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FILM: Watchmen: The Directors Cut

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Alan Moore's brilliant vision of flawed and all to human super hero's brilliant envisioned by Zach Snyder.

The Director's Cut is an improvement because it has more character beats. The complex relationship between certain of the characters is fleshed out more. Making Dr. Manhattan's decision to return to Earth more satisfying.

This film is like Batman Begins for grown-ups. It takes the ridiculous conventions of the genre, and treats them like they are really happening. But it thankfully goes far beyond the very restrictive narrative that almost any superhero movie follows.

The basically simple story of an unexpected murder of an ageing superhero, set against the backdrop of an 1980's, Nixon governed USA, on the brink of nuclear destruction could have been told in a very straight forward way. Thankfully the film flashed forward and backwards all the time. It involves characters who for not a single moment do not seem to handle out of some sense of personal need, and who are all in a way interesting, distinctive and captivating.

In a uniformly well cast and acted film it is strange that the 2 most memorable performances are by the actors who's faces are concealed throughout most it.

Jacky Earle Haley spend most of the movie with his face obscured by a sackcloth with some CGI on it. Yet with his voice, his mannerisms he creates a complete character, which you sympathize with to some extend, while knowing full well that Rorschach is a deranged psychopath.

Billy Crudrup does not even gets to have his own body displayed in most of the film. His physical presence being hidden under a blue CGI character. The strange thing is that that hardly seems to hinder his performance. Like Haley, much of it is done with the voice.

The script stays very close to the comic throughout most of it. Some critics strangely criticized this. I never feel when watching this film that this somehow feels wrong. that there are parts in it that should have been changed, made more "movie-like", and anyway wasn't V for Vendetta bashed because it deviated to much from the comic?

Much of the depth and symbolism in this movie is straight from the book, so should be credited to Moore rather then Snyder, but there are some breathtaking aspects that I will credit to him.

The opening credits, a montage of Superhero's through the decades set to a Bob Dylon song is perfect, sheer cinematic perfection.

The decision to not lean too heavily on the colorscheme of the comics (garish secondary colors, green, pinks etc. In the 80's they might have looked cool, but not now) The depth of the camerawork, the detail in the sets. Even a simple scene like Rorschach walking through a seedy NY street is a visual delight).

There is a lot of slo-mo in this film. It feels rather natural for some reason. Not so showy as in 300. Maybe because this film feels far more natural somehow.

On Blu-ray, this is a really spectacular looking film.

Most of the music in the film are songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's. Augmented with some Philip Glass in a superbly effective origin story for Doctor Manhattan.

The score by Tyler Bates is effective, but doesn't really make much of an impact.

I've not been the world's greatest fan of superhero or comic book films. I enjoy some of them. But they are build on very archetypical, and ultimately clichéd foundations. In that way they are like westerns. Another genre ultimately unloved by me.

Watchmen transcends is rather low rent genre though. By commenting upon it, by being more complex then it, by exposing it's tired conventions and then leaving us with moral questions about the characters actions (were Veidt's actions more destructive and self-deluding then Rorschach's in the end? )

Most people will probably consider Nolan's Batman trilogy as the pinnacle of the genre.

How wrong they all are!

**** out of ****

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The thing that Nolan's Batman trilogy has going for it is accessibility. Everyone and their brother grew up with Batman and know the basic gist of his story, which makes the movies all the more familiar. Sure, BB used some lesser known, more archaic villains, and TDK is so filled to the brim with more intrigue than comic book stunts that it makes die-hards proclaim that it's not a comic book movie at all, but I digress. You don't have to pay that close of attention in a Batman movie to figure out the gist of what's going on.

Watchmen? Totally nonlinear and utterly vexing to anyone who doesn't pay attention to the movie. Watchmen hasn't been around nearly as long as Batman, but while I can't call it obscure, it definitely wasn't mainstream until the movie came along and became a cult icon.

Watchmen is probably more rewarding than any DC or Marvel comic book franchise could hope to be. It's just an acquired taste.

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You certainly raise some good points.

Batman, like Superman has a far larger build in audience.

Watchmen? Totally nonlinear and utterly vexing to anyone who doesn't pay attention to the movie.

One of the things I like about it. I think the rewatch value will be far greater then TDK. Also love the fact that most of the actors were unknown to me.

Watchmen is probably more rewarding than any DC or Marvel comic book franchise could hope to be. It's just an acquired taste.

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Watchmen comic book as always highly regarded. But, yeah, not exactly a mass product.

Anyway, it's to parallel this film and Nolan's Batman films. And while I agree that thematically Watchmen is a bit more sophisticated, it is also a slavish adapation of something else. Not exactly a complete and personal vision of its director. Nolan used Bats mythos but made it his own. That's the difference.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate Snyder for doing as much as he did. And for releasing an adult superhero film. But it's also way too reverential.

Karol

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If we accept that Watchmen is the undisputed masterpiece of the comic book genre. (which I believe is the case). Why would it be wrong to do a faithful adaptation of it? Especially if the original soirce comic can be adapted into a film without any huge changes in structure

What parts would you have changed Karol?

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I'm going to rewatch it. I always felt that they changed some stuff unnecesarily for the worse, and that they kept stuff they could have changed to make a film with more impact. And they added new stuff that wasn't even needed! I also remain unconvinced by Malin Ackerman, some wire work, and certain details. The direction is a bumpy road here.

I have seen parts of V for Vendetta. Kind of insipid. Disney insipid.

Somehow I have to thank the film though. I discovered the book through the trailer. I would have discovered the book sooner or later, but that made me found it around the right time. Which is why I would feel more like reviewing the book. Or Moore's work in general.

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It's not so much about changing it. It's about being creative in general. I just don't see the point (or value) of doing literal adaptations. It's a pity that most filmmakers, instead of trying to create their own worlds and by that truly honouring their creative heroes, do these fetishistic, artistically pointless, adaptations. I wouldn't be so irritated this much, if the film wasn't trying to be as reverential. I'll give you an example: take some painting of some famous (or not) figure). And then somebody else takes that and makes a sculpture out of it. It would be a shame if the best thing that the art could inspire is a replica of the same thing, wouldn't it?

The film is ok. I just can't see it as a masterpiece, because it tries to be that kind of a replica.

I don't know if you get me.

Karol

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I'm not bothered with it being reverential as long as it actually uses it to make something creative out of it. Examples: opening credits, the door opening an closing, Rorschach's stain on the snow, Manhattan's Martian palace having mobile, clockwork like parts, Ozymandias and his free energy, the Dr Strangelove room, some Dr Manhattan shots. With adaptations I always want those things, those things are the point of it, otherwise, just doing a copy of it puts me off.

I feel it then gets stuck halfway through it. They could have Silk Spectre I (can't remember her actual name) die in NY., for example, along with some other background characters. Something like that, that kind of narrative tightening, would deviate from the book but bring it closer to it at the same time. Thus creating a new way to look at it, new ways to tell the same thing. Which should be the point.

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That's a valid point and a good observation.

On the other hand, if it's not a faithful adaptation...if the movie simply takes the name of the book and the same basic plot but changes a lot of things, then it becomes a "book based on the movie in name only."

I am a huge fan of Crichton's (not John) Congo book, but the movie changed so many things -- Amy talks instead of using ASL; Tim Curry's character; etc. -- it wasn't Congo anymore.

The Doom video game is about demons from Hell; the movie turned it into biological zombies from Mars which coincidentally seeded Earth with life, or some other rubbish like that. It should have been marketed as DINO -- Doom in Name Only; it wanted to be Resident Evil.

And the list of artistic changes to film TLOTR and Harry Potter could fill dump trucks.

Everybody wants something different; the key is to find what works "best" for the people financing the movie in the first place.

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I have seen parts of V for Vendetta. Kind of insipid. Disney insipid.

It's not bad, but It's adapted into an anti-Bush film. which somehow feels wrong.

It's not so much about changing it. It's about being creative in general. I just don't see the point (or value) of doing literal adaptations.

I have since read the comic and I don't feel it is a 100% literal adaptation. Snyder does a lot visually, stylistically that is not in the comic.

To me it does feel like a film makers vision of a great classical work.

Changing things about the plot and characters JUST for the sake of making it more your own seems more damaging to me.

Anyway, they did not do the giant squid monster. ;)

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I feel it then gets stuck halfway through it. They could have Silk Spectre I (can't remember her actual name) die in NY., for example, along with some other background characters. Something like that, that kind of narrative tightening, would deviate from the book but bring it closer to it at the same time. Thus creating a new way to look at it, new ways to tell the same thing. Which should be the point.

I like the fact that about halfway through it gets more about the characters then about the plot.

Which Silk Spectre do you mean? Mother or Daughter?

I still don't know what to think about that. The original ending has so many balls.

To me it does not matter much. The outcome is basically the same.

I forgot, in the comic were Squid monsters send to cities all over the world apart from NY?

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I have seen parts of V for Vendetta. Kind of insipid. Disney insipid.

It's not bad, but It's adapted into an anti-Bush film. which somehow feels wrong.

Exactly. And jumps on a very simple conclusions as well (the whole crowd scene in the end). The comic book was about anarchy vs. facism. None of which is explored (or even mentioned) in the film.

Anyway, they did not do the giant squid monster. ;)

I liked the squid in the comic book. It harkened back to a more pulpy comic books. Don't miss it as much in the film, though.

However, it strikes me that for a film that's so close to the book, it tries to make things a little bit too smooth in the end. Characters getting their resolutions in the end and things like that. Kind of disappointing after two hours of intense adult material.

But, of course, none of the problems that I have with these two films can even reach the ones I have with From Hell. Now that's an abomination. And so is League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for that matter.

Karol

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Which Silk Spectre do you mean? Mother or Daughter?

Mother.

I still don't know what to think about that. The original ending has so many balls.

To me it does not matter much. The outcome is basically the same.

I forgot, in the comic were Squid monsters send to cities all over the world apart from NY?

No just NY.

The outcome might be the same... but the secret to it all is how do you get there!

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However, it strikes me that for a film that's so close to the book, it tries to make things a little bit too smooth in the end. Characters getting their resolutions in the end and things like that. Kind of disappointing after two hours of intense adult material.

What resolutions? Rorschach dies, Jon disapears. Laura does reconcile with her mother, but it's in an awkward way. and the threat of the journal is looming large over anything.

Also, it's 3 hours, not 2.

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However, it strikes me that for a film that's so close to the book, it tries to make things a little bit too smooth in the end. Characters getting their resolutions in the end and things like that. Kind of disappointing after two hours of intense adult material.

What resolutions? Rorschach dies, Jon disapears. Laura does reconcile with her mother, but it's in an awkward way. and the threat of the journal is looming large over anything.

Also, it's 3 hours, not 2.

Rorshach dies, but this time it is witnessed by Nite Owl. Who then tries to avenge him. In the comic book he went with Laurie to have sex at that point and Rorschach dies alone and nobody knows about it. Also, in the film Manhattan pretty much aknowledges that he understands Adrian. In the book, he left him uncertain. Subtle stuff like that.

The disaster itself is also quite anonymous The huge craters in several cities don't leave as much of an impression as a view of thousand bloody corpses that died in just one city. And they didn't die in an instant. The film doesn't leave you much time to digest what just happened.

Karol

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Well, it's mostly nitpicking though. That comes from the fact that I'm a big fan of Moore's work in general. I admit that probably clouds my judgement. ;)

As I said, I like the fact this kind of bold film gets a giant budget and wide release. That means there is still hope.

Karol

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The book has wonderful art, mind you. Specially the lineart of certain characters, all the obssesive amount of detail and the work on the composition of pages rendering the storytelling absolutely flooring, ("Watchmaker" and the "detonation" sequence among my favourites). Several designs are also better than in the film, with a dark sense of humour and parody. A better use of its medium than the film makes of cinema. Dave Gibbons is not one of my favourite comic book artists, however, that would be, hmmm, Moebius, maybe Breccia, Pratt sometimes.. too many. But this thread isn't about this!

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That's what i keep reading, that Watchmen is so brilliantly drawn. I was neither impressed by the drawing and the colors.

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Honestly I'd say it's more than functional:

watchmen_03.jpg

Watchmen+12.jpg

watchmen2.jpg

Given the amount of information required to fit per panel I'd say it's fine. It's not the one that comes to mind when thinking of great art in comics, though, because it isn't used in that way, to dazzle with colours and figures, but to pave the way to subtleties, the dialogue, etc

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Wait... you read comic books?

Watchmen is quite distinctive when you take into account whole pages. But then, as what makes it awesome is what it tells and how it tells it, I imagine you wouldn't be interested in it.

The one art style from a Moore that annoys me is V for Vendetta. Never got into it.

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No, but I know what they look like. I never read them but I'm more attracted to artists like Moebius or Enki Bilal. You don't need to read the comic books to be familiar with their style.

Alex

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Oh, I love these two! I still have to check out some stuff one did with Jodorowski and the other with Pierre Christin.

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I agree with Alex that Watchmen looks pretty much like the Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four etc comics I read when I was a child in the 80's. But with a somewhat different colour style (secondary rather then primary).

I'm not saying it's bad, but it certainly does not stand out to me much.

BTW, went through the Blu-Ray extra's today. It's strange that such a great film seems to have produced like any ordinary film. The making off docu's certainly don't reveal anything unique or special.

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Never saw the extras but isn't that usually the case, Steef? The vision of the artist can best be seen in the work itself. Most 'making of' stuff is pretty boring. It's mostly watching people work. Of course, watching off-screen footage of iconic movies like Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz is always 'special'.

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Sometimes making are movies in their own right. Like some about Terry Gilliam films. But they're few and far in between.

Karol

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When I read that sentence I imagine that Randall is reading it, and I fall out of my chair laughing.

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I agree with Alex that Watchmen looks pretty much like the Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four etc comics I read when I was a child in the 80's. But with a somewhat different colour style (secondary rather then primary).

Mm, I never went through those so that might be why it looks fine to me. The most similar looking comic book I've read are a pair of Superman stories... by Moore and Gibbons. Which still looked different, way less detailed.

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That's what i keep reading, that Watchmen is so brilliantly drawn. I was neither impressed by the drawing and the colors.

The art is pretty basic; standard to how comics looked at that time. Ordinary. However, this is by design. A very large part of it is a satire on the American superhero, which is where the archetypal characters come from. Most of them are presented as almost mundane, normal, and, at times, ridiculous. One of my criticisms of Snyder's film is that it does away with that spare aesthetic and goes for a more glossy style in line with Snyder's other work. It undermines the human aspect of the characters and makes them sometimes appear superhuman (excluding Dr. Manhattan). Seems to me that Snyder was more preoccupied with it looking cool, at the cost of the major intention of the comic.

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Making something look good is NEVER a bad thing.

I understand that Moore and Gibbons were going for. And I can see how that sort of busy, cluttered style can work in a comic book, were you have plenty of time to look at each panel. But to film it that way would not be beneficial.

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Making something look good is NEVER a bad thing.

I think it would be a mistake to make this film look bad. Specially the Mars parts. I think Mars is underused in the film. Not because it looks great. because that depended on the shot and it felt very CGI to me.

I think the look of the film varies significantly through the film. Some parts look great, while other strike me as underdeveloped or too artificial and don't make me believe in what I'm seeing.

Edit

I hope I don't come out as disliking this film a lot, I actually enjoy it in real life.

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Randall

Google "Randall Honey Badger." Wait for him to say "crazy."

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One of my criticisms of Snyder's film is that it does away with that spare aesthetic and goes for a more glossy style in line with Snyder's other work.

That's what I like. You know it's Snyder, just like you know when you're watching a Kubrick film.

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