Fidgeting and Sighing Chapter 4: Watchmen

Posted: February 28, 2015 in Fidgeting and Sighing
Tags:

With Zack Snyder becoming a comic movie “icon” after directing Man of Steel and soon-to-direct Batman vs. Superman, I decided to turn back the clock and cover his first notable comic movie adaptation. Remember this one? Sure ya do!

—————————————————————————————————————————————

I think that my original opinion of Watchmen was formed before even walking into the theater. And I don’t mean that in the usual sense, like I watched the trailers and read a little about it and decided if I would like it or not. What I mean is I read the source material, and been following all the build-up, and was fairly certain, based on the reaction of the “nerd community,” that this was going to be a big one. Like, lines around the corner and sold-out shows big. People dressed up like Rorschach big. All that does start to inform my opinion of a movie, whether I like it or not.

None of that really happened, though.  In fact, friend and fellow-podcaster Josh and I walked up, picked up our pre-ordered tickets, bought popcorn and soda, walked into a modestly-filled theater and sat down and watched the movie.  That was it.  No throngs.  No Rorschachs.  Nothing.  The damn thing wasn’t even sold out on opening night in Boston.  What happened?  Did they open it on too many screens?  It apparently earned $25.1 million in one day, so it may not break any records, but that’s more than a lot of films make in weeks.  Did everyone go at midnight?  For the first time in my life, I was disappointed not to see fanboys.

However, despite what I said earlier, I tried not to let that hamper my enjoyment.  Let me discuss the movie itself.  It centers around a group of former super-heroes called The Watchmen,  who had fought against the forces of evil decades before, but had now settled into retirement and (in the original comic book, anyway) gotten sort of flabby.

3824850-9525840093-niteow

When one of them, The Comedian, is murdered, do-gooding loony Rorscharch believes that someone is hunting down the ex-heroes.  He looks up his old buddy Nite Owl to ask for help, but Owl doesn’t seem interested in a reunion with his smelly former colleague (because he’s flabby, although Zack Snyder apparently doesn’t allow flabby heroes in his movies, even when it is part of the plot.)  He does become interested, however, in a reunion with Laurie Jupiter, who served in the Watchmen as Silk Spectre II (played by the decidedly not-flabby Malin Ackerman), following in the footsteps of her now-busted mother, the aptly-named Silk Spectre I.  Despite the fact that Laurie is now married to the all-powerful, all-naked, Dr. Manhattan, she seems unhappy with his growing detachment, and Owl pursues her vigorously.  Meanwhile, no one believes Rorscharch is anything but a kook.  Eventually, the poor guy is arrested and not one of his former friends seems to care.

At some point in there, Nite Owl tires of his boring life and he seeks out ladyfriend Laurie, who is now estranged from Dr. Manhattan, because he had a bit of a hippy freak-out over nuclear weapons. Even though Owl is clearly in the friend-zone, they inexplicably decide to don their costumes again and go stop some ne’er-do-wells. They quickly determine that super-hero-ing is a major turn-on, and they fornicate in costume (well, mostly) inside Owl’s weird “bat-wing” flying machine.  Post-coital and still half-naked, they decide, rather suddenly, to free old teammate Rorscharch from the asylum where he has been rotting for half the movie, even though they seemed to not care at all when he was arrested. Seriously, they literally say, “Let’s go bust out Rorschach.”  Sex changes everything, I guess, and apparently it does so in a matter of moments.

nite-owl-and-silk-spectre

The reunited Watchmen figure out that The Comedian’s murder was the work of Ozymodias, another former ally who has become a multi-millionaire jerk since leaving the group, and band together to go kick his ass.  Somewhere in there, Dr. Manhattan decides that the human race is worth saving even though we developed nuclear weapons, and comes back to help save the world.  Yeah, it gets messy from there.

I’ll say it right here, though: I enjoyed most of Watchmen.  I mean, sex, violence, super-heroes…  What’s not to love, really, other than Billy Crudup’s little blue Crudup every five seconds?  There were obviously some problems, and a lot of fans disliked the changes made for the film version.  Personally, I was not a gigantic fan of the comic anyway, so I didn’t really care that anything was changed.  In fact, I’m not quite sure I understood what was going on by the end of the movie, anyway, and I’m not sure I really cared all that much.  I just sat there with my popcorn and watched the pretty people have sex and beat on each other.  Not the best script certainly, and the acting was really stiff, but I’m trying to be better about these things, and it was certainly a technical marvel that will undoubtedly murder people on IMAX. The problem is, that can describe most movies nowadays, so I need something more. This movie, while there was nothing greatly wrong with it, needed to be more, since it is such a beloved story in the minds of comic fans. Watchmen didn’t have a lot wrong with it, but it didn’t have much right, either. It’s very much a movie not to care about.

My biggest complaint is the pacing of the story.  By the time I got there early, sat through commercials, and previews, and the warnings to turn off my cellphone, then the little thing called the-reason-I-went-there-in-the-first-place, I was into this thing for well over three hours.  Anything you invest that kind of time in better be amazing, so that’s why my review is rather mixed.  Honestly, there are very few things I want to do for three hours straight, and sitting in a dark room is not one of them.  Even if you go to a baseball game that will probably last about the same amount of time, you get to get up and get a beer, talk to the person next to you, throw things at the players.  All of the sudden, it’s the 7th inning stretch.  Sitting through a three-hour epic comic book movie?  Not quite the same thing.  All of the sudden, I looked up and they were still developing Dr. Manhattan’s character.  I know that’s important and all, but there was about a 45-minute stretch there in the middle where Rorschach and Nite Owl weren’t even in the damn thing, and I kind of thought they were the main characters.  Don’t you think it would have been possible to get those “Dr. Manhattan on Mars” scenes over in about ten minutes and get on with the actual plot (and see less of his blue dick)?  My screenwriting profs always taught me to “Get in and get out” when it came to developing your story.  Why did we have to see him looking at a clock for all that time?  To further drive home the point that this a long-ass movie?

Don’t let me poop on the parade, though.  Overall, I think it was a decent movie.  My friend John may have put it best when he said it was “better than Indy 4 but not as good as Dark Knight.”  While that is a pretty wide open field, I think in the annals of comic book adaptations, if Watchmen is remembered at all, that is where it (and most movies) will end up.  I will also say, however, that IMAX (still new when it was released) probably helped this film immensely because IMAX platters needed films to be a shorter running time (about 150 minutes) to accommodate the projectors.  This necessitated some trimming, unless they just want to show the regular old movie on a really huge screen.  This trimming of the fat I’m sure helped the movie flow better, and probably gave crumb-bums like me less to complain about. I wouldn’t know because I never bothered to see it again. No need to, really.

In the end, it’s a comic book adaptation, and not to be poured over too much.  Still, unlike a Spider-Man or Batman movie, which is based on a character doing his or her thing, Watchmen is based on an actual story, more like a movie adapted from a novel. Like most movies based on previously-published novels and stories, it is not as riveting as the original work, nor as deep or as ground-breaking.  But, in the end, it is worth seeing.  My advice would be to get yourself a nice, big bag of popcorn and hunker down and watch the Watchmen do their thing, and when it’s over, move on with your life.  And if you’re looking to cut down the running time, simply skip the blue full-frontal.  It’s not necessary.  Ever.

drmanhattan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s