Monday, March 09, 2009

Audio/Visuals: Watchmen (film)

The weekend has come and gone and most of us have probably been to the movies to see Watchmen. I went to a midnight showing on Thursday but refrained from writing about it. Like the graphic novel, there is quite a lot to take in and digest. Again, like the source material, it bears watching again to catch things one might not have noticed the first time around.

One of the things that became apparent upon leaving the theater was that Alan Moore was wrong, Watchmen is not unfilmable. If anything, this movie is an example of where we stand technologically in the art of movie making. If you can conceive it, you can film it. However, Moore might have been speaking to the more subtle elements of the book as opposed to the gross. To a degree, some of that was lost in this adaptation but that has more to do with the way the two different media function. A big difference is that time is a different obstacle for both to work with. In any case, I don’t want to wax too philosophical about media and will get right down to it.

Things I liked about Watchmen:
  • The visuals - The movie is loaded with sumptuous scenes and colors that invoke the feeling of a comic book but put them in a world that might have been. This isn’t an attempt at realism that other comic book movies have gone for, this is hyperrealism at its finest.
  • The pacing - Pacing a movie like this must have been a monumental task in and of itself. However, the almost three hours spent in the theater feel like nothing.
  • Music - Wonderfully careful song choices are made throughout to create Watchmen’s 1985 as well as an opening sequence that is one of the best in recent memory.
  • The hyperviolence - This is a scary and dangerous time for the world and no one pulls punches, not even Dr. Manhattan. In a scene from the comic where Manhattan simply vaporizes the heads of two mobsters, he completely turns them inside-out in the film. Our other heroes, if they can be called that, are equally as harsh on their opponents. Compound fractures and crunching face punches fill the action scenes.
  • The sex - Watchmen has one of the most realistic sex scenes I can think of. It is both hilarious and unsettling to watch, making one feel like a voyeur and punctuating the fact that costumed crusaders probably have an equally odd sex life in juxtaposition to their daily life.
Things I didn’t like about Watchmen:
  • The weight of an impending nuclear holocaust just wasn’t there. Maybe this is just my memories of growing up during the 80s and what it felt like to have that mushroom cloud seemingly always hovering on the horizon. That just didn’t come through for me.
  • It felt like at times they were too married to dialogue from the comic books to the point where some characters just sounded odd. An example is that the exchange in Vietnam between The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan following the murder of a pregnant woman is taken pretty much verbatim from the book. The words spoken by The Comedian just don’t sound consistent with the kind of person we’ve seen. Just because something reads really well doesn’t mean it will sound good when spoken aloud.
  • There weren’t enough subtle clues it seemed that pointed to the villain, as it were. The comic book was practically littered with signs pointing to the answer to the mystery. When the reveal is finally made, you can’t help but slap your head and realize it’s been the 400 pound gorilla in the room all along. This doesn’t really happen in the movie.
That about gets at the heart of my feelings for the movie although I could go on and on. I’m anxious now for its release onto BluRay so that I can maybe catch things that I missed in the theater and to continue this discussion.

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