Who Watches The Watchmen? I Did, And Here's My Review

So I saw Watchmen on Saturday night, as I said in my last entry. Overall, I'd have to say that the movie was just alright, and I really was hoping that I'd have liked it a lot more than I did. Last week the released a DVD with all 12 chapters of Watchmen on it. It's basically an audio book, but it shows the panels and I guess the panels are kind of animated. That DVD is 5 hours, which is a good indication that the movie probably can't be done correctly in 2 hours and 45 minutes. I'll probably watch the director's cut when it comes out, because that 25 extra minutes might have exactly what I think the movie needs. I feel very confident that if you had seen the movie without reading the book that you would have little to no idea what was going on. Hopefully the other 25 minutes will help smooth some of that out, but it's not enough time to get done everything that I feel would need to be. That said, here is my largely nit picky review, which contains massive spoilers:

The acting in the movie ranged from spectacular (Rorschach, The Comedian) to completely flat (Silk Specter, Ozymandias). The good acting more than made up for the bad, however, so I have no issue with that except that Ozymandias was pretty sinister looking. I understand that he's not going to where a bright purple and gold outfit because it would look silly in the movie, but that doesn't mean he should wear black and chrome with no real hint of Egyptian influence at all. There are two main reasons I didn't love the movie. The first is that there are a few parts in the book that when I read them I felt had a huge impact, but only one of them really worked in the movie for me.

The first moment in the book that was a total WTF moment was when Rorschach gets arrested and we find out who he actually is. If you saw the movie without reading the book, there was likely no impact here whatsoever, as you may not have even seen this character before. Rorschach is a transient who walks around during the day carrying a sign that says "The end is nigh". That guy appears three times before we find out its Rorschach, once only from behind without the sign, so he's basically a piece of furniture. I understand that they cut the "Tales of the Black Freighter" out of the movie, and that's really for the best. If there's anything that needs to be cut, that's the first thing. However, that doesn't mean that they should have cut the newsstand out of the movie entirely, because a lot happens there. Sure it's all character stuff really, but that doesn't mean that none of it matters.

One of the next big moments in the book for me was when Rorschach tells Dan that he's a good friend. Because character development was being cut, we don't really have as good a feel for Rorschach's character as we should. It was a little disappointing to see he only met with the psychiatrist once, but they handled that as well as they possibly could have given the time constraints. As an aside, I'd actually like to take this time to say that pretty much everything in prison was handled perfectly, especially the prison break scene. Of course, when he's talking to the psychiatrist and explaining when he became Rorschach it would've been nice if in his story he gave the guy a saw and set the building on fire like the book, but I understand why they changed that, what with the Saw movies and all. Anyway, I just don't think we got to see enough of how crazy Rorschach is, or how much of a transient who is, for the scene with Dan to really have the impact it should. I also think that the scene just doesn't work without Dan actually saying the words "You don't know how hard it is to be your friend" to actually make Rorschach stop and realize exactly what's going on. Maybe thinking it needs that one exact line to work is a huge nitpick, but that's how I see it.

The one of these moments that I felt actually did work is when Rorschach dies at the end. Of all the moments that I thought were supposed to have a huge impact, this one actually still worked. I think there was just enough in the movie to get across his unrelenting, uncompromising morals so that we understand why he refuses to go along with the plan and to make us feel bad for him having to die.

Now it's time to get to my biggest complaint in the movie, which is the last like 30 minutes or so. The movie starts off fantastic. The opening sequence with the Comedian as well as the credit sequence showing the history of the Minutemen was great, and it's interesting that the material that wasn't frame for frame from the comic would be some of my favourite stuff in the movie. The end, however, which was also somewhat new, really, really bothers me, starting from the moment that Rorschach and Night Owl go to Ozymandias's office.

That reminds me! Silk Specter is on the moon when this happens, and I wasn't thrilled with that scene either. I understand that the girl isn't a very good actress so they can't have her be as hysterical as she's supposed to be, but I don't like how the revelation of the Comedian as her father was handled. She sees her false memory once, then something mildly vague, and then she realizes he's her father. They never even address the fact that she was repressing and incorrectly remembering what the Comedian said in the flashback she has, so the flashback is actually pretty random. It would have added an extra 30 seconds on the movie to do the revelation properly, but it's a pretty huge moment in the story so it's worth the extra time.

Alright, back on track. So Rorschach and Night Owl go to Ozymandias's office. From this point on, seemingly out of nowhere, there's a lot of references to pharaohs and such. This could probably come across as completely random since there Ozymandias's costume is not Egyptian looking at all, and there have been no prior references. In fact, they could have cut the sex scene down 5 seconds so that someone at ANY point in the movie could mention that Ozymandias is the Greek translation of Ramses. It would also make Dan's password guess seem a lot less random. Anyway, in this room they need to find three things to make these scene work. For the sake of argument, let's call them "Blue's Clues". On the computer, Dan finds that Pyramid Deliveries is actually owned by Veidt Industries. What does Ozymandias want to do with a company that hired someone to put a hit out on him and gave a bunch of people cancer to get Dr. Manhattan out of the way? I think we need another clue! The movie, however, does not. Apparently, seeing only that information, Dan knows that Ozymandias is trying to destroy the world or something. I say thee nay! Yes, he knows something is up, but they have absolutely no idea what, whereas in the movie they seem to know exactly what's going on. But there are two more blue paw prints in the room, and they're just as important. Maybe more important! No, as important. Rorschach is supposed to discover a multiple crisis graph showing that all of Earth's problems (population, nuclear war, etc.) are going to converge at a point in the mid 1990's. Also, I don't remember whether or not they discover this in the room or we see it in a memo in the back of a chapter or something, but Ozymandias has begun his market strategy for AFTER a global disaster already. This seems fairly important in terms of making it clear he's the villain in all this. Of course, if it was a interoffice memo they can't just post it on the screen like the back of a chapter and say "Now everyone! Take a few minutes and read this, then we'll resume the story!", but it's something that could have been discovered in the room.

Oh well, they're off to Karnak anyway to confront Ozymandias. For how amazing all the visuals and cinematography of this movie were, I was pretty unimpressed by the catching the bullet scene. It looked very awkward, like Ozymandias was jumping back to dodge the bullet or something. Now that we're here, we find out his evil plan, and I think it's just awful compared to the original. In this plan, Ozymandias has created explosions to look like Dr. Manhattan did them that will just vaporize shit so he can blame Dr. Manhattan in an attempt to unite the world. The problem is, this plan doesn't work. In the book, he had kidnapped a bunch of artists and psychics and put them on an island. There, with the help of drugs so they didn't really know what they were doing, the artists designed what the monster would look like. Bubastis is supposed to serve as proof that Ozymandias can actually create what they come up with. The psychics were kidnapped to harness their crazy psychic powers so what the "alien" is teleported into the city it will send out some sort of massive psychic shockwave, killing millions.

You're probably wondering, "But Jeebus! Are these endings really different?". The answer, of course, is absolutely. The reason an extraterrestrial threat works is because it's an unknown. It died upon teleporting to Earth, probably because of the atmosphere, but so what? We don't know where it came from or what it's capable of. It killed millions of people just by dying, so imagine what will happen if more living ones come here. I mean, if they were able to travel an unknown distance to get here, certainly they could come back and find a way to not die on our planet. This is the sort of threat that would unite the entire world for generations. Americans haven't stopped talking about 9/11 after 7 years, and that was very small compared to this potential disaster. No one who was alive when this happened would ever forget so the peace would survive for generations, and their children would hopefully continue the peace because it's all they've ever known, and because it should seem preferably to all the wars and senseless death they learn about in their history books. Dr. Manhattan, on the other hand, is a known commodity. He may be God-like, but we still know what he's capable of. Not only that, he's man made, and we know HOW he was made. Sure it was an accident, but even under the veil of peace every superpower in the world would try again and again to recreate the accident and have their own Dr. Manhattan. To me, this alteration = epic fail.

Whether or not it would work, I also found the explosions to be very anticlimactic compared to what I was hoping for. The movie had no shortage of blood and gore, yet not when millions died. When millions of people were to die, we saw a ball of energy explode out with no effect, collapse back in on itself, then explode out again, this time vaporizing stuff. By contrast, in the book after Ozymandias explains that he already did it, we cut to new york. We don't see the destruction take place, because we don't need to. All we see is a pile of dead bodies with their blood pouring down a clock face just as it strikes midnight. To me, that has a MUCH bigger impact, finding out that he already set his plan in motion and then cutting to the aftermath, just a mountain of bodies and blood.

I'm sure there's more that I'm missing, but that's all I'm going to write for now. I'd like to remind everyone that I DID like this movie though, I didn't hate it like all of this may make it sound. I just wish I liked it more.

dr_jeebus@sydlexia.com

Watchmen Babies in: V for Vacation

© 2009 by Dr. Jeebus