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Stefancos

FILM: Watchmen

100 posts in this topic

This main post is Stefan's review of the Director's Cut.

Click here for Stefan's review of the Theatrical cut.

Click here for Quint's review of the Director's Cut.

First let me say that the comic, or graphic novel is completely unfamiliar to me. I have no idea in what way the film is faithful or not.

I however have seen my share of superhero and comic-based film. Usually they are pretty same. Fairly clear-cut, easily understandable characters. Emphasis on the origin story. A supervillian and his diabolical plot.

Most superhero films focus on the origin of their hero, because this is often the most interesting part. Watchmen feels more like an elegy to the Superhero days. Its not about their origin, it's about what happened after they stopped being superheroes. The start of the film seems familiar enough. A murder, an investigation. But after a while that takes a back seat and it becomes more about the characters. Superheroes who are all in their way interesting.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian. A Superhero though we see him gun down a pregnant lady and perform an act of rape. His behaviour in the film is unspeakable, yet the actor managed to make him...at times likeable and human.

Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Probably the best performance in a film filled with outstanding acting. His character is chilling as a cynical, mean spirited vigilante who has his own ideas about justice and will not compromise them for anything. Jackie Earle Haley provides much of the films narration. deeply cynical lines about how he sees the world spoken in a soft, raspy voice that reminded me of Clint Eastwood, but 10 times more moody. (the unmasked Rorschach even resembled Eastwoods scowl a bit)

Billy Crudup. While Rorschach's voice carried a bitter, hateful, bile filled tone in every sentence. Dr Manhattan speaks with a detached, monotone voice. not emotionless, but slightly condescending and disinterested. Like one might talk to a child that's enthusiastically showing you his Lego collection for the 17th time. He can save humanity, but might not be bothered to do so. It's a fascinating performance.

Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II. Leaves the universe most powerful being because he's not giving her his full attention. Malik switches effortlessly from needy bitch to true heroine.

Patrick Wilson as Nite Own II. A hero of the Batman mould. Though more idealistic. Wilson is excellent as the slightly boring, 40+ retired superhero wistfully reminiscing about the good old days. For both his character and Silk Spectre, putting an their superhero costumes seems to be more about fulfilling their own needs and desires then those of the society they are protecting. For Wilson's character his superhero persona returns to him a youthfullness and sexual vigour he had lacked.

The film has been directed well, very well. It's a long film, and the pacing is such the you feel it's a long film. But I was never bored, their was always at least some element, either story-wise or visual that kept me engaged. Lot's of slo-mo, but it does not feel forced. Snyder has often been compared to Michael Bay in that they seem more interested in how their film looks then what it is about. but Bay enforces his style on anything he does. drowning the subject matter in it. Snyder uses gives a film a certain style to elevate the subject matter. (300 shot as a conventional movie would be crap). The fightscenes are well done. I can actually see what is happening and who is fighting who. Liked the flash backs to the earlier day. Liked the unusual credit sequence.

The music. Loved some of the source cues. the score is not something I would listen to outside the film though. Lot of the action stuff was pretty standard fare. Like the odd organ/choir music for the Dr Manhattan scenes.

Watchmen is a film unlike any other superhero film. Meaning those awaiting The Avengers, the new Spider-man or The Wolverine will find it flawed.

It's a work of true conviction, and makes even The Dark Knight seem like it's aimed at slackjawed gawkers.

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Stefan, I know. That's usually the reaction from people unfamiliar with the source material. You're actually making me want to rewatch it.

I've come to appreciate it as a good film. It shies away from certain stuff that could have made it cooler and that is what pisses me off.

(I have to say most of my criticism isn't related to the changes from the page to screen, in fact many of my own suggestions would involve further changes. Actually I didn't want to get into the film vs book comparisons, but it being one of my favourite comics of all time, which had a huge impact on me back when I was 16, I can't help it.)

So. The film. I love the opening credits. Brilliant. It made my hair stand, specially knowing about this world beforehand. I really like many other scenes as well. I think the recreation of Dr Manhattan is fantastic. The look of the film has got this kind of dynamism, I don't know how to explain it.

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I have some issues with Watchmen, which simply boil down the simple fact that after reading the comic book this film is completely unnecessary. Comic book is pretty much the same, but does everything better. Which was to be expected, of course.

Having said that, I appreciate the sheer audacity to make this kind of film within a studio system. Dark, hard R-rated, bold 150 million production that had no chance doing a lot of box office business. It's unprecedented.

I wouldn't put it above TDK for one simple reason: Nolan's film is solely his vision. He used the well known character and some of the story elements to shape his own thing. Snyder made a very reverential adaptation of somebody else's work. Watchmen comic book was revolutionary. The film tries to replicate that (and mostly suceeds). But yes, it is more mature story.

It was the 3 hour version, right? There is also a 3,5 hour version, which is mostly the same, but also incorporates an animated film. There is a newsstand in the film (which appears in all versions), next to which a kid reads a comic book about pirates.

The story of a man, who crashes on an island and trying to go back to civilization to save his family from danger of the Black Freighter. He builds a raft from man corpses and is attacked by shark. On his way back he loses his mind and turns into what he tried to fight. As you can see the story mirrors many of the elements from the main story. He finishes reading it the moment the explosion happens.

. I think it compliments the story nicely.

Karol

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I'm glad you really liked Watchmen, Steef, though personally I wouldn't call it a superhero movie. It just doesn't fit the same category of Spider-Man, Superman, and so on.

Last week I skimmed through the comic book but its appeal and positive appraisal are lost on me. It's like someone removed every artful intention from the drawings.

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I'm glad you really liked Watchmen, Steef, though personally I wouldn't call it a superhero movie. It just doesn't fit the same category of Spider-Man, Superman, and so on.

I fits on the category that it has superheroes on it.

Last week I skimmed through the comic book but its appeal and positive appraisel are lost on me.

Shame on you. Really. ;)

Karol is right, the merit belongs to Moore and Gibbons.

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Watchman's biggest problem is it's boring. VERY BORING.

I do not like the look of the film either.

Snyder's attachment to Superman the Man of Steel affects me like kryptonite affects Clark.

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Why? It is quite groundbreaking comic-book. Visually too.

It makes the most out of its own medium's tools. It's damn impressive, technically speaking.

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Why? It is quite groundbreaking comic-book. Visually too.

Because the style looks so ordinary and typical comic book like, quite the opposite of the film.

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But... that's exactly the point of the story. And the one Snyder completely misses. It is all about normal people who happen to wear costumes. The elaborate choreography and sleek slowmotion photography hardly help to sell that idea. The comic book was supposed to deal with superhero genre in a completely mundane and every-day way so that we get the idea of what might it be like to have these kind of psychopaths on the streets. That;s why the violence and fight scenes are minimal in the original and everything is so static.

Karol

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Why? It is quite groundbreaking comic-book. Visually too.

Because the style looks so ordinary and typical, quite the opposite of the film.

:blink:

Do you mean the style the film copied from the book? I don't understand.

The film is a more commercial version of the story of the book. The book happens to be one the big masterpieces in its own medium, ever. Sort of like The Godfather. This is why the film is brave in what it attempts... but it sold itself.

I won't say they did to it what they did to V for Vendetta, though. That made my brain bleed.

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But... that's exactly the point of the story.

So, that means I'm right. Although I don't understand why the story needed an ordinary comic book style. If you are going to make a different kind of comic book, then you better give it a different visual style as well.

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So I take it you're not interested in content of the movies? Just in their look? Not how it matches subjects they tackle?

Karol

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I'm glad you really liked Watchmen, Steef, though personally I wouldn't call it a superhero movie. It just doesn't fit the same category of Spider-Man, Superman, and so on.

It doesn't. But since it has several masked crime fighters I would not know what else to call it.

I suppose that this is because Superman and Spiderman are comic book series that just go on and on. They are like soap opera's. Endlessly repeating themselves, nothing ever really resolving. The Watchmen comic had only a dozen issues, so the story is building towards a clear conclusion, the characters can be more interesting and actually develop in some way etc...

Last week I skimmed through the comic book but its appeal and positive appraisal are lost on me. It's like someone removed every artful intention from the drawings.

From what I've seen of the comic it looks very pedestrian. very 1980's workman-like.

The film is a more commercial version of the story of the book. The book happens to be one the big masterpieces in its own medium, ever. Sort of like The Godfather. This is why the film is brave in what it attempts... but it sold itself.

Story-wise I can certainly believe it's a classic of the genre. But the drawings simply don't look that special.

But you are saying the film would be better if it looked worse?

I don't believe that. What may work as a comic does not have to work on film. And Snyder kept most of the superhero costumes look pretty ridiculous looking anyway, like in comics.

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The look isn't everything in a comic. The panel layout, the layout inside the panels, the visual trajectory and the management of rythm and athmosphere playing with the composition... and all the small details hidden. That builds a comic book, among other things.

This said, the drawings are actually very good. They have to accomplish many things and they do. Have you ever seen a script by Alan Moore? Specially a dense one like Watchmen. That thing has to scare the shit out of an artist.

But you are saying the film would be better if it looked worse?

Nope.

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So I take it you're not interested in content of the movies? Just in their look? Not how it matches subjects they tackle?

Karol

It's how the subject is translated to a different medium.

If you do a film version of a book, you have to translate letters on the page into visuals, sound, acting. A comic book is no different in that regard. Still drawings in full-color with text balloons is not something that looks good on film.

The look isn't everything in a comic. The panel layout, the layout inside the panels, the visual trajectory and the management of rythm and athmosphere playing with the composition... and all the small details hidden. That builds a comic book.

Yes, but that's not how you build a film.

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I'm glad you really liked Watchmen, Steef, though personally I wouldn't call it a superhero movie. It just doesn't fit the same category of Spider-Man, Superman, and so on.

It doesn't. But since it has several masked crime fighters I would not know what else to call it.

Well, it's been called an anti-superhero movie, a deconstruction of the superhero comics, but to me it's Metal Hurlant, the French comics magazine. In fact, all of Snyder's movies (except for Dawn Of The Dead) remind me of it.

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The look isn't everything in a comic. The panel layout, the layout inside the panels, the visual trajectory and the management of rythm and athmosphere playing with the composition... and all the small details hidden. That builds a comic book.

Yes, but that's not how you build a film.

I was talking about your comment of the comic looking pedestrian, not about the film.

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Well, it's been called an anti-superhero movie, a deconstruction of the superhero comics.

In a way it is. Most of the acts of violence are committed by superheroes. (this movie is quite violent btw). The most ethical one is also the one that kills a midget in a prison toilet.

I was talking about your comment of the comic looking pedestrian, not about the film.

The pages I googled so far just remind me of my childhood in the 1980's. My Spider-man comics, Marvel's Secret Wars. pretty bog standard stuff.

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So I take it you're not interested in content of the movies? Just in their look? Not how it matches subjects they tackle?

Karol

It's how the subject is translated to a different medium.

If you do a film version of a book, you have to translate letters on the page into visuals, sound, acting. A comic book is no different in that regard. Still drawings in full-color with text balloons is not something that looks good on film.

I was referring to the fact this adaptation misses the point of its story by making too many flashy scenes. The "workman-like" look of the comic book is not typical for its genre and quite unlike the superhero stories are/were told (contrary to what you and Ale say). And, again, it helps to sell the idea these things are happening in the real world. If yu have something like the prison fight or the one at the end, you kind of miss that don't you. Because now these people aren't all that ordinary at all. They can do superhero moves and all that. And THAT is quite pedestrian and comic book like. There is nothing remarkable about it or original.

Besides, the steady 9-panel rhythm of the comic book was supposed to mimmick the ticking clock of the story and the Doomsday clock which is a very prevelant motif in the story. It think that couldn't more obvious than that.

Karol

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Well, it's been called an anti-superhero movie, a deconstruction of the superhero comics.

In a way it is. Most of the acts of violence are committed by superheroes. (this movie is quite violent btw). The most ethical one is also the one that kills a midget in a prison toilet.

Rorschach? Ethical? The crazy fascist murderer?

The pages I googled so far just remind me of my childhood in the 1980's. My Spider-man comics, Marvel's Secret Wars. pretty bog standard stuff.

It looks hand drawn in the 80's because it was hand drawn in the 80's. How do you wnat it to be drawn? The drawings are perfect as they are.

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So I take it you're not interested in content of the movies? Just in their look? Not how it matches subjects they tackle?

Like I said, I don't see how the ordinary look supports the content.

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Yep.

Rorschach? Ethical? The crazy fascist murderer?

He's also the one that beliefs so deeply in what he is doing that he dies for it.

All the others compromise themselves in the end of the movie. For the greater good maybe, but still.

It looks hand drawn in the 80's because it was hand drawn in the 80's. How do you wnat it to be drawn?

TV shows in the 1980 had that bland, videotape look to them. In those days it was fine, but now it looks boring

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But... that's exactly the point of the story. And the one Snyder completely misses. It is all about normal people who happen to wear costumes. The elaborate choreography and sleek slowmotion photography hardly help to sell that idea. The comic book was supposed to deal with superhero genre in a completely mundane and every-day way so that we get the idea of what might it be like to have these kind of psychopaths on the streets. That;s why the violence and fight scenes are minimal in the original and everything is so static.

Karol

:up:

Snyder's overwrought style betrays the mesmerizing banality of the comic. I wouldn't call the film terrible. In fact, it's something worse than that; it's mediocre. There are good, even great aspects of it (like Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach) but there are other elements that just drag the whole thing down (pacing issues, miscasting, aforementioned distracting directorial choices). It's a shame, really.

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I was referring to the fact this adaptation misses the point of its story by making too many flashy scenes. The "workman-like" look of the comic book is not typical for its genre and quite unlike the superhero stories are/were told (contrary to what you and Ale say).

They were in my childhood. That flashy "Todd McFarlane" look did not come in until later.

I'm sorry, but I just can't condemn a film for looking good.

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It's not about looking good or bad. It's about looking right.

Watchmen comic book was published in mid 80's, at which point it started to become much more stylish (The Dark Knight Returns, anyone?). I'm not talking about look itself. More about the storytelling.

Karol

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I can't compare the storytelling of the comic and the film, sorry.

(pacing issues, miscasting, aforementioned distracting directorial choices). It's a shame, really.

Who do you feel was miscast?

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Laurie and Veidt, to me.

Rorschach? Ethical? The crazy fascist murderer?

He's also the one that beliefs so deeply in what he is doing that he dies for it.

Which isn't a virtue. His beliefs are questionable at best, many times. One of the points of the character is that he is a slave of them. He dies because he doesn't know how to do otherwise. Because if he did he would have to face his own mediocre misery.

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Laurie and Veidt, to me.

Veidt, definitely. I can hardly understand what he's trying to say. That's because of this weird accent he's doing. Goode is British, isn't he? And Laurie is pretty bland too.

Karol

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It's how the subject is translated to a different medium.

And, again, it helps to sell the idea these things are happening in the real world.

It's the real world with lots of references to real events and our culture but it has stylized aesthetics. I have always associated the normal comic book style with a comic book universe. The drawing style of Watchmen, the comic book, reminds me too much of the ordinary comic book (Marvel, DC). That was never the real world for me anyway, so.

If yu have something like the prison fight or the one at the end, you kind of miss that don't you. Because now these people aren't all that ordinary at all. They can do superhero moves and all that. And THAT is quite pedestrian and comic book like. There is nothing remarkable about it or original.

True, the Watchmen powers don't feel altogether realistic, but since I didn't read the comic book, I didn't miss that concept. It doesn't bother me (I did wonder about it though - I guess it's a part of Snyder's operatic style) but I understand that it might bother other people. I judge the film on its own merits. It's the aggressiveness combined with the beauty that sets it apart for me. Heck, they are even raping each other. How weird and unusual can it get?!

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Which isn't a virtue. His beliefs are questionable at best, many times.

Yet he holds on to them, because like you say it's all he can do. In a way he resembles the classic hero of American cinema. A man's gotta do, what a man's gotta do. Your John Wayne, Clint Eastwood types.

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I'm sorry, but I just can't condemn a for looking good.

If that's a film's only redeeming feature then I absolutely can.

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True, the Watchmen powers don't feel altogether realistic but, since I didn't read the comic book, I didn't miss that concept. It doesn't bother me (I did wonder about it though) but I understand that it might bother other people. I judge the film on its own merits. It's the aggressiveness combined with the beauty that sets it apart for me. Heck, they are even raping each other. How weird and unusual can it get?!

I rather liked the fact that apart from Dr Manhattan, so ones "powers" were explained in the movie. They just had them.

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True, the Watchmen powers don't feel altogether realistic but, since I didn't read the comic book, I didn't miss that concept. It doesn't bother me but I understand that it might bother other people. It's the aggresiveness combined with the beauty that sets it apart for me. Heck, they are even raping each other. How weird and unusual can it get?!

The problem with Watchmen is that the whole concept is very literary. It simply works better on paper where it has its own context and makes sense. Snyder tries to translate it to film world by adding some life to this very, as you put it, flat world. I'm not arguing that he doesn't know how to do action or that he's not gifted visual storyteller (because he is). And, to your credit, I can't imagine the literal translation of the comic book. It wouldn't work. So we end up with this Frankenstein monster that tries to reconcile both: the prose of the plot and dynamic film world. It's a tough movie to do, if you think about it.

Karol

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It's how the subject is translated to a different medium.

And, again, it helps to sell the idea these things are happening in the real world.

It's the real world with lots of references to real events and our culture but it has stylized aesthetics. I have always associated the normal comic book style with a comic book universe. The drawing style of Watchmen, the comic book, reminds me too much of the ordinary comic book (Marvel, DC).

I still don't know what drawing style would you choose instead. Watchmen is DC, by the way.

Gibbons seems like a good artist to me, but the only thing I've read from him are two or three Superman stories, that looked more plain and random than Watchmen.

If yu have something like the prison fight or the one at the end, you kind of miss that don't you. Because now these people aren't all that ordinary at all. They can do superhero moves and all that. And THAT is quite pedestrian and comic book like. There is nothing remarkable about it or original.

True, the Watchmen powers don't feel altogether realistic but, since I didn't read the comic book, I didn't miss that concept. It doesn't bother (I did wonder about it though) me but I understand that it might bother other people. I'm judge the film on its own merits. It's the aggresiveness combined with the beauty that sets it apart for me. Heck, they are even raping each other. How weird and unusual can it get?!

Stuff like the prison fight is just thrown in there to attract the masses. Snyder had to compromise, he fought long to stop the studio of making a superhero action film set today. So the film goes back and forth between "Snyder-like filmic Watchmen" and "Snyder-like Hollywood", which is hilarious.

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I rather liked the fact that apart from Dr Manhattan, so ones "powers" were explained in the movie. They just had them.

It's like they are replicants. Is the prequel/sequel to Blade Runner already amongst us? ;)

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One more thing: I for one am excited for his Superman. If there is a superhero movie that could benefit from Snyder's visuals and action sensibilities, that would be it. It was old-fashined for too long. Superman needs to kick ass!

Karol

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I don't know if I'm excited for his Superman but I'm really curious.

I'd like to see a Superman on screen that was, at the same time, more physical and spectacular (you can seriously do anything with the character), and more introspective and thoughful.

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I still don't know what drawing style would you choose instead. Watchmen is DC, by the way.

I guess I expected the novel to look like the movie, more arty and less standard comic bookie.

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