Mar 11, 2009

In Watching Watchmen

Watchmen. I find it hard to imagine anyone familiar with the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece not having reservations when thinking in terms of a live-action film adaptation of the complete and utter perfection that is Watchmen. I find it harder to imagine anyone who is intimate with this seminal masterwork wanting to see a movie made at all. Well, unless you live in a cave under the sea (without an internet connection), then you know all too well, there is a Watchmen movie and there's nothing we can do about it.

It's no surprise that Hollywood has wanted their grubby mitts on Watchmen since its initial publication in 1986, but the project never took flight (pun very much intended). It came very close in 1991 when Terry Gilliam was hired on at Warner Bros. to try and tackle the project. He couldn't. He dropped Watchmen saying it was "unfilmable," and that, "reducing the story to a two or two-and-a-half hour film seemed, to me, to take away the essence of what Watchmen is about." I feel the same way, Mr. Gilliam.

It came close again in 2001 with David Hayter writing/directing, which of course didn't bear fruit, and again in 2004 with Darren Aronofsky using Hayter's script. Well, that didn't work out. Aronofsky was replaced the same year by Paul Greengrass, but guess what...that didn't work out either! So, do you take it as a sign from God (or Dr. Manhattan) that you should let Watchmen be? No. You get Zack Snyder, the guy who graced us with 300 and the Dawn of the Dead remake to take a stab.

I feel that with all of this lead in, I'm avoiding talking about Watchmen, the film. That's partially true. I never wanted a Watchmen movie and I never will. Its just too goddamn big, not only in length, but complexity. A character study to end all, reflections on war and human behavior; a bold piece of humanity. That's just the beginning. If you haven't read Watchmen, you fucking need to, but since I'm supposed to be talking about the goes it.

I didn't hate Zack Snyder's Watchmen. I certainly didn't love it, and not sure if I liked it, but it went beyond my expectations...which was failure. I don't think it failed, I just don't think it hit the mark. Again, there's too much there. To make Watchmen right is simply impossible. But the movie did some things, the elements it could, very right. Casting was great (with the exception of Silk Spectre who was AWFUL! Seriously, Malin Akerman who played Silk Spectre should go back to porn or the street or wherever the hell she came from because she was fucking terrible!). But everyone else was handled very well, namely Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan who I was the most nervous about. I'm sad movies need to have over-stylized fight scenes where you super slow-mo for a punch, show a goofy expression, and then double forward to two seconds after the blow connects. EVERY action sequence was like this. It's distracting. The only time it worked was when Rorschach was escaping down the stairwell, through a SWAT team, with an aerosol can flamethrower or when slowing frames to show Ozymandias' amazing speed.

I never thought I'd say & gore...totally unnecessary. Less is more. The moment I ease up and start to enjoy a fight scene in the movie, I get a splintery broken femur rip through a thugs arm and blood squirted into my face. Its gore for the sake of gore and that shit belongs in slasher flicks. Bone crushing sound effects as Laurie Jupiter works a guy over and slams him up against a dumpster: badass! Gooey meat hanging from the ceiling and blood splattered on nightclub patron's faces: too much. Don't get me wrong, I can be a fan of such things, but they didn't belong here. And I'm sad Snyder swapped a sensual (and crucial) lovemaking scene toward the end of the book for a borderline raunchy one that he made up for the movie, again, graphic for the sake of being graphic.

The soundtrack was another element that was hard to swallow. The songs never feel right in the movie. Especially when they are winking at you. Nena's "99 Luftballons," for instance. Ha ha, nuclear war, I get it. Oh, and "Flight of the Valkyries," da na na NA NA, this is so stupid! The worst being "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" playing overhead in Veidt's lobby. You should have taken a page from The Dark Knight and had an epic score. Not winks and nods.

Aside from that, and a Nixon that wouldn't pass for Nixon in a high school play, the movie was...watchable. Everyone I've talked to who hasn't read Watchmen, enjoyed the movie, but were lost. And those who had, could follow along but were left wanting more. Art direction and casting were spot on, direction and sound were lacking. What would this movie have been with the same production team but Gilliam, Greengrass, Aronofksky? Who's to say. Watchmen is by no means a bad movie. Its just not Watchmen.