"I find your lack of faith disturbing."
-- Darth Vader

Don’t criticize what you can’t understand

watchmen_logo.jpg A bunch of us went to see Watchmen when it came out last weekend, so I wanted to share my thoughts on the film.

All in all, the movie was an excellent translation of the comic miniseries, which I enjoyed quite a lot. However, Watchmen isn’t Spider-man, that is, it really isn’t for everyone. I’ve read a few negative reviews, but based on what these critics are saying, they didn’t (or wouldn’t) like the comic either…

Fundamentally, Watchmen is a deconstruction of the superhero myth. The movie (and the comic) tries to answer the question: “If superheroes were real, what would they actually be like and how would they affect the world we live in?” And of course the answer presented by the story is that both they and the world would be pretty screwed up (even more than it has been and currently is).

The movie is a blend of faithful reproduction and adjustment for the medium. There are scenes that are built entirely around having specific shots reproducing panels in the comic. And there are entire plotlines that have been tweaked for either emphasis or believability (or both). Thankfully (at least in my opinion), the whole “black freighter” comic-within-a-comic was removed from the movie. The stark violence and gore from the comic was definitely emphasized in the movie, to the point of even adding some in where the comic didn’t provide any. Our heroes in the movie killed some of the bad guys, even where they didn’t in the comic. I’m pretty sure this was done to bring more focus to the deconstruction (by contrasting this behaviour with the usual “no killing” policy of most superheroes), but I know it left some viewers with a bad taste in their mouths.

One of the changes I didn’t like is that in the comic, there was no team called “The Watchmen”. The title of the comic comes from the quote “Who Watches the Watchmen?” of course, but in the story, this was sprayed on walls as graffiti during the fictional riots preceding the also-fictional Keene Act of 1977 (which outlawed non-sanctioned vigilantism, i.e. superheroes). The title is therefore itself part of the deconstruction. It wasn’t even clear to me when they teamed up in the movie, since the flashbacks followed the plotline in the comic, where the team didn’t actually form (in the scene where the Comedian burns the map). So this change irked me a little.

The effects were as good as we’ve come to expect from these types of movies. Nite Owl’s ship (Archie) was very impressive and Dr. Manhattan’s powers were pretty seamless (even when he was growing or shrinking himself). I don’t remember Doc Manhattan being quite as well-hung in the comic, but I guess these things are bound to happen when you bring a real live actor into the mix… :-) I felt that the execution of the fight scenes with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre were great, as they served to remind us that these are people who survived for years while fighting gangs and other criminals…and they were also a nice reference to the type of hand-to-hand fighting we’ve seen in the Batman movies. After all of the more expository scenes, it’s good to be reminded that oh yeah! these folks really are superheroes.

The movie is long (2 hours, 43 minutes), but at no point does it feel like it drags. I hope more production teams will take note of this…yes, Warner Brothers, I mean you. Particularly in the case of translating a book or a large graphic novel, the movies can be destroyed by trying to stay within the focus-group-friendly 140 minutes (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix suffered from this tremendously). Zack Snyder must have a little juice after 300, since he managed to convince the WB brass to let him keep the extended run time of Watchmen.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie…but not one for the kiddies! Bogman, Homewrecker and I are going to see the IMAX version of the film on Wednesday, so I might have more comments to add after that.

Notes

"Don't criticize what you can't understand" is a line from Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin'. I used this both as a nod to the song's excellent use in the movie and as a bit of finger-wagging at the critics who panned the movie only because it wasn't Spider-man.

One Response to “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand”

  1. Most full frontal male nudity in a hollywood production ever! (Or perhaps just that I’ve ever seen…) More male nudity that female nudity, in fact…

    I’ve already told Kaveman my main impressions of the movie, but here are my additional observations…

    I felt that Nite Owl II was cast perfectly. Despite some incredible CGI work that went into Dr. Manhattan, such as his pores, swallowing, and the fine hairs on his ears even (my understanding is that although Billy Cruddup acted the whole part, it was in motion capture and what we see is all computer generated.) I was distracted by his lip movements, they just didn’t quite move enough. Mind you, I suppose it’s also possible that this is because Cruddup is just a stiff upper lip kind of guy! Ozymandias’ weird accent was also weirdly distracting.

    Otherwise, a very enjoyable movie. I have to say I prefer the movie’s ending to the comic’s.

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