Saturday, March 7, 2009

Len Watches The Watchmen...

I agree, the title of this blog is a bit too obvious and lame, but I'm saving up my creativity for the night of book plotting I have ahead of me, so screw you. Probably spoilers ahead, so be warned...

If you're like me and read the book years ago and never thought it would ever be possible to make an adequate movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, you've probably been looking at the prospect of this movie, and all the footage that has leaked over the last year with a mix of promise and skepticism. It looked a lot like they might have been able to pull off the impossible with this one. I just got back from the theater about an hour ago, and I really dug it for the most part.

A minute to talk about the director of the massive opus, Zack Snyder. I became a fan of him through the surprisingly good Dawn Of The Dead remake he did a couple years back. I'm by no means a fan of remakes of almost any kind, but that movie surprised me and many others. While some hardcore zombie fans will cry foul for the concept of running zombies, I loved it. It's a lot scarier when the thing that wants to eat you can catch up to you on foot. Then he went on to adapt Frank Miller's 300, which was good and beautifully executed, but not something I was overly bowled over by. (I'm a fan of Miller, but was never a fan of 300. Personal preferences...) Upon hearing that he'd been given the keys to the notorious "unfilmable" book gave me a good bit of interest.

Snyder made a movie that visually, was pretty fucking amazing. Colorful backdrops, vivid imagery, virtually every image looking like it's been ripped straight from Dave Gibbons' art and brought to animated life. Stunning stuff, with a couple minor problems here and there. With Watchmen, I ended up thinking Snyder reeeeeally should've reigned it in with the slo-mo/fast-mo stuff. That shit was cool in 300, because 300 didn't require a brain stem to enjoy. 300 was just greased up, half-naked men beating, gouging, and stabbing the shit out of other greased up, half-naked men. It doesn't get much more base than that. A movie like Watchmen requires a bit more finesse, and I think with the tone of "realism" a story like this is most noted to bring to the world of superheroes, a much more brutal and less choreographed approach to the fight staging should have been taken. It's been a while since I watched his Dawn Of The Dead remake, but the violence in that and the approach to how it was shown would have done more of a service to a movie like this.

Another big flaw is that his direction of the actors seemed kinda bloodless at times. A movie like this should have demanded a bit more from some of its performers. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach/Walter Kovaks was a pretty great performance, despite the constant low, growling "Christian Bale as Batman" voice. I've been a fan of Jackie's since I saw his creepy and sad performance in Little Children, (also featuring his Watchmen co-star Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet.) so hopefully this role will prove to be a breakout for him, and get him much more work. Jeffery Dean Morgan as The Comedian fit really well, and you can tell Morgan had a blast playing the sadistic asshole the entire time. Billy Crudup's lifeless performance as Dr. Manhattan fit in really well, because... Dr. Manhattan is about as disconnected a personality from human emotion as you can find. I'd call Matthew Goode's performance as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandius lifeless too, but I'd mean it in more of the bad way. The character to me demanded someone with a little more presence. Not some moosed up, twig wristed fop who I'm supposed to buy as the world's smartest man and world class athlete. Watching the guy kick the crap out of everyone else in the movie was just too hard for me to buy and ended up being disappointing. Carla Gugino's turn as Sally Jupiter/Silk Specter I was a bit of a let down as well, but I blame that fact more on the direction than anything else. Carla playing Sally in the early, younger days was a great fit and she did a good job, but I have a hard time, no matter how much makeup you wanna cake onto her, believing that this beautiful woman is playing a 67 year old. They got an older actor to play Hollis Mason for the five fucking seconds he was in the movie, why couldn't they have done the same for Sally?

As for the new ending, and it's deviations from the book, I'll just say I think putting Manhattan as a scapegoat, even though he probably is too detached to give a shit was a shitty thing to have done, but for a movie going audience, I think it's a more plausable idea than a totally out of left field "here comes the giant vagina-mouthed octopus from space". I don't agree with it... But I understand.

Overall I enjoyed Watchmen more than my skeptical ass expected too. It's just that some of the problems that stuck out really kept bugging and keeping me from loving it.

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