Monday, March 09, 2009

I Viewed the Watchmen Movie

Yeah yeah, we're all tired of the "watching the watchmen" puns online, on tv and in newspapers. I went to see it on Friday and the quick review - I really liked what they did.

Things I think were actually better than the comic:

The world creation during the opening credits. Hot damn, that was probably one of the best opening credit sequences I've ever seen. From the song choice to the visuals working with the name credits (I admit, I didn't really pay attention to the actors' names, I was busy watching the scenes) the opening credits set up the world of The Watchmen in a matter of minutes. So anyone new to the movie knows what fans of the comic learned in the text pieces, the role playing game, obsessively looking up Watchmen articles online, etc. I think it really played to the strengths of the medium of film, and was so successful because it actually added to the core text in a positive way.

The repulsiveness of the violence. Okay, in a few years it may look hokey when this is being played on Spike TV, but in the theatre it was enough of a turn-off to get that point across what with the broken limbs and blood splatter.

Things I found slightly distracting:

They kept referring to themselves as The Watchmen. Yes, it's nit-picky, and I completely understand why it was done but I think I have more faith in the audience. It sounds like some exec was wondering why they kept talking about The Minutemen as a failed super-group, wasn't this movie called The Watchmen? They should call themselves The Watchmen.

Rorschach's narration at the very end. I liked the more ambiguous ending of the comic where his journal is left in a stack of other cranks. The ending narration implies it is read but it could have been added just to make sure the point is driven home that it's Rorschach's journal.

The narration in general except Dr. Manhattan's. This is the constant problem of adapting written fiction to film. The way the narration was handled in the comic is all on written materials (except Dr. Manhattan's) which simply can't be adapted onto film except as someone reading from the journal, etc. The narration in the comics works much better in regards to the narrative because these objects exist within the world of the Watchmen as actual objects, not dramatic readings. It helps sell the "realistic" nature of the Watchmen world because the audience is only allowed to see into the characters' minds via additional media except for Dr. Manhattan whose thoughts are in blue boxes (and thus the closest to the traditional thought balloon). This kind of reinforces his connection to classic superheroes as well as emphasising how far from humanity he has drifted. His relation to the world is different from the other characters because he doesn't need a separate medium to communicate directly to the audience. In the movie, all characters have that relationship to the audience because there is no way the director will show you page shots of Rorschach's journal to read while the action happens.

This I wished were included (please ingest your grain of salt from here on in):

Okay, this is just my fanboyishness here so you know, it's subjective. Where was the fate of Hollis Mason? No, I don't really want to see an old man lynched, but it would really have helped sell the idea of this being a time of crisis and heightened paranoia. It could have been included if they reduced the sex scene, no? I'm no prude, but I felt the owl-ship sex scene went on just long enough to be kind of embarassing - we get the point, make the visual joke, move on.

Captain Metropolis. The way the failed meeting was handled was fine, but I kind of miss the connection to history all the old heroes brought to the story. If the opening credits show how vital they were to the world, then having them removed from the plot kind of feels like a missed opportunity.

Final thoughts:

Anyway, I went to see the movie with both geeks and non-nerd-herd people. Everyone enjoyed it but the nerds complained about stuff more - no pirates, my thing about calling themselves The Watchmen, etc. The only slightly negative I heard from the non-nerds was that it seemed like a movie you should watch again to understand more of it. That's something I felt as well, which means it's pretty much how I felt after reading the comic for the first time. In that regard, it was great and all in all, I think the changes made were necessary for the film version and should have been made.

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