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Review: Watchmen

Watchmen broke ground as a comic book/graphic novel. The movie was extremely faithful, with few exceptions, to the book. Is that a good thing?

Going in to this film, I thought, “I hope they don’t stray too far from the book.” They didn’t. There were things removed for the sake of time, but for the most part everything that was in the movie came from the book. It was probably the most faithful retelling of a story as I’ve seen. And that’s why it failed.

I’m willing to devote a lot more time to a book’s attention to side stories. They’ve got time to develop them, and even to bring the side story into the central plot. In a film, you gotta stick to the core story with almost laser focus. Move the action forward at all times. It’s a rare film that can successfully explore the ancillary without losing itself.

A lot was cut from the book to make this movie. But it wasn’t cut nearly enough.

Also, there was a lot more graphic gore in this movie than was in the book. And that’s saying something.

For the most part, this film lost my wife by the end of the opening credits montage over “The Times They Are  a’Changing” by Bob Dylan. That whole piece was in there mostly for the fans. While it had some use in setting us in the bleak, depressive world of the film, it just went on too long and was too disjointed for the uninitiated.

The sex scenes were just boring, not to mention unnecessary. At least 2 couples walked out of the showing during these scenes and never returned. Whether they left because they were offended or simply bored, I’m not sure, but I don’t blame them.

I could probably go on for hours about the little successes and downfalls that combined to make this overall not worth the time, but also not patently terrible … more forgettable than anything. But there are two things that I want to say in direct comparison to the graphic novel.

First, as I feared, they made the superheros a little more “super” than is conveyed in the book. In my previous post I talked about that a bit. The most obvious example of it is in many of the fight scenes where people are being thrown around rather cavalierly by punches and kicks or making leaps that humans just can’t make. Nite Owl slides a little into Batman territory with his ‘cape gliding’ ability. Kind of annoying.

On the positive side, however, I think the mechanism by which the ending is brought about  – the villain’s end-game – is better in the movie than in the book. I really think the movie made a good improvement in that category. Good job there.

Oh… one more thing. The use of music for this film was absolutely horrible. Seriously. Just bad, bad, song choices placed in entirely inappropriate scenes. Bad.

If they hadn’t felt compelled to stick so fanatically to the source material, I think this movie could have been made well and fit in approximately two hours – maybe a bit more – and not sacrificed the core story. Fanboys would have cried and wailed, but the movie would have been so much better.

Two and a half stars.

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13 comments to Review: Watchmen

  • Lee

    OK now I’m a little bit more than freaked out – this is the review I didn’t write!!!! But I experienced the exact same thoughts and feelings, my wife had the exact same reaction at the same point in the film.

    You are bizarro Lee.

    Actually it’s more likely I’m bizarro Jeff…

    Another point too is that for the uninitiated the two generations of heroes using the same name must have been confusing especially with the Comedian crossing over both teams.

    The gore didn’t worry me too much though some of it was a bit ridiculous though.

    Lees latest blog post..Saturday morning revelations

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    If me is Bizarro-Lee, does that mean me have to learn to talk as this with accent of Australia?

    That’s too much of a pain. You be Bizarro-Jeff. You’re the one living upside-down anyway. ;)

    That was interesting about the team names. My (and my wife’s) impression in the film was that the second group was called The Watchmen, we just couldn’t figure out how they got that name, or even whether they were really a team. And if they weren’t, why did they call themselves The Watchmen?

    The Comedian…. when he appeared again near the end with Laurie’s revelation, so much time had gone by since he was on screen that I was thinking “oh, right, he’s in this movie, too.” I completely forgot about him.

    The gore – that fight scene in the alley, especially – how completely ridiculously unnecessary. I have problems with it more in terms of how it changes the hero characters, though it was offensive on its own as well, PLUS it doesn’t serve the story at all. It was just there to be there.

    Reply to this comment

  • I loved they way they bridged different generations throughout Watchmen, both with props (like the floppy discs) and with music

    coffees latest blog post..Arbor Day Coffee

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    That was cool. Especially the floppy disks. The idea of the music was good, but the music they used, and how they used it…. bleh.

    Reply to this comment

    Dave says:

    As I mentioned at lunch the other day, I just don’t get this sentiment. All of the songs game from the cold-war era and (imho) were to help set the mood and get the audience into a cold-war frame of mind. Speaking of how it was used … When Veidt emerges from the conference room with ‘captains of industry’ in tow (right before the faux assignation attempt) the reception area music is Tears For Fears ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. Sorry Jeff, but it doesn’t get any better thea that.

    Daves latest blog post..Z-Word

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    I don’t remember catching the reception area music. I’ll give you that one.

    Two that stick out in my mind that really struck me as wrong: 99 Red Balloons and Hallelujah. The first was playing as Laurie went to see Dan, and the second was during their little party on the Owl Ship. “Balloons” just seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t, IMO, fit the scene at all. “Hallelujah” – I at least there was some thought put into that one… I see what they wanted that to convey, but a) it’s cliche, b) I hated that version of the song, and c) by that point in the movie I felt like I was being beaten over the head with the soundtrack anyway and it was annoying.

    Those aren’t the only examples, but they lead the pack in my head. Perhaps it’s just that a little more subtlety would have been appreciated.

    Reply to this comment

    Dave says:

    Thanks for giving me one, and we’ll have to accept disagreement on the rest.

    My parting shot…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99_Red_Balloons
    “Both the English and German versions of the song tell a story of ninety-nine balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces.”

    I now you didn’t really care for the movie, while I thought is was the best graphic novel -> movie adaptation yet. I thought the use of cold war music during transition scenes was fairly smart on the director’s part, and did a great job of reminding the audience the pressure that everyone was under during the cold war. Laurie was on her way to see Dan. She’s dealing with some immensely complicated personal issues; Her relationship with Dr. M, Mother problems, uncertain future, etc.. On top of it all, adding pressure as an unseen weight, she (and everyone else) lives in a world were complete nuclear holocaust seems closer with every tick of the Doomsday clock. I would have to agree that maybe it didn’t fit the scene. After all I don’t remember any red balloons crossing Laurie’s path. On the other hand, I think there is a fair chance the subtlety went right past you (it was that subtle!).

    Daves latest blog post..Z-Word

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    This’ll definitely be an “agree to disagree” situation.

    I wasn’t trying to say that the lyrical content of 99 Red Balloons didn’t fit the movie – I think it does, as it obviously applies to the Cold War – what I’m saying is two-fold:
    1. It (and most of the rest of the soundtrack – as opposed to the score) should have been integrated into the scenes more subtly. It almost always felt like it was just laid on top of the scene – more of a focal point than it should have been. It removed my focus from the scene.
    2. I don’t agree that it is a good fit for this particular scene. Yes, the Cold War is an important part of the narrative, but the focus of this scene should have been on Laurie’s personal issues, not the global issues. The latter may inform the former, but it shouldn’t be the focus.

    These issues are stylistic, obviously, and YMMV.

  • Jon

    Well, thanks for saving me $22. More like $35, with popcorn and drinks.

    Actually, I probably would not have gotten to see it in the theater anyway. It is only playing captioned in my area for a few days, and only one or two showings per day (usually at inconvenient times like 10AM or 9:30PM), and my wife and I have a lot going on right now, so we probably wouldn’t have been able to get away to see it. We’ll just wait for the DVD.

    Bring on Star Trek!

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    Cost me $30 even. But I got pretzel bites out of the deal. With cheese, even! Still… not saying it was worth it. It was good cheese, though. :)

    Star Trek! I’m getting more excited for that one. Bring it on!

    Reply to this comment

  • I was going to take hubbie out to see it on Thursday night as a surprise.

    The fact Jeffery Dean Morgan is in it had me thinking it would be good.

    Well, I think we will go anyway, but I will be prepared to be not so wowed.

    Widdle Shamrocks latest blog post..It’s been a violent weekend

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    Good plan. Let’s just say there was more than one occasion that I found myself thinking, “I can’t believe how much more story is left in this thing.” And that wasn’t a happy thought.

    Reply to this comment

  • [...] read this and this about Watchmen. I haven’t read the comic/book, so went with an open mind but not too many [...]

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