Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen (2009)

This review is not going to be a pleasant one. It's just not. So if you're a fan of this movie, just go away.

I'm going to start off with the good part of this movie; the opening credits. A very sweet approximation of how good the old days were, with some very tender and genuinely felt moments. It set me up for some relatively high hopes for the rest of the movie.

Now the bad part: The entire movie. Usually I can find something about a movie that I find redeeming, which I did above, but usually there's something that keeps me watching. In this, the only thing I could find was the unintentional humour of the angsty voiceovers, the ludicrous plot points and the abundance of both talky heroes and blue penis.

You know that a movie has completely failed in whatever it intended to be when you're trying to notice anything else in the movie, like counting plot points that didn't need to be there, counting voice-overs, counting penis shots and counting how many times this movie could and should have ended right there and then.

The characters range from being ciphers to caricatures, and a viewer can never really identify with any of the heroes or even being to empathise with them. The actors do no better with their characters, scaling the low walls that the script has set up for them without adding any real subtext or gravitas to the situations. There is literally one shot where I felt that this thing was well acted, which was Jackie Earle Haley near the end of the narrative. It's a testament to the movie's lack of gravity that I was thinking how great he's going to be in Scorcese's Shutter Island this year. Even the other actor's talents are dulled as they slum it to deliver the nonsensical lines the scripts hand up to them, particularly Patrick Wilson and Carla Gugino.

The script is one of the movie's main problems, in that there is far too much of it. I counted at least four lengthy voiceovers during the film, all written like the multiple screenwriters thought they were writing All About Eve at the time. As a rule of thumb in a comic book movie, you would hope that although the dialogue is less than amazing, it would at least make up for it with some real neato fight scenes. Watchmen avoids that completely, serving up under-choreographed and over-stunt doubled fight scenes that have no real relevance to the plot. And dovetailing the problems, there is a fight scene late in the hour that is interrupted several times to deliver plot points. Ultimately, when a script hands up the line: "Will you just tell me how it ends?" and fails to deliver, you can call it a definitive failure.

I also need to give special note to the film's choice of music. While it may work for the opening credits, it degrades into nonsensical juxtaposition later on in the film, with what I think might be some Beatles during a scene at the graveyard and some guitary folk songs scattered throughout. The worst choice of music is undoubtedly during a laughable sex scene, to the extent where it has ruined that song completely for me.

I know I'm being very harsh and vague about the movie's actual faults, but just as it's hard to review a very good movie that doesn't have any massive failings, it's hard to review an awful movie that doesn't have any massive strengths. Watchmen is just a shallowly-directed, under-edited, non-acted and hackishly-written film that really does have to be seen to believed. It's one of the few movies that I can't imagine anybody liking for any reason.

This movie is a great example of why things should be adapted to the screen and not fully translated. Films are not graphic novels. Graphic novels are not films. To make one suit the other, you need to make certain additions and removals to make it fit that medium. Zack Snyder has provided he can do that with some competence with 300, but shows with this film that he has neither the testicular fortitude to handle something with as much assumed importance as Watchmen does or to face the fans who would surely kill him for changing even one thing. Even Snyder's supposed strength, his visual style, is muted completely in his efforts to translate the graphic novel completely faithfully to the screen. The movie just ends up looking too glossy and like they were trying to save as much money as they possibly could and the lighting was sacrificed as a result.

In the end, this film is a perfect example of why adaptations need to handled very carefully. In many ways, this is one of the laziest adaptations I've seen, Xeroxing the graphic novel onto celluloid (or whatever this was shot on) without any creative flair involved. It takes much more skill to adapt a text with consideration on what should be kept and what should not be (see The Hours, Lord of the Rings, Requiem for a Dream and many other movies which do this better than this). While I'm sure fans of the original will eat this up, I can't imagine anybody else liking it.

The worst insult I can give this is when they make the [Movie] Movie of this, they can just use clips from the movie.

Overall Grade: F

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