Saturday, June 4, 2016

Watchmen (2009)

I am almost sure director Zack Snyder's favorite part of making Watchmen was when he got to show four blue dicks on screen at the same time.

When he heard Dr. Manhattan constantly walked around either naked or in a speedo, Zack Snyder, the man responsible for the other ultra-masculine man-movie 300 and so many others like it since, said 'finally! A story that I can really relate to and appreciate! I will adapt this into the greatest slideshow of hypermasculine beefcakes ever made!'

With all the shots of musclebound men with clearly defined asses and bulging biceps and six-packs being so prominent in this and every other fucking movie he's ever done, it really does show that he is the manliest man ever in the history of the world. His movies are all unquestioning love-letters to manliness. The ultimate expressions of testosterone's glory. No shadow of doubt, nor any shadow of any other kind, will be cast on Zack Snyder's undeniable heterosexuality.

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Malin Akerman

Co-written with Michelle.

If you took all the slow-mo scenes out of this, it really would be about 40 minutes shorter. The fight scene at the beginning where the Comedian dies and is thrown out a window is so long and dragged out. It's really not a good sign if your fight scene is like a long, pointless guitar solo in a bad 80s song – if it's just distracting from the story, then it's a shitty fight scene. If I wanted to watch a pointless fight scene, I'd go the gym and bump into a 'roided-up frat guy and then blame that on the guy next to him, and watch the fireworks.

The slow-mo is so silly in all of this. In the scene where the Comedian falls out the window, he falls so slowly that I think he could've survived the fall. It isn't like he would've hit the ground at a lethal speed with that slow mo going on!

"I sure am glad gravity bends to my will!"

Then we get a bunch of scenes you know from the book. It's hard to make fun of this, because all Snyder did was copy-paste scenes from the book and vomit them up on his movie, like he just stumbled back in the door after a night of binge drinking.

The real problem with all these scenes – of Rorschach investigating shit, Dan and Laurie hanging out, Dr. Manhattan being weird as fuck – is that it just feels like they're cut-and-pasted to check off a list of scenes, rather than further a story. I don't know why, but even though I love the Watchmen book, these scenes all fall terribly flat for me, and I can't get into the movie's arc or emotional scenes at all. The lighting and coloring look perfect for the book, but everything just has this digitized, overly slick, sexy kind of sheen on it that makes it impossible to feel like anything is really happening. I just don't like the "look" of the whole movie. I'm constantly aware that this is a movie when I'm watching it – rather than be immersed in its world, I'm pulled out of the story by the over the top visuals and reminded that it's all fake and rehearsed, which shouldn't happen.

The actors all sound bored as fuck and deliver their lines in a monotone – they sound like kids reading off cue cards. The philosophical and insightful dialogue from the comics comes off as just meaningless prattle here. It's like, yup, you sure got those words from the comics in your movie! Thumbs up! I know some of these actors could do very well, but the whole attitude of 'we HAVE to stick EXACTLY to how the book looked' just limits what they can really do with the characters in terms of making the performances their own.

He looks like the book! Even if he is soulless and boring as a character in this. But he looks like the guy from the book, and that's all that matters.

Michelle and I just didn't care about these characters. When Laurie finds out The Comedian is her biological father, that should be the big scene - it was in the book, in terms of her character anyway. But in the movie it just gets lost at sea in the middle of all the other crap. There's just too much going on.

The real problem is that the numerous flashbacks and side-stories that worked so well in the book just come off as overly cluttered and confusing in the movie, jumping around more than Super Mario on cocaine. In the book, you could read at your own pace, and in books that kind of time jumping and complicated narrative is expected. I don't think Snyder translated it well to film at all. The lack of direction in this movie is kind of like a broken GPS – it just takes you all over the place and you never get where you want to go. It's hard to tell what's a flashback and what isn't in this movie, with all the endless rolls of fat.

There's one scene of Laurie and her mother talking in the apartment about the Comedian – it comes off like some kind of weird, awkward one-room stage play. It feels very stiff and awkward.

"I definitely have breast cancer. So when are you and Dr. Manhattan going to get back together?"
"Mom, I told you, I don't love Dr. Manhattan anymore. I love Nite Owl now."

In fact, it kind of reminds me of something...

Nah, must just be coincidence.

Or this other scene of Ozymandias talking to reporters or something, with the over the top ominous music behind it and him constantly with that cold smirk on his face. I'm sure he's not the bad guy! Really, he isn't! But I dunno, maybe this is a faithful adaptation – maybe Alan Moore, when he wrote that scene in the book, also had that same ominous music in mind playing constantly behind Ozymandias, and Zack Snyder wasn't just a hack-ass director with no understanding of storytelling.

Don't bother turning on the light. All interviews should be done in dark rooms on very cloudy days to make sure things look as obviously sinister as possible!

The movie would also be way shorter if we didn't have scenes of Rorschach monologuing over a montage of him walking around in a graveyard or opening cabinets! I know it was in the fucking comic book, but that doesn't mean you have to include it in the movie! I think Zack Snyder hears the word self restraint and thinks it's some kind of mumbo jumbo foreign type of yoga.

This is like the Stephen King's IT movie in a way – it's just so bloated and they focused too much on putting in the material from the book, rather than delivering a good movie. But I'll give IT this – it was never even half as pretentious or up its own ass as Watchmen. This movie is like a college student's 2 a.m. drunken philosophical Facebook notes mutated after exposure to radiation into a horrible monster. Holy shit. I mean, this whole thing just radiates the flannel shirts and the PBR-stench of someone who just read Nietzsche for the first time. The book had a lot of this, too, but Alan Moore's clear talent and knowledge of storytelling made it work. The movie's slow pace and bloated runtime just makes the philsophical stuff unbearable and annoying.

"Life is meaningless. Life is only pain." = him in this movie, condensed version.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the excruciating slog of the last 25 minutes, in which the film goes through the climax. If you don't know, it's where Ozymandias, revealed SO SURPRISINGLY IN THIS MOVIE as the bad guy, says he's blown up half of New York and that's his crazy plan to bring about world peace. The characters all react with shock and horror in very rote, boring, scripted ways, and none of it is exciting. Rorschach then dies in a way that almost evokes a pulse of excitement, but then remembers it's this shitty ass movie and quits doing that.

Amazing how the biology of his blood when he explodes is so in tune with irony. I guess nature is funny sometimes.

I've had my car broken down in the dead of winter before and still gotten somewhere faster than Watchmen's climax does. A snail could get to the other side of town in the time this takes to get anywhere. If I had to listen to any more of Ozymandias's dead-eyed speechifying in this movie, I think I'd be praying to be in New York when that bomb went off, too. Just to save myself the pain.

A fitting metaphor, finally!

I remember being a bit younger, back when I first saw this movie seven years ago. I remember seeing all the people complaining about book-to-movie adaptations never being faithful to the source material. These days, we have good adaptations like the Hunger Games series or Gone Girl that tell a good story independent of what they were based on. But with Watchmen, it stuck too close to the book and was somehow worse off for it. I remember seeing this when it came out and thought "yeah, this is exactly like the book," but I just wasn't crazy about it, because “looking exactly like the book” isn't synonymous with good movie.

Overall, the movie is just proof that film and books are fundamentally different mediums. You can't just assume everything done in one of those mediums will fit the other. You have to adapt them – that's why it's called adaptations. If you just take everything in a book and throw it on screen with zero context or changes minding the fact that movies and books are different, it looks clumsy and awkward. If Snyder had any ingenuity or cleverness, he could have taken the massive pages and pages of dialogue that worked in the comic, and the complex flashbacks and differing storylines that also worked in the comic, and worked all that into a compelling film by moving things around and changing things and, y'know, adapting them. But nope – he just threw it all directly from the comic to the page, no changes at all! This movie is the fat kid eating too much cake at a birthday party and passing out before the party's even over. There's just zero restraint or filter here.

Maybe under a better director this could've been good. I thought while watching it that this could've been a good Netflix TV show – all the flashbacks and different storylines might lend themselves better to that, with the long-winded, oft-complex nature of it all being more easily digestible as hour-long increments. Maybe it'd have more room to breathe as a story. As a movie though, Watchmen too much; it's bloated and over-stuffed to the point that it's barely watchable.

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