Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes: Part II

Continued from yesterday; as does the warning that there are spoilers ahead.

I really like the book THE WATCHMEN.

I still get new things from it every time I reread the opus. It makes me think; it quickens the pulse; it gets me to feel.

So I had high hopes for the film; but not high expectations. I knew this would be hard to film. But not impossible.

The thing is, it should have been better.


The movie misses the mark in three main areas: the intellect, the action, and the heart.

The intellectual side fares the best, surprisingly. A big part of THE WATCHMEN is the ideas, and a lot of those ideas come through in the film.

What makes a hero? What cost is justifiable for a greater good? Where is the moral line that one must not cross? Questions that would have been too obvious under the last president, but still are front and center today (stem cell research, anyone?).

Questions of identity, of loyalty, of integrity.

Much of that came through – although it would have been stronger if the visual take by the director supported the mental take of the script. (See prior post for example of idea being undercut by action.)


This is an action movie, so I suppose action should take precedence. And there are some very well choreographed sequences.

But the action doesn’t carry the thrill it needed to, for a couple of reasons.

First, a lack of heart (see tomorrow’s post) – we as an audience need to care about the outcome of the action.

But also because we saw too much of it.

Zach Snyder stayed pretty loyal to the comic series; but one of his additions was to make the violence more explicit and gruesome (he also amped up the sex).

Every sawed off body part or protruding bone becomes a disruption to the action. Such explicitness may be good for a DAWN OF THE DEAD, but not so much for a straight up action movie.

I guess I’m trying to say that Snyder has a vivid imagination – he can see a lot on a page of a script.

But he doesn’t have a very creative imagination.

Two examples: in the prison riot, he leaves behind the graphic novel to graphically show us the deaths of Big Figure’s first goon. Gross, cringeworthy, and pulls the audience out of the film.

But he sticks to the comic to show – or rather not show – the demise of Big Figure himself.

Just a swinging bathroom door; a flushed toilet; a seepage of blood under the door. By far creepier, and cooler.

And pulls the audience into the film.

Let’s take the sex example as well. Snyder undercuts a perfectly fine visual joke that Gibbons/Moore gave him.

The hapless couple of Laurie and Dan, who couldn’t quite achieve sexual union earlier, are now all a-tremble from their first mission in costume. As the Owl spaceship floats in the sky, they embrace; their clothes fall to the floor.

Cut to an outer shot of the Owl spaceship. A large flame erupts from the ship’s guns.

Really, what more do you need to know?

Well, Snyder felt that we needed, I don’t know – how long did it go on? – a half hour of watching Dan and Laurie shifting positions from one state of ecstasy to the next.

And, after leaving no doubt of the multiple successes of their coupling, he cuts to that now pointless outside shot.

Really, who needed to know that much?

So by overexposure, the action of the flick doesn’t quite thrill as much as it should.

(Side note: okay, every one – coolest move in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies?

Elf Legolas getting on that horse. Sweet.

Coolest move of THE WACTHMEN? Rorshack in Veidt’s artic palace, dropping off that stone block, while turning and catching himself.

Why couldn’t we have spent more time on stuff like that?)

Okay, now the final failure:

Why the movie came across so very, very cold.

To be continued…

Just my thoughts,


1 comment:

David Goulet said...

'Yes' to all your observations. But you are almost kind when refering to the violence and sex.

It went beyond poor creative decision making, it was insulting to the viewer. It was an assumption that the audience wanted to see such an inane level of violence. I felt degraded by it, not just distracted, because I knew the violence, and graphic sex, was not there for any other reason than to titilate. That might have worked for a film like Sin City which was pure pulp fiction, but not Watchmen.

I liked your observation that this was really two stories fighting for our attention in one film. It looks and feels like a superhero movie and is marketed as such. But at heart this is was supposed to be a story about the grey zone of vigilantism. I saw more black than grey.

But there is a third element, the gorn. It looks and feels like a horror film. One of those really vicious ones that dare you to watch and see how much gore you can take.

I can't help but feel the filmmakers pulled a bait-and-switch on comic fans.

And I think I know what you're going to say about the film's heart. One word: flatline.