Tuesday, March 10, 2009


So, yeah! WATCHMEN happened, and I was pretty happy about the results. I think I slightly exceed Ana Marie's enthusiasm, fall slightly short of Spencer's, but really, overall I am impressed by the care that was taken to bring it to the screen. It's so odd now to think about how this was once considered to be unfilmmable - clearly, in the age of the DVD extra, it becomes possible to pack off some of the comic's great secondary and tertiary material and preserve the "feature presentation" as just that.

Was it perfect? No. There were two disappointments. One: the actor playing Veidt/Ozymandias was really not good. Ironically, he failed to rid himself of all the nagging little behaviors of comic book villainy, so the ending was projected from minute one. Also, his diction was just REALLY substandard. He had whole scenes where I couldn't make out what he was saying. It was like Fred Fenster or something.

And the SOUNDTRACK. UGH. Really bad. It was like they were trying to recreate the FORREST GUMP soundtrack or something. Jarring, terrible song-choices, picked solely because of their place in the meta-historical firmament. "The Sound Of Silence?" "Hallelujah?" The fantastic opening credits were ironically tracked to "The Times They Are A-Changing," brilliantly - it was somehow both culturally connected and yet ironically detatched, and I guess they thought that they were working that line with the rest of their song choices, but more often than not, they just pulled me out of the movie. Why not use the strange and otherworldly tunes they'd chosen for the ad campaign, like Smashing Pumpkins and Muse?

Also, I should say, that the sacrifice you make when you hew so closely to the original, is that you inherit, for better or worse, a very uncinematic pace. And you're also stuck with lines that look great in ink but sound strange in people's mouths. Chris Lehman, who hadn't read the comic, was our "control group," and even I felt some visceral pain on his behalf. Normally, you don't get away with saying stuff like:

NITE OWL: What happened to the American Dream?

COMEDIAN: It came true. You're lookin' at it!
...without Chris ripping you apart with a thousand pointy knives, and really, that's to his credit.

Billy Crudup lent a ton of intelligently deployed acting craft to a thankless role that's cloaked in CGI and weirdness, and Patrick Wilson - so fantastic in Little Children - is easily the best thing in the movie - so good that the movie's downright Nite Owl-centric. Jackie Earl Hailey is a superb Rorschach as well. And somehow, Malin Ackerman escaped without setting my teeth on edge, like she typically does. When the movie drives to its set pieces, it really unleashes, and it does not skimp on the brutality. And frankly, I thought that it really very starkly put Dr. Manhattan's hypocrisy (his facile justifications for "saving" humanity, versus how casually he abandons his "miraculous" rationale when Rorschach forces him into a corner) on display...maybe a little better than the book did.

Overall, I'd say it was pretty damn good, but not so good that you'd win Best Supporting Actor if you kicked the bucket in the next thirty days or whatever.


Missy said...

Wow, I had practically the exact same reaction. According to my fiance, Ozymandias' weird accent/diction had to do with him inventing some sort of involved backstory for the character that bears no relation to the graphic novel - weird.

And I totally didn't see the bad soundtrack coming, given the trailers. Works for the credits, though, as you noted. SO FRUSTRATING.

Robson said...

Yeah, Snyder was seriously undone by his music choices. Among many other things.

But Wilson, Haley, and Ackermann were a weird trifecta of quality - I really felt like they met after hours with a 1st AD or something to see how they could create some truly human moments around Snyder's mise-en-scene.

Come to think of it, maybe LITTLE CHILDREN's Todd Field should have directed this. We need more disciples of Kubrick turning pulp fiction into cinema, and fewer tone-deaf "visionary directors" like Snyder.