Sunday, March 8, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews Double Take: Watchmen


So I'll give my very brief, not terribly interesting review of Watchmen first, but I was far more interested in getting my fiancee Megan's view as she has never read the comic and could thus evaluate it simply as a movie with no bias, and I figured y'all would probably find that more compelling as well. So let's get me out of the way...

Ben: Even though most of the lines and scenes are verbatim from the comic, it's simply not Watchmen brought to life ala how most reverent fans would probably like. The sooner you put that aside (I did it around the scene where Dan and Laurie fight the thugs in the alley and it became clear that it was just going to be all the super hero scenes and that's all), the better off you are. That said, I thought it was a pretty fun movie with some good acting, some bad acting and amazing visuals that was very intellgient at times, not so much at others. I was entertained for nearly three hours, so that's all I can really ask for.

Megan: Overall I thought the movie was entertaining and I wasn't watching the time to see when it was over, so that's good, but I was also very confused and had questions pretty much throughout, most of which I felt weren't answered to my satisfaction. Let me start by saying it was a good-looking movie and the visual effects as well as the action sequences were both top notch; excellent stuff. Also, Jackie Earle Haley was fantastic as Rorshach and I enjoyed his scenes the most. As for nitpick stuff I didn't like, Malin Akerman looked hot, but I didn't think her acting was good in this at all. I also could have used more Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but that's a personal preference since I'm a fan of him. A bigger problem from a storytelling sense for me was it felt like the movie lacked a proper focus or through line; I didn't get where it was going or what I was supposed to be looking forward too. It's also interesting for me to hear that so much was taken out from the comic, because I felt like they raced over important information because they assumed the audience already knew the score. Key stuff wasn't explained well and I was left just guessing at a lot of stuff. It ranged from big stuff to little stuff. I definitely did not fully understand Ozymandias' master plan because the exposition went so quickly, which was as good an example as any of where I felt like the movie was being made for the fans who had already read the plan plenty of times. But there was other just basic stuff I wanted to know. Why was Rorshach's mask moving all the time? Why did Dr. Manhattan have a little speedo on in some flashbacks but in the present he was naked all the time? Why did they make such a point of showing him put that symbol on his head? What was that thing he made on Mars? Why did the Comedian break down in Moloch's apartment? It also took me about an hour to get straight who was who since nobody used their super hero names in conversations, but they tossed them around when talking about people. I didn't know who Nite Owl was until Ben told me after the movie. And they made the scene where Laurie's stepdad and her mom are fighting way too similar visually to the one where little Rorshach's mom yells at him; I assumed the whole time that the big revelation would be that Laurie and Rorshach were siblings. I'm glad I saw it and wouldn't tell people not see it, but I would warn those who haven't read the comic that you're going to spend a lot of time confused and asking questions that won't get answered unless you go with somebody who has read it.

11 comments:

Rickey said...

Wow! Thanks, Megan! This is the first I've heard the opinion of a normal movie-going person who hadn't read the book yet and it was pretty much what I thought I'd hear.

And Ben, your review touched on something I'd been thinking about. When I walked out of the movie with a bunch of people, a bunch of us comic fans were talking about things we liked and didn't like, but also wondered what non-readers would think. It got to the point of so many of us (especially me) mentioning that wonder in our conversations throughout the day that someone noted that you don't normally hear that in opinionated conversations about films - focusing on wondering what OTHERS would think. And then I looked at reviews online from folks who'd read the book (and/or knew the pedestal the book was held on) and I noticed that most of those reviews also mentioned in some way a pondering or mentioning of the potential opinions of others. I guess it partly stems from the attachment you get from the book once you read it and a kind of need from existing fans to HOPE for the best from this film and HOPE others like it. Your write-up made me think of this because you mentioned that "it's simply not Watchmen brought to life ala how most reverent fans would probably like" and "The sooner you put that aside...the better off you are." It's so interesting!

Ben Morse said...

To put it another way, a question I asked myself early on while watching was, "If you take out all the non-super hero stuff but keep that remaining stuff totally faithful, is it still Watchmen?" and my ultimate answer was "No."

The stuff with the normal people makes Watchmen what it is as much as the stuff with Rorshach, Dr. Manhattan, etc. When you take it all away, you've still got a pretty decent story, but it's just not the same thing.

I think Zach Snyder cut all the right stuff to make a decent movie that isn't six hours long, but at the end of the day, he made a movie that probably comes about as close to adapting Watchmen as you can, but he still didn't adapt Watchmen.

Does that make sense?

Ben Morse said...

I'll also add that it was really eye-opening to see it with Megan and get her take immediately afterwards. I was surprised at how many of the questions she asked (some of which she included in her review) that I totally took for granted having read the comic and in most cases my reply to her was just, "Oh yeah, they had like three pages on that in the comic."

Ryan and Elizabeth (who we saw it with) had a similar reaction when one of the first things Megan said after we stepped out of the theater was, "So what was up with Rorshachs mask?" and they were both like, "Wow, they totally didn't explain that, did they" and went on to tell her exactly how it worked because they both knew the explanation so well from the comic. I experienced the same thing when she asked about why Dr. Manhattan had a costume in flashbacks, but not in present day.

Those seem like such little things to us, but I can imagine how she felt watching the movie and dozens of these little unanswered questions keep popping up.

Rickey said...

Yeah, those are the exact kinds of things I thought might be odd to people who hadn't read it. But because I have so much, I was ready to fill in the gaps.

I think you and I had different reactions to the stuff they left in, but I'd hope so since the comic can be read in so many ways.

I just like that it's not an easy "it's good" or "it's bad" answer when people ask "how was it?"

Rickey said...

Megan, as a person who hasn't read the book, what was your reaction to seeing superheros portrayed the way they were? Murdering people, being used by real-world governments and individuals, raping, having issues with sex, etc.

Ben Morse said...

From Megan: "I actually enjoyed that stuff, because in my head when I read comics or see comic movies, maybe because I'm not as exposed to them all the time, I actually assume a lot of the characters are doing that stuff when we don't see them anyways. Ok, maybe not the rape, but killing people and having sex and so on. It made perfect sense to me and I liked it."

Jesse T. said...

I saw the flick on Friday night with two friends; one had read the book, the other hadn't. My friend who HADN'T read it loved the movie, but was confused about the "random lesbianism" at the beginning, the Comedian killing JFK, whether or not Hollis Mason was supposed to be an important character, and the sudden introduction of the New Frontiersman at the very end. He also thought it was kind of lame that only one character had actual superpowers.

I was happy with the movie ... like Ben says, it was nearly three hours of solid entertainment. But I think Snyder tried to cram in too much; those who have read the graphic novel can obviously connect the dots, but if you haven't, it's chock full of head-scratchers.

Ben Morse said...

I totally forgot about the Comedian killing JFK. Talk about out of left field and unexplained! Then again, I guess that's really the kind of thing that doesn't need much context.

Jesse T. said...

Yeah, I think the whole "Comedian as government stooge" element of the graphic novel got lost in the film.

Ben Morse said...

And even give that he is a government stooge (which was at least mentioned), who in the government is hiring him to kill THE PRESIDENT? That's huge.

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