Sunday, March 08, 2009

Watching The Watchmen

first off, the book and the movie are two different vehicles. read it. say it aloud. accept it as truth. also, this is not a proper review, more so me trying to work out my feelings about the movie. no spoilers, so feel free to read it.

my feelings about this movie are complicated because i can't be sure if i liked it or not. the director, zack snyder, was obviously intent on remaining true to the source material, and it shows. most of the visuals and dialogue were snatched directly from the pages of the novel, with few, very few, exceptions. as i watched, i knew what each scene would look like, sound like, as panels from the novel appeared in exact succession with characters saying nearly exactly what they say on page. after a while, i was left feeling no anticipation, just expectation. i can't say that this is the director's fault. i was the one, after all, who decided to read the darned thing, but i think there's a useful discussion in here somewhere about the merits of risk taking in film adaptation. despite snyder's near perfect reverence for the text, i almost found his need to simply provide a slide show of the text somewhat dull, without risk and boring.

it wasn't all bad, though. often i found myself remarking aloud about the beauty of the film. it was gorgeous in many places, and sometimes, the faithfulness of the adaptation was exactly what was called for. mr. manhattan's famous exile, for example, was beautiful. i found myself nearly as arrested by the film's rendering of it as i was by its textual counterpart. entertaining, too, were the fights. the violence was particularly graphic, so much so that my mom, brother, and i often found ourselves gritting our teeth. it was strange in a way, the stillness of the film juxtaposed with the brutality of its fight scenes. i figured snyder was attempting to satiate watchers who would be bothered by the lethargic pace of the film.

another problem was a few of the casting choices. i flat out disliked the actress playing laurie/silk spectre II; she was annoying and wasn't talented enough to give the character any depth. laurie was my least favorite in the novel, too, but a good actress should bring something to the table. what REALLY annoyed me was the choice for ozymandias. this guy and his character are so integral to the plot that his less-than-stellar acting was seriously lowered the quality of the film. though he is regarded from a distance as golden, in addition to his intellect and physical prowess, adrian veldt is likeable and radiates a personality that draws people in. i did not get this from matthew goode at all. in fact, i found him pompous, stiff, and unsympathetic. jude law probably would've been the better choice.

jackie earle haley as rorschach was perfect. seriously, every time he appeared on screen, things picked up again and you finally found yourself feeling any sort of kinship or sympathy for a character. jeffrey dean morgan (bizarro robert downey jr.) was also good as the comedian.

fans won't be satisfied if they're looking for the same amount of depth in character development, allegory, and themes. there just isn't enough time, but i do think that the idea of self-chosen superheroes, regular people who have chosen this burden for one reason or another, is interestingly handled and results in a movie that is beautiful and provocative. a better movie, one that is all those things AND entertaining would've needed more editing, a better pace, and a much better cast; however, i'm glad i saw it.

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