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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Watchmen

Hey, guess what? Watchmen doesn't suck! In fact, it's actually pretty good!

As a huge Alan Moore fan, who's been burned pretty bad in the past (ahem, LXG), I was really apprehensive about this movie. I really wanted it to be good, but the trailers gave me some strong doubts about whether it could be. Turns out, some of the things I was most worried about ended up being my favorite things about the movie. Go figure.

What worked really well:
Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, and the Comedian absolutely own in this movie. The trailers really do all of them a disservice. They are note-perfect representations of the characters, in my opinion.

Night Owl is very good. Not as pudgy as I would have liked, and the costume could have been more faithful to the original design - but those are minor quibbles.

The attention to detail is wonderful. Say what you will about Snyder as a director, but the guy has an almost obsessive knack for visual adaptation.

While I would have preferred an ending more faithful to the book's (especially since everything else was adapted so meticulously), the new ending is similar enough to work. I wasn't necessarily happy about it, but I didn't hate it.

What doesn't work so much:
Carla Gugino as the older Sally Jupiter. The age makeup was not effective. They should have just double cast the part. There's actually a scene where she wearily says "I'm sixty-five years old" and it was enough to elicit some chuckles from the audience. It's not Gugino's fault. Snyder should have handled it differently.

Silk Spectre II, despite having a killer body, was fairly dull to watch. Especially during one the film's most critical emotional moments near the end of the film.

The soundtrack is not very good for the most part. There are some great songs used in the movie, but almost every single one doesn't fit the tone of the scene it's used in. Or they are just way too obvious or overused, like "Ride of the Valkyries" during the Vietnam flashback. The songs call attention to themselves so much that it completely took me out of the moment. The worst is probably the use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the film's only love scene. It just didn't match with the way the scene was shot, at all.

I really enjoyed the movie. This was due in large part to both Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan. They were, hands down, the best part. Dr. Manhattan's origin scene was particularly amazing, and fortunately had the best-used piece of music in the whole film. Because those characters work so well the movie actually has a fairly strong emotional impact.

I have no idea how this movie will be received by the majority of people who haven't read the graphic novel, but this movie wasn't really made for them anyway. I think any fan of the book will be mostly pleased, except for those who just cannot allow the slightest liberty to be taken with the material. Nothing is so radically altered that it completely derails the experience (ahem, LXG). I'm happy that I liked it.

3 comments:

Creative Clayer said...

I liked it too. We saw it at the IMAX which was cool. Dave's only complaint was the inordinate amount of sausage. ;)

Anonymous said...

In casting, I think it's important to look at the visually improper ages of nearly everyone. I could geek out and list them blow-by-blow, but the most obvious errors are Dan, Laurie, and Adrian. Depending on the actor, they are all nearly 10-15 years too old for what they play. In a story (on one level) about aging, sins of the past, lost youth, etc, Snyder's hipness compass is his undoing. The actors do fine, but it sometimes felt like well-meaning lizards attempting to play hens or something. In many stories, you can fudge the issue of age, but the timeline in WATCHMEN doesn't really allow this.

It's especially ruinous in the case of Adrian. Yes, he was a youthful genius, but it took a LOT of time for him to cook up his Plan. The first meeting of the Crimebusters is in '66, twenty years before the events of the plot. This means that everyone is 36 (in Laurie's case) or older. Here is a list I found...

Character: Nite Owl 2/Daniel Dreiberg
Actor: Patrick Wilson (b. 1973)
Actor Age at Filming: 35
Character Age in Comic: 45 (approximate)

Character: The Comedian/Edward Morgan Blake
Actor: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (b. 1966)
Actor Age at Filming: 42
Character Age in Comic: 61

Character: Silk Specter 2/Laurie Juspeczyk
Actor: Malin Akerman (b. 1978)
Actor Age at Filming: 30
Character Age in Comic: 36

Character: Rorschach/Walter Joseph Kovacs
Actor: Jackie Earle Haley (b. 1961)
Actor Age at Filming: 47
Character Age in Comic: 45

Character: Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt
Actor: Matthew Goode (b. 1978)
Actor Age at Filming: 30
Character Age in Comic: 46

You can fudge the Comedian, because we see him at a number of ages, but with the rest, it's important to anchor them in the "now." This is not a tale for or about hipsters or twentysomethings. It's the fact that they DO age that gives much of the story its poignance.

Dr. Lao

Sharkbear said...

I agree. The ages were distracting. But I felt that Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan (basically ageless, now), and even The Comedian held it together. If they hadn't been so good I would have found the movie's other flaws unforgivable, but they held me enthralled.

I want to see it a second time this week. My first viewing was almost distractingly dominated by the book-to-movie comparison. With that out of the way, I'd like to attempt to watch it more for it's own merits as a film.