Thursday, March 12, 2009

I leave it entirely in your hands

Well, actually, I don't; I'm going to make you all sit here and listen to me blather on about the "Watchmen" movie. Hah! Lord, what a suspenseful few years waiting for this thing to get made, wondering if it was going to be any good, actually watching bits of "300" when it came on TV to try and get an idea of what director Zack Snyder might do with it. In the last few months, as the hype started to really build, I just stopped worrying. A bad "Watchmen" movie could no more affect the book than a bad novelization of "Citizen Kane" would affect that movie. It just doesn't need to be a movie. The movie doesn't matter.

So going into it with that outlook, the movie was pretty damn good. Thanks to Zack Snyder and his obsessive fanboy devotion to the source material, every scene has the right look. The cast does a nice job -- I particularly loved Patrick Wilson as Dan and Malin Akerman as Laurie, both of whom mixed vulnerability with their butt-kicking superherodom. They get the most emotional moments, which isn't saying much. It's a very cold movie. Still, they manage.

A bunch of scenes translate really well. The prison riot rocks, beginning with Jackie Earle Haley snarling, "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me." Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian in Vietnam are just fantastic. Archie looked great. The opening credits have been justly praised -- they give you a perfect sense of scale. (I missed the gay subplot between Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice, but hey, hot Silhouette action.)

What was the deal of having Laurie be a nonsmoker, though? That seemed like an oddly priggish change. I always like the bit where she mistakes the flame-thrower for a cigarette lighter. I guess designing her little smokes-of-the-future was too much of a challenge.

My big beef is with Ozymandias. Playing him as a sneering, effete fop is just not quite right. He needs to be smart but he cannot be unlikeable, at least not before the very end. I guess a bunch of his scenes got cut out, hopefully including poor Bubastis, who shows up just long enough for you to be able to check her off your faithful-to-the-source-material checklist. But the actor plays him as an obnoxious little weenie. It ain't right.

I'm also not crazy about the non-giant-squid resolution. It's not so much the squid -- I willingly concede that it would have looked silly -- but the squid was meant to be an extraterrestrial attack that would cut the Gordian knot of international conflict. Having the resolution be not only terrestrial-based but ALLIED with the U.S. is just not the same. Having the disaster be an international one doesn't help it make sense. And then you only see one world leader declaring peace at the end (that distractingly awful Nixon). It's not as satisfying.

But, you know, whatever. It's not the book. In line to buy popcorn I mentioned to Art Boy (I can't remember how this came up, but he was appalled) that in the novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back," Han doesn't tell Leia "I know." Apparently the author was bugged by that line so he wrote something more boring, like "He gave her a crooked grin and said 'Just remember that, because I'll be back.'" But really, who cares? Getting outraged about "Watchmen" is sort of like getting outraged about that. Watch "Empire." Read "Watchmen." AE out.


Kelly said...

Mr. W and I had an interesting discussion about how changing the attack changes what he sees as the most important theme of the book. I'll get it wrong if I try to replicate his reasoning, but the gist of it was that it changes Manhattan from an indifferent god figure to a vengeful god figure.

("But he didn't do it," I said. "But since Watchmen is all about how society responds to conflict, all that matters is what the public thinks," he said.)

But still, I was very relieved not to have to hear Adrian say, "Look, I genetically engineered a gigantic alien squid, transplanted a psychic's brain into it, and teleported it to New York, killing millions - I don't see what's so hard to understand about that."

Did you notice Adrian's "wandering" accent, by the way? That was actually An Acting Choice.

AE said...

How interesting about Adrian's accent! I don't know that it was the wisest of Acting Choices. He could also have grown a little mustache and twirled it.

I agree with you and Mr. W. about turning Dr. Manhattan into someone with an agenda. It makes him even more bizarre, if that's possible. And it's just, if you solve the problem using an element that was there all along, then you're not cutting the Gordian knot anymore. It probably seems like better screenwriting but it's not what Alexander the Great would have done. Also, no one is going to buy that the United States doesn't know where Dr. Manhattan is anymore, you know? I guess it sets us up for a sequel...