the simplest and easiest to understand: The joke here is on us.
The second review… is about the same. The joke is still on us, not just as fans of the comic, but as people who enjoy good stories, decent acting, and quality filmmaking. Director Zack Snyder comes from the same slow motion then quick speed up school of snooze action as Peter Jackson, but not just that, he also has Jackson’s knack for diving head first into works that are far too big for him and then adapting them as if they were a piece of shit that just needed a flashlight and a camera pointed at them.
I’d love talk to you about the original comic, the graphic novel, and how in comparison to it’s greatness, the film is so horrible. And I will, but don’t worry, I am fully aware that I’ll be screaming at the top of my lungs in a room filled with deaf people.
As for the original graphic novel, by Alan Moore (whose name smartly, or perhaps sadly, doesn’t appear anywhere on the adaptation) and Dave Gibbons, I could talk forever. I’d love to, in fact. We could talk about the original Charlton characters that got switched over into the story’s characters (Blue Beetle becoming the Nite Owl and the Question becoming Rorschach), and we could talk about why there is no letters column in the back of each issue (Alan Moore opted to go with the text backups to offer more depth into the huge world he was creating and because he didn’t want to print fan’s letters; he didn’t want to give them the idea their feelings mattered and rightfully so). We could talk forever about the fractal nature of the episodes within the larger story and we could talk about the two tools of a writer that Moore always uses perfectly: resonance and juxtaposition. We could talk about all of this and more, but it comes down to something simple with the original story in that no matter how much you like the story, if you think it’s just good, or if you think it’s great, or even brilliant, you have to agree on something very simple: It works. It just does.
Watchmen the film, however, does not. It’s like taking half of a cliffs notes version of the original story and then making a music video out of it. Only the music picked never fit and the video? Not that hot either.
Tonight I went to a screening of this film – called ” the most anticipated film of the new century,” or so I overheard a barista say in a Starbucks the other day and the very idea of that sends chills up and down my spine – with my associates Benjamin Light and Occam Razor. “Now Watchmen fans know how I felt after viewing Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy,” Benjamin Light says, and I agree with him perfectly. I feel his pain here.
On the way home, we discussed how a lot of the reasons why some of the idiots out there will love this film is evocative of what’s wrong with a good deal of the filmgoing public these days: They love cool shit. They love cool scenes. On it’s own, that’s not a problem. There’s a lot of films that I hate, but they have great moments in them. But there’s no longer an understanding of what a film is anymore, that it’s more than just a collection of “cool scenes” thrown against a wall of projected light with the significant hope that maybe, just maybe, it’ll work. We also discussed how, despite it being a cliche of it’s own (and cliches are not something this movie is a stranger to), this film could not be more soulless. More so than The Matrix even, and that is quite the feat.
To save us all a lot of time, I’ll list off just a few things that are wrong about this movie:
- The direction.
- The writing.
- The casting.
- The frequent willingness to dive into pointless montages just about always.
- The constant and bizarre violence that wasn’t needed – if it’s there for shock value, it’s a laughable shock, I promise you – and the weird gore that came with it.
- The oddly graphic sex scene set to “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (I will attach kudos to using the original song and not the Jeff Buckley cover) that was… a bit too much i.e. weird thrusting. Zach Snyder, you are a weird little kid.
- The poor special effects. I know the marketing budget for this film was astronomically ridiculous, but where did the rest of the money go?
- The cut corners in just about everything. Or, as you could probably call it, the watering down.
- The score. It worked so much better on Beverly Hills 90210, I promise you.
- The bizarre “cameos” by real life people like Pat Buchanan and Lee Iacocca.
- The lack of the giant fucking Cthulhu-esque squid at the end. You know what I’m talking about. It would’ve been so big and so weird and so perfect. It could’ve been the opening starship pan from A New Hope. It could’ve… well, giant fucking squids just make everything better, right?
- The way that the filmmakers took one of Time magazine’s top 100 novels of the last century and turned into a parody of anything good. The all too willingness to take a piece of quality material and do it anything but right. The idea that if Darren Aronofsky and Terry Gilliam or even an overrated schlub like Paul Greengrass tried and were unable to do this film justice that someone like Zack Snyder could. Seriously. The guy who directed 300? Come on.
Now, as for something that the film did incredibly right… Let me get back to you, okay?
Shockingly, Roger Ebert gave this film four stars, but if you read his review, he’ll tell you that even he doesn’t know why, or even what’s going on here. He gets one thing completely right though: This is a film complete without nuance and it’s hand delivered to an audience who doesn’t think complex thoughts.
One last pet peeve about the film before I pour myself a drink and try to put this all out of my head: In the theater for an after 9 o’clock showing tonight there was more than a few kids. In this R rated film with lots of violence (which I know, I know, I know that no one really cares about protecting our kids from) and some sex. There wasn’t just a few kids there, there were a lot of kids. I still get carded at times going into certain films or bars, so this shocks me. Why weren’t they kids given some long island iced teas so they might actually enjoy the movie while they were there? And more importantly, why weren’t they enjoying them at home instead with a marathon of Heroes episodes?
Eh, I’d love to say more here, or end this on a funny note, but what do you expect? The Comedian is dead.