Friday, November 27, 2009


Hello, Space Monkies.

This is going to be a long post. Actually, most if not all of the posts are going to be about this long.

Early this year I went out to the local movie theatre to see a little movie called "Watchmen" which seemed to have lit the Internet world ablaze. I, not being a comic book guy by any standard, did not originally read the original "Watchmen" comic and have not read it since. (Sorry about that, fans, I meant to last year but I never quite got around to it.) One of the arguments which caught my eye was an odd rant about a giant squid which apparently was cut out of the movie. Now from what I heard from a friend of mine who was absolutely in love with the comic, the story was a satire deconstruction of the superhero genre based upon parodying comic book tropes. So when I don't get the references and homages that are shown in this film, its just because I'm not "in the club" so to speak. Its like saying "use the Force" to a man born in the sixteenth century - he's not going to get it. Maybe that's a bit too extreme - I was a big fan of the Superhero cartoons from the nineties and quite a few Superhero movies of this decade have been some of my favorites (namely "Dark Knight"). I'm not ignorant of Superman, its just that I never got into comic books. But that's okay. A good movie should be able to appeal to a person of any age with any background. "Watchmen" left me rather unimpressed at the time, and honestly I was not wiling to put it in any "A" category. And that's where I figured it would end.

However, early today I went out to the local Red Box hoping to rent a completely different movie: "Drag Me to Hell" which I had missed during its theatre run. But tragically the Red Box did not HAVE the movie I wanted. Since I had walked out there, I was going to get me a movie. I would not accept this trip as a failure. So I looked around for a movie, and after a few minutes of searching, I had limited my options to either the clearly mediocre live action adaptation of the mediocre "Blood: The Last Vampire", or this movie. I guess the movie made more of a lasting impression on me than I thought. It was freezing out there, I was wearing shorts, a decision needed to be made. So I pulled a impulse rent and got "Watchmen". Now after seeing the film, and starting this blog, its time for my full fleshed opinion on it. What I'm saying here is probably going to hit on both the movie and the comic, since this is the only way I've experienced this story.

First of all, it seemed like the movie went out of its way to cast the most obscure nobody actors that they could. I'm not a lightweight when it comes to naming actors, and even so I couldn't name ANYBODY. The only guy here who I even recognized was the very obscure Matt Frewer, who I remembered from the SciFi channel miniseries "Taken" (he was also in the remake of "Dawn of the Dead"). Elaine's psychologist boyfriend from "Seinfeld" was there too. That's it! NOBODY is in this movie! Even the most Indie of Indie movies that count as major motion pictures can at least grab one C-list actor. I can't say this is exactly a bad thing, it just confuses me.

On another minor point (I'm circling around the big ones) is the music. The soundtrack to this movie would make a very good CD, but it doesn't work all the time. Bob Dylan's song at the opening credits montage made for a great mood setter, but "99 Red Balloons" had no right being here. The tracks hit as often as they miss. The best part musically I must say is the "Koyaanisqatsi" themes used during a key transformation scene in the movie. It fit perfectly, and it made for what was without a doubt the very best part of the entire movie.

Now that I'm done buying time, we have to dig deeper. As a whole, I think my opinion of the movie has definitely improved. Some of my complaints at first were rather shallow thinking back. The combat scenes are bloody, incredibly bloody, especially for a Superhero movie which rarely manage to get any gorier than the average Pixar film. So when you see bones being broken and limbs getting shot off, its a surprise. Most of the fighting is in super slo-mo and it can be very cool looking at times, especially for the main villain, Ozymandias (here on called "Ozymandingo" because that's funnier-sounding).

In my first viewthrough, I felt that the movie seemed like it was like eighteen different movies blended into one. That's probably not fair. What generated this idea was that the film, in what is probably its biggest flaw, has four central characters, each with their own character arc, backstory, personalities and whatever. These four are fully fleshed-out, making the movie criminally long, and creating long stretches where you do not see a major character for almost twenty minutes. Even with these four, I can't help but wonder that perhaps things were already cut out. There are actually six Watchmen, but only four are really central characters. One dies in the beginning of the film, and there's one left over. Since that guy, Ozymandingo, is the least explored, and gives a speech about Alexander the Great, its pretty damn obvious that he's going to be the villain. So the big twist is just a waste. The movie is really just too long, and there's probably nothing that can be done with that. By the time the climax finishes, I was honestly screaming in my head "END!! END!! END!!". For you fans who are annoyed to see favorite parts removes, I'm sorry. But unless your movie is a masterpiece like "Dark Knight" or any Scorese mafia pic, you just can't be this long.

I do have to give props for a movie that can create so many central characters and stay together in a somewhat focused piece. However, four is just too many for a movie I feel. The best of movies usually can only focus upon one or two. And the central narrative doesn't seem to connect all four into clear relationships. Rorschach doesn't have much to say to any of the other three, and is off on his own little world. There's a love triangle, but Owl Guy (I forgot his name) and Dr. Manhattan never say a world to each other! I know Dr. Manhattan is a super god, but there's got to be jealousy someplace! We got two dicks and one vagina: situations like this do not get solved on their own. I don't know... I'm ranting here. The poor villain, Ozymandingo is shafted into maybe three or four scenes, and he just never gets enough chance to shine. How do you go to a place where you think that wiping out 25 million people will save the world? The question is never raised, and never answered. He's just "the Smartest Man in the World", nothing more.

Where I will have to give the story some real credit is the final conclusion. Ultimately Ozymandingo destroys five cities around the globe pretending to be Dr. Manhattan, and this so scares the world powers that they immediately end the Cold War and as one character says "its like we're living in a Hippie World". Even the major heroes (who have completely failed to stop this disaster) are forced to admit that Ozymandingo's utopia is for the best. However I simply cannot except this level of cynicism. Despite how awful the human race may be, we certainly do not need a greater power than our own to create a better world. Maybe I'm just a closet idealist, but if we truly are such a suicidal species, what right do we have to exist at all? I'm not the only character who seems to have troubles with this decision. Rorschach, previously the most insane and cynical of all the Watchmen is forced by his own personal principals to tell the world and punish Ozymandingo. A crime is a crime. The ends do not justify the means, and if our society has become so warped as to no longer understand that, then we have a real problem on our hands. I do like how the movie leaves this final decision in the grey, not actively turning against this action or supporting it as a real solution. It is up to the audience to decide for themselves, and that is probably how it should be. You've seen my opinion, yours might be different. That would be a fascinating discussion, I'd love to have it.

Before I leave, I must make one final point. This whole threat of nuclear annihilation is really a dated one. I know the original comics were written in the 80s, but even so, I just can't feel the fear that my parents and grandparents must feel having lived in the times. I was born the year that the Soviet Union fell, since then the world has moved on. At the very least, I believe I can imagine the emotion. That same fear we today feel towards global terrorism and another attack must have been similar to that which our parents felt during the Cold War. One great counterpoint to Ozymandingo's solution is that the world escaped nuclear war without an alien overlord to scare us into doing it. How can you seriously try to argue this holocaust in the modern period with the benefit of hindsight ruining your position? I don't know, perhaps the story could have been updated, probably not.

So I will have to give this movie an "Okay" rank. Probably worth a see, just not an honest-to-God classic. It probably did a great job adapting the original storyline. I mean, I HOPE it fully adapted that storyline. They had two and a half hours. What more could have been left behind that was central to the plot?

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