A summation of an overly serious film based upon a comic that made fun of how seriously comics take themselves. Irony at it's greatest, ladies and gentlemen.
Watchmen, as it's trailer claims, is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time. I can understand why, too. However, I think a lot of the reasoning lies somewhere other than it's tone, it's depth, and it's characters. In fact, I think that several of the readers, especially screenwriter David Hayner (Metal Gear Solid) and Zack Snyder (300), misread the book itself. To me, it felt as though someone, or several ones, were being made fun of. To an extend, it's a group of people who really do deserve it, and it makes it even more obvious when seeing the film in conjunction with the comic. When I read the book, the satire was brutal ... brutal, brutal, brutal. It was the same feeling I got while I was playing Fallout 3, making fun of our overly dramatic and sensitive human society we live in. I have a close friend with whom I discuss these things, and most often we come to different conclusions. I tend to have more faith left in humanity and it's ability to make amends with it shortcomings. He doesn't believe in anyone but a select few, and the interpretations of this book can supposedly say why.
What a dreary paragraph there, don't you think? Let's brighten things up a little bit, shall we? Heath Ledger won the Oscar (and deservedly so) for his nihilistic interpretation of The Joker in The Dark Knight. A film in which the brilliance almost exudes the darkness of it all. Sure, Nolan could have made some better choices, but Nolan is smart and probably realized that most everyone who is interested in seeing a Batman movie does not want to see a boat full of innocent civilians and children destroyed. Sure, it would have been one fuck of a climax, but that scene will have to be for the elitist movie critic in all of us to wish, and never see. It's the kind of misplaced optimism we want in our films, which is why we have George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The world can be a better place if only we tried harder, right?
OH! Didn't that Robert Downey Jr. fella make one hell of a comeback with his film Iron Man? Was that movie the shit or what? And, I think Rawrb pointed it out in his review, that Downey Jr. looks just like Tony Stark! Iron Man was more Jon Faverau fluff than it was dark or edgy, but Faverau is edgy all by himself, so it comes as a small bit of relief to see him do something fun and lighthearted. Sorry, Mr. Ebert, but Iron Man was nothing more than a swell-crafted piece of entertainment, and I never caught on that the film was trying to appeal to the nature of human fears. And we also have Spike Jonez's Where the Wild Things Are to look forward to, and absolutely love, and Jonez is just the man to do it too. You guys remember that book, don't you? One of my favorites when I was a wee-wee lad in the mountains of California.
And that brings us to ... Watchmen. This pretty much proves to me that either Zack Snyder hid the satire, buried under mountains of metaphors and Hamlet-esque characters, OR ... he misread the book completely. Like my friend and his faith in humanity, I lack faith in Zack Snyder. He has not made a single good film, and almost gets off on his overdeveloped slow motion impulses. What is there to like about Watchmen the film? Was it essentially taken verbatim from the Alan Moore graphic novel. Yes. Wouldn't that mean that whatever nuances were in the book would likely translate to film seamlessly and almost effortlessly? Hayner and Snyder both seem to think so, but I'm not so sure. While Watchmen the comic book seemed to mock a specific audience, Watchmen the film seems to pander to said audience. See what I'm saying here? I don't think it's because Zack Snyder wanted the movie to appeal to a wider audience (hence the R-Rating and helpful doses of Dr.Manhattan penis) so much as it is Zack Snyder considering himself a devout, deep, and thoughtful fan of the subject matter. Am I a devout, deep, and thoughtful fan of the subject matter? Not even close, but maybe that's because I read the book without the benefit of being a comic book extrodonairre. I read the book as a person to whom the book was suggested to, and I picked up a lot of Alan Moore's cynicism, his twisted sense of humor, and to a lesser degree, his conservatism.
It is my belief that Zack Snyder would like to think himself a martyr for this film, and one really has to hand it to Warner Bros. for taking the risk with this movie. Sadly, I think the risk was hardly worth it, and they gathered together a writer and a director who, as far as I am concerned, took the text far too seriously than it was supposed to. Roger Ebert described Dr. Manhattan as "a quantum man in a normal world." While Roger Ebert's infinite wisdom is unmatched, I propose something different. I would say Dr. Manhattan is the only sensible being in a sea of idiots, and these idiots are representative of ... well ... fanboys, for lack of a better term. Look at it this way, we have Night Owl (Patrick Wilson, Hard Candy) who, in reality, is Dan Dreiberg, who is nothing without his alter-ego. He may be the strongest representation of the anti-social gamer/comic book fiend. Sure, the man is a blatant generalization, but he carries himself as though he has interest in speaking with the opposite sex, then realizing that his inadequacies are all too abundant to even consider himself a worthy bachelor, and then sinking back into his little cave, wishing he could play dress up and pretend that he matters in a world that is slowly going insane. Then we have Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman) who is put there to taunt not just Dan, but the devout comic book afficionado. As a gamer, I understand the sort of desire one feels over a fictional character who is attractive beyond all reason ... and my weakness was Rikku from Final Fantasy X (who was yours?) Here, we have Silk Spectre II, prouncing around playing heroin of New York, in a leotard that doesn't cover much of her perfectly sculpted body. Was Alan Moore trying to say something about the generosity of a man like Dan Dreiberg ending up with a beautiful, modelesque Laurie Jupiter ... or is he mocking Dreiberg's inability to realistically communicate to other people by making Laurie come on to him, and again, and again, and again, to the point of having wild sex on an owl ship hovering over the city. Come on.
In my opinion, Moore wasn't trying to say something realistic about superheroes in a modern and realistic society (as the society is hardly realistic,) but was rather trying to say something about the nature of our obsessions which tend to make us all crazy. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children) is not the only madman on the prowl, because he is about as mad as everyone else in the world around him. Rorschach, to a degree, is even more pathetic than Night Owl because he can't find anything else to do with his time than play detective, and slowly loose his mind with it. Rorschach isn't so much a tortured character as he is a character who is just insane. Rorschach and Night Owl, to me, couldn't be any more blatant in Alan Moore's Watchmen in it's malicious mockery. And what does Zack Snyder decide to do with this story? He drabs it up and makes it overly serious, overly slick, and painfully panderous to the audience that loved it because it was a gritty piece of serious comic book business. But enough of this over analyzation, and let's get to brass tax.
And I promise, I am working on the whole "going on forever about nothing" drab. It kills me, too, every time I read it.
There really is nothing to call home about here. Let me make an interesting analogy to coffee because I am the worst of Starbucks fiends. When you go to order your Venti Soy Caramel Macchiatto (or something frenchy like that) you want it to have flavor. You are expecting the caramel to overwhelm your taste-buds, and drag the taste from your tounge, down your throat and into your belly for the full effect. That is what a good Venti Soy Caramel Machkiato tastes like. What do you NOT want in a Venti Soy Caramel Macchiatoo? That bland, almost bitter coffee taste that you only need after a long night of drinking, right? Watchmen is like a bad Venti Soy Caramel Mackyado in that after getting drunk on the wonderment that is The Dark Knight and, to a lesser degree Iron Man, Watchmen had the potential to be the sweet, delicious breakfast drink for the next day. Plotwise, there is no richness or depth. The plot is simply, "someone's knocking off pseudo-heroes ... whodunit?" Then again, the plot is the least of our worries here.
In Watchmen, we have two characters that are not only interesting, but are represented appropriately. Let's start with Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup) whose alter-ego is Dr. Manhattan. Why is Dr. Manhattan so illustrious and interesting? Is it because of his dark, Hamlet-esque demeanor? Is it because of his seeminly unwareness of his own nudity in any given setting? Is it his outlook on life? I would opt to say none of these and make it clear that I think Dr. Manhattan's humanity and normality is what makes him interesting, because he seems to be the least normal, and the most detatched. With him, what we really have is a man who sees a picture that is so vast that the randomness of the universe is what truly leaves him awe-stricken. Dr. Manhattan's monologue on the miracle of human life might have made Laurie Jupiter FEEL better, but in contrast to everything he has said before leaves me unconvinced, and ... perhaps it's just me ... I think that Laurie Jupiter instictively figured the same. Whatever get's the job done, right?
The other character is Rorschach, who is deprived of any sort of humanity until one curious scene near the end where he has a moment with Dan Dreiberg. Rorschach is clearly not a sociopath, as Ozymandius (Matthew Goode) describes him, but he is insane. He's always been insane, and the belief he holds of providing a public service makes him all the more insane. What does Rorschach accomplish throughout the story, exactly? Nothing, really. He's the one who brought the killings to the Watchmen's attention, and then his madness leads him into all sorts of trouble. What drove the point home is the assessment of his madness through the conversation with the psychiatrist. (Whose naive optimism is sorely missing from the film.) We discover that he was always thought of as nothing but extra baggage, and this costumed hero nonsense makes him feel like like he matters. (SPOILER) It's no wonder he begs for Dr. Manhattan to destroy him after New York is destroyed. His uselessness overwhelms him. (OKAY YOU CAN LOOK NOW.)
I really, really do not like Zack Snyder. He has not made a single good movie, and I think he continues the trend with this one. Watchmen, as satirical and interesting as it is, was never about the action or the darkness or the sex. It was about the foolishness and selfishness of the characters. Snyder really couldn't seem to display an aiota of control with this film with all the slow motion crap and the styilistic fight scenes. I would have liked to see Watchmen in the hands of someone who could balance all of it's attributes appropriately. I can't exactly commend him on the absence of the squid, though I do think that it was a smarter move than keeping it in.
Zack Snyder's 300 was ridiculous, bordering on hilarious all the way through. Dawn of the Dead was a serious mistep in trying to re-make a classic, and now Watchmen is just a technical superhero movie that takes itself far too seriously. It has become what the Alan Moore was making fun of. But what do you expect from a director who often chooses style over substance. There is a reason as to why Michael Bay wasn't approached to do this film.
Two of the actors turned in some excellent performances. They were Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan, and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Crudup's intensity and monotone was completely effective for a man who sees a picture so huge, it wipes out the scope of humanity. To him, destiny is nothing more than a fleeting, spiritual lie, and there is only what exsists within our grasp. I think that Haley understood the character of Rorschach for more than David Hayner did, and he could see who Rorschach represented. Rorschach is the farthest thing from a hero, and never provides a viable function other than to keep himself from becoming depressed. I wonder if Rorschach ever stops to think about how useless he really is?
I didn't like it. It doesn't hold a candle to the novel (though most works can't these days) and although I wish I could score it on the merits of a stand-alone piece, I'm afraid, even then, that I couldn't score it any higher. I'm going to pretend I am in the shoes of a person who didn't read the book. What was there to like about the movie, exactly? The special effects were abundant, but there was a terrible lack of any sort of plot drive, and there were only two very interesting characters. Dan Dreiberg seemed pathetic to me when Snyder tried to pass him off as a man who was modest, yet brave. Laurie Jupiter was warm, sure ... but why was she warm? She seemed warm because the only kind of girl who could accept Dreiberg and his meaningless existence is if she was open minded, warm, and likely to be just as useless. But on a note of optimism, at least the two have each other now, right?
I suppose we could leave with the mindset of The Comedian (yes, I remember him too) whose point seems to be lost in the movie. It's all a big joke.
|Originality||It may have the slickness of a comic book movie, but Snyder does nothing new or interesting with the subject matter.||3|
|Acting||The .5 goes to Billy Crudup and Jackie Earle Haley for giving some pretty powerful performances. I like Pat Wilson, but he and Ackermin just weren't good together.||3.5|
|Soundtrack||The best part(s) about the movie. What does that say?||4|
|Effects/Presentation||Just awful. The presentation especially because I feel it was completely misinterpreted, only concreting the point of the graphic novel itself. The movie took itself FAR too seriously, while the book was making fun of the very idea.||2|
|Storyline||Confusing, even though that was the point. The basic plot is nothing special, and it is very character driven, but there are only two characters worth interpreting. They should have just made the movie about them.||3.5|
|Final Verdict: 3.2|