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Week 5: Watchmen [Mar. 3rd, 2009|03:02 pm]
The Independent Film Forum

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So, was it worth the wait? The next film up for discussion in The Independent Film Forum will be Watchmen.

It's taken 20 years to bring the best graphic novel of all time to the silver screen. Has the resulting film stayed true to Alan Moore's masterpiece or has Zack Snyder destroyed a legend? Air your views in the comment form below and we'll print the best in the newspaper next week.

Here's a trailer


The Independent's reviewer, Anthony Quinn, wasn't so enamoured:
"Watchmen would like to think itself a philosophical cut above superhero movies, with its talk of space, time and the possibility that life is but a joke. ("All Along The Watchtower" rings out its bleak message of doom). Yet it's only so much blather: the real difference is in the gloating, exorbitant displays of viciousness. A pregnant woman shot dead at point-blank range. A man's head repeatedly hacked with a cleaver. Two dogs chewing on the leg of a dead child. Not since Sin City, another comic-book transfer, have we seen such an orgy of skewerings, bludgeonings, batterings. Dark arterial blood pools across pavements and leaks under doorways, as though to chasten us. Unfortunately, after two and half hours of this sanguinary spectacle it wasn't catharsis I felt; it was simple weariness."


Empire magazine was fairly impressed:
"That Snyder has gotten a version to the screen at all is a triumph. He has found a way — although this is 160 minutes of a dense, geek-orientated blockbuster for grown-ups. Inevitably, but hardly catastrophically, it fails to truly capture the cascade of ideas and bracing cynicism of Moore’s writing. Yet there is a challenging, visually stunning and memorable movie here, moored halfway towards achieving the impossible."

However, writing in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane was rather withering:
"The bad news about Watchmen is that it grinds and squelches on for two and a half hours, like a major operation. The good news is that you don’t have to stay past the opening credit sequence - easily the highlight of the film... Incoherent, overblown, and grimy with misogyny, Watchmen marks the final demolition of the comic strip, and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?"

Here's what some of our reader had to say in response to Anthony Quinn's review:

Manico1:
"I think two stars is a generous rating, and I say that as a huge fan of Alan Moore and Watchmen. This idiotic film closed with aoplogies for both rape and genocide, which would be disturbing if it wasn't so ludicrous. The whole film was so torpid and murky-- Zac Snyder claims to be a fanboy but he critically misinterpreted the use of colour and light in the graphic novel. Dave Gibbon's art is rendered in clear, crisp tones but Snyder's Watchmen is so grimy it's like peering through a telescope that's been smeared with mud. Dr Manhattan looks too distractingly like a special effect, there's a pantomime version of Richard Nixon the violence is completely over the top and stupid and....ooohh! I could go on and on. Watchmen, along with last years Iron Man and the Dark Knight, should have made a case for comics as an artform and has instead set them back. I couldn't help thinking of a quote from Frank Millar as I left the cinema --
"Our reputation is in the gutter. Maybe it's better that way".

Jimdave:
Fairly top notch. Sublime in places. Flawed in others. It would benefit from the longer running time that the director's cut DVD will have, as some parts and characters definitely needed more fleshing out. Yes, it was violent, but only about 10 or 15% of it was superfluous. The violence and the philosophical content go hand in hand. They're not supposed to be separate factors, but form the theme of the whole.

nekuramanji:
"Overall, I thought it was an incredibly faithful adaptation, and I was very happy with it. There were one or two minor niggles that I would have changed, but nothing major enough to spoil my enjoyment of the film."

gliddofglood:
OK, so Watchmen is meant to be an ironic take on superheroes. Fair enough. But how far can you identify with, or even be interested in, superheroes who are not only flawed versions of ordinary people, but actually psychopathic and fascist? How are they then heroes?... The film is superbly shot and directed, visually. But it is incredibly long and the plot fairly thin and unengaging. Rorschach is investigating The Comedian's death. But as it transpires that the latter was a hyper-violent rapist and not a hero at all, the fact that he was thrown through a plate glass window seems not so much a crime as a good riddance. Similarly the idea of springing the ulta violent psychopathic Rorschach from prison doesn't seem a good one. Best place for him....I found this depressing, unengaging and way overlong - as in you start actually consulting your watch in disbelief as to how much longer it can go on for. I am not remotely familiar with the source material, so whether it has done it justice or not is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned. As a piece of entertainment, it just isn't very entertaining. As quasi philosophy, I can't see what point it is trying to make - it's a lot less clear or intelligent than the Matrix and even that could be said to have disappeared into its own convoluted thinking in a puff of parallel universe."



Over to you. Time to have your say...



linkReply

Comments:
From: johndhall99
2009-03-06 01:09 pm (UTC)

Watchmen

Faithful to the source material, almost slavishly so, but this did mean that those of us who are long familiar with the graphic novel were not deprived of any of the most fondly remembered scenes and dialogue. For instance, Rorschach in jail telling the inmates that they had it wrong. It wasn't him trapped in there with all of them : it was all of them trapped in there with him. The controversial change in the ending actually worked better on screen and was more credible than the original. Full credit to Zack Snyder for doing the best he could with this difficult material and staying true to the concept. If it seemed slightly over-reverential to some for a twenty year old comic, this comic along with 'Dark Knight Returns' had repercussions on the medium that resonate to this day. Maybe a little reverence isn't such a bad thing.
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From: firecamel
2009-03-09 04:10 pm (UTC)

Catharsis?

Is the film intended to inspire catharsis through its presentation of violence and abomination? The brutality of the text is surely intended to reflect the brutality of the real world but not in such a way as to make the audience feel comfortable. It is a dark text dealing with the darkest of matters. The question of whether genocide (for instance) is excusable under the most extreme of circumstances is a deep philosophical question relating to utilitarian ethics and the complexity of this debate is reflected by the differing attitudes of the characters towards the 'final solution'. It is troubling to decide where our sympathies lie, we are not encouraged simply to agree with Ozymandias but we are presented head on with the difficulty of arguing against his actions.
The question of the text, particularly the film, apologizing for rape may be closer to the bone (as it were), though the intention, I believe, is to illustrate the incredible complexity of human relationships and, in particular, the effect of time (as perceived by human beings) on these relationships and attitudes in a bold and challenging way. To give the impression that the film has philosophical pretensions "with it's talk of space and time" is a gross misinterpretation and is, at least, unfair to the original text.
On the other hand I can certainly appreciate that not everyone would have the stomach for the violence which is strong, especially portrayed on screen, and may have an effect of distancing the audience from the underlying themes, though it has the opposite effect in the comic. As a fan I was struck, almost to distraction, while watching the movie by the nagging question of how the film would impact me were I unfamiliar with the comic. It is unavoidable that the power and depth of the story's philosophical impact would be dampened by the shift in medium but I, as a fan of the original, cannot be certain to what degree this might spoil the overall experience. It is a shame if it is the case that the whole effect is lost on the uninitiated and the film really comes across as an overtly pretentious and gaudy gore-fest, though it is my feeling that this is overstating the case and that at least a percentage of unsuspecting Watchmen movie goers will be arrested and challenged by the hard but important questions the story raises. Then go and read the comic.
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From: celluberfront
2009-03-10 10:43 am (UTC)

The Masks of the Empire

The symphonic magnitude of the whole film seems at times to forget its original source and instead of a comic adaptation the figurative tones lapse into the sloven chromaticism of an aftermath movie. If the zoomings, authentically larger than cinema, manage to render the spatial realm of the comics whose only borders are those imposed by the reader’s fantasy, the Leonian close-ups lack the epic grandeur they are meant to evoke. That said, Zack Snyder seems to have reconsidered the moral agents at play in his new work (in ‘300’ testosterone was at the service of the imperialist cause against a black homosexual) and while adopting an analogous muscular aesthetic, he scarifies the souls of his character investing them of a ruthless dark side endorsing the highest fidelity to the original. Not a philosophical task not easy to comply with, is it? Since its first appearance in the bookstores (1986) many directors had tried to approach this complex super-heroic feuilleton, Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofski and Paul Greengrass had all to face an unsolvable quest. How to condensate 12 issues and 338 pages of existential dilemmas, visual inventions and suggestive ultra violence not dissimilar from William Morrison, George Orwell or Stanley Kubrick, into a pop corn movie.
It might be the influence of Dylan’s opening (and closing) notes, but the film seems to conjure up a cruel magic where the inquietudes and bequilements from the past came back to hunt the not so clear consciences of our heros. Beyond the spectacular wiring there exists a psychological subtext overcoming the mask of the super-hero to reveal the violent psychosis of its military vocation and its (in)human limits. With a great iconoclastic verve, the film profoundly questions the super-man figure to project it in the desolated scenario of neocon imperialism where everything is allowed as long as it is not questioned.
For those who would like to hunt the missing parts of this puzzle, they can search the net (www.thenewfrontiersman.net), wait for the cartoon, the home video, (a game?) and all those voices composing the transmedial choir of 21st century storytelling.

Celluloid Liberation Front
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[User Picture]From: bemjammin
2009-03-10 04:32 pm (UTC)

Watchmen

I loved the book. I loved the film. I enjoy alan moores ideas and storytelling and I enjoyed the directors interpretation and representation of them.

However, if i hadn't read the book, I am not sure I would of enjoyed the film as much.

It's possible to "get it" without having read the book, but there are countless little nuances of the story and the characters that have tried to be incorporated into the film but could easily go un-noticed. It is the little things that make the book. And if you have read the book, the little things that make the film.

A very brave effort I think. A film for the fans for once, but my friends who had never read Watchmen (non-geeks and girls included) enjoyed the film too, which made me glad.
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From: jhscarborough
2009-04-15 02:51 pm (UTC)

"Watchmen"

“Watchmen,” directed by Zack Snyder, written by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on the graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and Alan More, is entertaining but it isn’t any good.

It works when it re-imagines history. It’s set in 1985. Nixon is in his fifth term, though it’s hard to tell why they cast Robert Wisden. He doesn’t look or sound like Tricky Dick, even accounting for age. If it’s meant to mock him, it fails. He’s outlawed superheroes to maintain a delicate balance of power with the Cold War Soviet Union. It looks back on s prior generation of superheroes, “Minutemen.” Their images look like cuts from Life Magazine,

It works when it sets its initial tone. A masked man throws the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)), no slouch at self-defense, out a window to his death. It works when Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) tries to recruit the outlawed superheroes to avenge their comrade’s death.

It works when the backstories of Rorschach, Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) are revealed. It works in the flashbacks to the glory days of the Minutemen, especially in a brief though stupendous scene that recasts Eisenstadt’s iconic photo from a sailor kissing a nurse to a superheroine, Silk Spectre I (Carla Gugino) kissing a nurse.

Yum.

It works when Rorschach, a cross between Sam Spade, Columbo, and Dirty Harry (with a young Clint Eastwood voice) sleuths to find who murdered the Comedian and why.

It works in such funny scenes as when, in a cut-and-paste scene reminiscent of Forrest Gump, Dr. Manhattan shakes JFK’s hand. When Dr. Manhattan makes love to Silk Spectre II with one of his clones while he works on a project.

Talk about multitasking.

It works in anything involving Dr. Manhattan. How he looks (blue neon skin, chisled like someone out of an Edward Muybridge photograph. How he can see the past, the present, and the future all at once. How he teleports himself and others. How he can grow three stories high. How he can single-handedly end the Vietnam War in less than a week. How he skulks off to Mars to ponder the insanity of man. And how his world-weariness echoes the tone of the Crash Test Dummies’s ballad of Superman.

It works in the fight scenes. When Silk Spectre II, rebounding from Dr. Manhattan’s inattention (fury, woman scorned), gets together with old flame Nite Owl and beats the crap out of a gang in an alley. When Rorschach goes berserk in a jail. When Nite Owl and Rorschach take on Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) in his high-tech Antarctica igloo.

But it falls apart because the parts aren’t brought together. The movie isn’t about avenging The Comedian’s Death. It isn’t about averting a nuclear holocaust. It isn’t about discovering the identity of Silk Spectre II’s father. It isn’t Ozymandias’s explanation of nuclear bomb launch in terms of the Vietnam joke that “We had to destroy the town in order to save it.” It isn’t about Silk Spectre II reconciling with her alcoholic mother. It isn’t about Dr. Manhattan salvaging the human soul. And it isn’t about what happens to superheroes without their masks.

The movie comes in at a little under three hours. It’s poorly edited. Too much attention was spent on staging and not enough on narrative. What began as a retro-futuristic-science fiction-noir film turns became a jumble of genres at the end. The jumble of genres reflected the un-seamless integration of story lines. Three different times at the end the story seemed about to wind down, only to pick up and clunk along again. This wasn’t an attempt to enhance the climax. It was the result of not thinking through the scenes. As a result, the climactic scene, in Antarctica, where all was revealed, was ludicrous and pompous. It didn’t resolve issues raised at the beginning.

So much potential, so little fizz.

Those of us Watchmen-virgins excited at the hullabaloo it generated for the past couple of months, and who wanted, no, required, something coherent as well as astonishing, are bound to be disappointed. Disappointed because watching “Watchmen” makes you watch your watch and wish it tick tock faster.
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