Monday, March 30, 2009

Watchmen (2009, Zach Snyder)

Now that the deed is done, I would've much preferred that Warner Brothers plowed ahead with Sam Hamm's post-Batman script. Yes, Rorschach would've been more wisecracking, less angsty. Yes, entire plotlines would've been thrown out the window to fit 120 minutes. Yes, there would have been an ending completely arbitrarily created for the film. However, the result would at least have looked like the 1980s and resembled a real movie rather than the robotic facsimiles that pass for genre movies these days.

Superficially everything is close enough to resembling the original that the Internet "community" of fans who get the buzz going were satisfied. Snyder and the screenwriters' banality reveals itself in the minutiae of this long-awaited pageantry and in two distinct ways: what Rorschach would call "shallow liberal affectations" such as the insertion of evil oil oligarchs and green energy jargon or the boosting of Nixon from a cameo and presence in the book to a seemingly major supporting character, and the insertion of gratuitous violence anywhere it can fit. Snyder's slo-mo / speed up gimmick is his directorial calling card, utterly without imagination yet trademarked. His Watchmen isn't his any more than Dawn of the Dead was. Both take the central idea of something and speed it up for diminished attention spans while slowing down to linger on gory details, or invent them in this here case. How depressing. The last director who was passed up before Snyder for this film was Paul Greengrass of United 93. He seems to have coherent thoughts of his own and would have at least directed material of emotional heft before, rather than 300.

Carrying no resonance whatsoever, Watchmen the movie missed the chance to be a real "event movie" about ten years ago, before superhero movies were increasingly common. On the press junket Malin Ã…kerman tried pitching the film as a "deconstruction of superhero movies" because even the era of "Zap! Pow! Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore!" headlines is so far behind us that the adaptation of the medium's most prestigious achievement is merely just another superhero movie. The violence has been amped up in attempt to justify what makes this a superhero story "for adults" since apparently Zach Snyder didn't want to make a genuine period piece 1985 and instead shoved Nixon down your throat at every opportunity. This movie was only meant for the fanboys as far as the costumes. They'll buy anything that gets it halfway right, whose pristine trust are they really offering?

The ending: Manhattan's origin is the only time Snyder wasn't having premature ejaculations of blood through a hurried retelling of the ultimate nerd-lit whackoff comic. In the chaotic midst of truncating Moore's prose and imagery into a three hour music video, Manhattan's story is some kind of nice vignette with actual period piece design and the idiotic pop soundtrack which was just so deftly cueing "The Sounds of Silence" to a funeral scene uses some Phillip Glass and it's almost like a real movie. Jackie Earl Haley is entertaining as Rorschach until the heart of his arc, the slow time spent in prison, seems to pass by in just a few hours. When Rorschach gets his mask back at the end of this badly abridged cliff notes version, he says a really stupid line. Was this line absolutely necessary? Reminds me of The Taming of the Shrew, Written by William Shakespeare - additional dialogue by Sam Taylor"

Why is Silk Spectre II as young in her flashback as she is in present day and why's Nite Owl so buff? Ok, I know the latter - appealing modern soulless youth. The added violence, hinted at but rarely explicit in Moore's work, is nothing short of horrifying. Particularly when the lovebirds first fight scene with some goons involves Silk Spectre stabbing someone in the bleeding neck. Much later I was grateful the stupid new action scenes like that at the prison were merely boring. Zach Snyder's idiot milking of an "adult" superhero consists solely of exploiting any opportunity for lingering on sex and violence. Way to go, dolt.

I hadn't even looked at the book in about a year and this was still a cold dead body with plastic surgery leaking out. No. This adaptation should never have been made well by anyone and this wasn't very good, only one of the less worse possibilities. The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy was well forgotten first.

"I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying. It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The 'Watchmen' film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can't we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change.

There are three or four companies now that exist for the sole purpose of creating not comics, but storyboards for films. It may be true that the only reason the comic book industry now exists is for this purpose, to create characters for movies, board games and other types of merchandise. Comics are just a sort of pumpkin patch growing franchises that might be profitable for the ailing movie industry.

They take an idea, bowdlerize it, blow it up, make it infantile and spend $100 million to give people a brief escape from their boring and often demeaning lives at work. It's obscene and it's offensive. This is not the culture I signed up for. I'm sure I sound like Bobby Fischer talking about chess.

Alan Moore
LA Times, 9/18/08

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