Friday, March 6, 2009

watchmen review pt.II

so the question is, did the film work?

the honest truth: i dont know..... completely.

there is no question it LOOKS like watchmen. i think people who will come out hating this film wont be able to deny that the look of the film captures the graphic novel's dirty, rotten, dark, gritty city streets of '85 new york with filthy brilliance. mars and antartica are absolutely, draw droppingly, panoramically awe inspired (especially viewed in an imax). the setting and atmosphere exist in this film in stunning perfection. and it really really helps the film, almost becoming a crutch at very rare moments. it is no surprise the film is visually spectacular. but the visuals arent enough. i honestly believe snyder knew that he couldnt carry this film on visuals alone, because that isnt the case. not by a long shot.

the films ultimate success, and ultimate curse, is its striking faithfulness to the source material. even when snyder changes things, when he seems to have cut dialogue or important exposition, it comes in later. maybe the lines are said by a different character, or at a different point in the film, but the important thing is that everything that was critical to the original source material is there. somewhere. but yes, there are a lot of cuts. but before i get to that, there is something else that needs to be addressed.

there are a lot of people that will see this film that havent read the comic. this is why i cant say if the film works completely. my bias is much too large, my lens in which i view this film is too thick. i dont think i will ever be able to separate this film enough from the comic to make a call on whether or not it can stand by itself as its own film. so what i am really curious to hear are thoughts of friends of mine who havent read the comic who see this film. i want to know, do the costumes work? what about the dialogue? the sex scene? the plot? the ending? does it makes sense? does the pacing work? these are things i want to know from folks who havent read the comic. so there is a huge bias.

ok, so back to the cuts. as a fan of the comic, they work. they all work in their own way. no newsstand vendor dialogue with the comic book reading kid works because the black freighter wasnt in this cut of the film. so they are unnecessary. the black freighter is necessary and that will be coming out as an animated feature film companion in a few weeks on dvd. so there is no need to waste screen time on them. at least not in this cut of the film. the psychiatrists home life has been cut. if you were to ask me anything i would cut from the comic to make the film, it would be that. even in the comic i felt it a bit to redundant. we know how rorshach affects people through his relationships with the other masked adventurers. im glad they made that cut. like i said earlier, i wish there was more unmasked rorshach in general, but i understand the need to shorten it. maybe we will get a little more of that in the extended directors cut when it comes out on dvd. i hope so. the other cuts all have to do with the ending, so i will address this next.

i have already been hearing that the change of the ending is going to be the most controversial directorial choice in the film. i dont get that. snyder recently said in an interview that he really didnt change the ending, just the device in which the ending was accomplished. i completely agree. in fact, i more than agree. i think this ending, for me, may work better than the original ending. i know, blasphemy. but it seems to make more sense. although i loved all the build up to the squid in the comic; the disappearance of the famous authors, artists, scientists, the psychic explosion giving all of new york disturbing visions of aliens and whatnot. yes that is all great. but it never quite worked for me because i felt it was too "other-worldly" for ozymandias. the fact that he uses dr. manhattan as the "practical joke" against humanity fits his character much more comfortably. turning humanity towards a fear of a KNOWN GOD who is always watching, making sure humanity doesnt start fucking up again, works. it works seamlessly. AND it keeps all of the other main character's reactions to this the same. dr. manhattan is still displeased, night owl understands that he has to stay quiet, even if he doesnt agree, silk spectre is lost in a situation much larger than her own understanding, and rorshach faces his own ultimate moral dilemma. its still all there. even ozymandias catching the bullet and dr. manhattan killing rorshach. its there. the ending hasnt changed. the device has been changed, and it works really damn well.

the other scene that was brought up after the viewing last night was the sex scene. i was told by numerous people that it was unnecessary. i dont agree at all. yes its campy. really, REALLY campy. but thats the point. this scene is supposed to show a few things. 1) that laurie and dan NEED to feel like they are doing something worthwhile, and after doing so their passion spills into love making 2) its to show the slight fetishistic side of superhero costumes 3) its to show that dan and laurie need each other, dan needs laurie to feel alive again, laurie needs dan to feel connected to someone. yes its cheesy. yes the choice of "hallelujah" played over distorted guitars is silly. but thats the point. two of the characters have finally rediscovered what was missing, and that is a campy comic book-y idea! to me, it works. but i can see why some would call it silly or ridiculous. it was. was it unnecessary? no. because it keeps these two characters progressing into doing what they do.

ok, yes yes yes. i DID in fact have issues with the film. rorshach taking a cleaver to the criminal's skull in the rorshach origin sequence didnt quite fit. honestly, i didnt like it at all, but i could see how some could make a case for why it works. i just personally didnt care for it. rorshach getting his mask back from the psychiatrist in the prison through me way off, i didnt like that change at all either. musically some of the choices were distracting, but only with a few actual songs. the score of the film i thought was moody and terrific (reminded me of vangelis' score for blade runner). but as you can see i didnt have too many issues, and most of them were minor.

so, my thoughts overall? even with its minor flaws and one almost complete miscast, watchmen did what i was really hoping it would do, it brought to life my favorite comic. the themes are there, the characters are there, the city is DEFINATELY there. not only does the film work for me as a film (remember my bias), but it also works as a companion piece to the comic. snyder and his team created the best pure comic book adaptation i have seen yet. and dont even talk to me about the dark knight. if you so much as try to compare the dark knight with watchmen i will laugh in your face. they are so completely different types of films that it would be like debating if resevoir dogs is a better crime film than goodfellas, or vice versa. they may be the same "genre" but they are completely and utterly different TYPES of films. watchmen serves a completely different purpose, and strives for a completely different goal than the dark knight did. so please, dont try to argue with me by asking which one is the better film. i will just respond "both".

so my hat is off to snyder and his entire team. they have created a film world that is watchmen. and i cannot wait to see it again.

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