Sunday, March 3, 2013

Watchmen: the director's cut

I read the Watchmen long before the movie came out and I did think it was an amazing book and I did wonder what the hell did they think they could make a movie of this and I did remember thinking I had thought the same thing about Steve Jackson doing Lord of the Rings and look how that turned out. Whew, that's a mouthful. It's also pretty accurate because I was hesitant but not entirely dismissive about this movie when it came out. I wanted to like it. I didn't, but it wasn't terrible either, and so I thought that perhaps it was worth a second viewing when I saw the director's cut Blu-ray version in the bargain bin. Maybe the movie didn't get a fair shake, perhaps the director was forced to cut out some bits that would have made it work. Well I watched it and now I can say no, that wasn't the problem at all.

I saw the Watchmen at the theater and I didn't like it.  My wife liked the intro and the music and hated everything else.  Almost all the people I talked to about the movie said they liked the music but not much else.  I actually didn't mind the movie, although it seemed a bit off but I hated the music. Oh not the songs themselves, but the way they were implemented in the movie.  I thought that the music choices were obvious instead of interesting and the transitions were really really blunt and jarring.  I hate jerky music in movies, you have to seduce me with your mood altering sounds, not flash your baboon ass.

I also didn't like how the movie looked.  Ontario Canada has had the slogan Ontario, yours to discover for a long ass time.  It's a great slogan and it is all over the commercials and bumper stickers and says something about tourism and nature and stuff.  Ottawa, which is a city in Ontario, wanted something like this too so they paid a lot of money to have a PR company come up with a good slogan for the city.  Ottawa paid money to have the slogan "Technically Beautiful"  put on their signs and stationary.  Really.  It boggles the mind.  Ottawa needs to sell their slogan to the Watchman movie.

The movie looked very polished, all the right lighting and props and makeup was there (well with the exception of Nixon's makeup - that was bad), but there was a distinct wooden feeling to the scenes that ruined it.  The scenes were pretty but screamed look how accurate this shot is to the comic in a way that totally ruined the immersion and pacing.  Really it was amazing how much craft went into it and how that just didn't matter in the end.  This movie is a great example of the difference between comics and movies even though they are both highly visual narratives that do share so much.  The moved from comic panel to comic panel but we didn't have the chance to linger over the details like we would if we were reading it, and flipping back and forth to compare.  And when we were forced to move on to the next image, the movie didn't breath in any life between those panels.  So the move seem to be breathlessly rushing to tell the story but also very slow and plodding.

I also really didn't like the violent ubermensch take on the heroes as opposed to the comic's very human take on the masks. I have no problem with violence but here it was just done wrong.  A huge portion of the story to me is how Dr. Manhattan is the only actual superhero and the rest of them are very human.  This was especially true of the fight scenes with Owlman and Silk Spectre.  Having them wading through bad guys in super slow motion was totally wrong for this movie in exactly the same way it was so right for 300.  300 was an epic mythos, the watchmen was written as a response to that kind of story.  Those scenes should have been as paunchy and awkward as Owlman was in the comic.  Not to say that there was no place for that style in the movie.  Rorschach's combat scenes were better as he was a ruthless improviser and that super efficient slow time combat was appropriate for Veidt's fight scenes - he was kung fu enough to able to catch a bullet after all.  However it was over applied to the detriment of the theme in my opinion.

I had no problem with the way they adapted the story or the changes they made to the ending however, I actually thought that the ending was pretty good and made sense. I wish that they had done more adaptation. The story itself is pretty good and although it would be hard to boil it down into something more suitable for a movie instead of an elegant comic book, I think it could be done. It needed to be told for motion pictures however and not as a series of iconic images in homage to the comic.

After watching the extended Directors cut edition (over 24 minutes added!) I can say that there was no magic restored here with the additional content or that the cuts were not responsible for the movie's poor showing.  Sure the extra material filled in some parts of the narrative, but in the end it wasn't the narrative that was the problem, it was the presentation.

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