Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wednesday Morning Watchmen

Hrm... More like Wednesday Night Watchmen... There may be spoilers.

So Watchmen (the movie) finally comes out and it's time to test my geek loyalties in the toughest of ways. Who am I supposed to back: Comic-God Alan Moore (writer of the comic) or the voice of Solid Snake, David Hayter (adapter of the screenplay)?

There was always a feeling in the air that this would be a terrible movie, it showed all the right signs. It'd been in development hell for 20 years. It was a comic book movie coming out in a market where every second movie is a comic book movie. The comic is way to long, complicated and layered to translate onto the screen. Plus, adaptions were being raped left and right by Hollywood (hello Wolverine!). What chance did it have?

Well, there's two ways to look at it: Was it a good movie in its own right, and was it as good as the comic. Lets take the fairer, first option to begin with.

Straight up, it was a good movie... I was entertained through out, there was no point I felt bored and it never felt like it was dragging on (hello Dark Knight!). The story played out fairly coherently and there were some stand out performances. The best thing though was the look feel of the whole thing. I'm trying to distance myself from comparing to the comic, but some shots astounded me by having even more impact then the book. And let's not forget some excellent use of soundtrack. 'Unforgettable' during the comedian fight scene was perfect!

It's not all great though... Some performances were awfully flat. And for a movie that had some excellent special effects, the ageing make-up was terrible... And then there was the delicious layer of cheese, some of which attributed by some odd sound track choices (seriously... flight of the valkyries?) some by bad dialogue (NOOOOOOOooooooo!!!...). But to be honest, I've put up with a lot worse in other movies I've thought were excellent. Looking at this strictly as something seperate to the book, It's still a solid movie in my opinion.

But there's the problem... the movie has to be compared to the book. Several hundred thousand fanboys demand it (Note: fanboys are always problems themselves) Try and imagine what you'd feel about the movie had you not read the book and you wouldn't even know there was changes... Surely, you'd just be swept away by the technical brilliance of it all? But, continuing on with the 'problem' theme of this paragraph, most people who saw this movie and hadn't read the book didn't like it/understand it.

So, and this is where we begin to compare it to the comic, why not? Well... the reason is, as you may have heard before, because Watchmen isn't filmable. However, despite what some might say because of the sheer fanboy love that gets heaped on Watchmen and Alan Moore, and even what Alan Moore might say now that he hates Hollywood, the only true reason Watchmen isn't filmable is it's length. There are plenty of complicated and deep movies out there, it's just that they don't always rake in the money. A movie like this needs money to pull off. It needs to be accessable to a broad audience. In that sense, Watchmen can't really be turned into a motion picture, or 'film' if you'd like.

And that, for someone who hasn't seen the book, is what kills this movie. The book is full of complex characters. By that, I dont just mean the heroes, I'm refering to the supporting cast too. By the end of the story, you care about most of them, The fact that some of them are sacrificed by the time the climax is over adds gravity to the situation. In the movie, we don't even have time to flesh out all of the main characters. Sure, Manhatten and Rorshach get a little backstory and development. Ozymandias got to tell his own backstory in about a minute. Most other characters were lucky to get that. And then they felt the need to cut out a bunch of my favourite scenes as well, although I'm not that bitter, since I'm sure they'll be making the extended DVD version. And even then I'm not fussed, since I've still got the memories of the scenes in the book. Let's face it: the only reason us fans don't need a lot of what was in the movie is because we already have that in the book.

So does the movie do justice to the book? Short answer: No. Longer answer: There is no possible way you can condense Watchmen into 3 hours.

But it's not just that. Watchmen is considered literature for a reason, not just because it can't be compressed into a 3hr movie. The comic has layers upon layers of themes and symbolism, not just character development and (for its time) thought provoking plot. Furthermore, it used as much of the comic book medium as it could, playing with the time and composition and repetition and such. It broke away from what comic books were and expanded the experience by using book excerpts and other text between chapters. Although it's unfair to call it after only seeing it once, the movie didn't even touch the creativity of the book in this respect.

The movie should've explored all the abilities of the film as a medium. There should've been bits where the audience was floored by the sheer genius of what was happening on the screen. Not just for presenting something deemed 'unfilmable' but for adding something to the experience and making people think differently about what a movie was. I will admit there was moments that almost approach it; case in point being the title sequence. It seems though that the only three tricks in Snyders bags were: Slow motion action, hidden references and music.

I've gone on way too long in this post. Theres more to say (there always is about Watchmen) but I think I might call it a night. Who knows, I might turn the rest of the week into Watchmen week. Don't get me wrong though, I definitely enjoyed the movie and will be watching the extended version DVD over and over again...

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