Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BOOK + MOVIE: Watchmen

Who watches the Watchmen?

"Yes, we were crazy, we were kinky, we were Nazis, all those things that people say. We were also doing something because we believed in it. We were attempting, through our personal efforts, to make our country a safer and better place to live in." - Hollis Mason (novel)

Friends have been simply raving about the adaptation. After reading the graphic novel, my expectations of the movie are ridiculously even higher. Watchmen (novel) is simply awesome in my opinion, so the next day I plopped my lazy ass on the couch and started the movie.

The movie was three hours long so I'm guessing it's the Director's Cut, but I'm still planning on watching the Ultimate Cut which I've read is more or less 4 hours long. So, basing from the version I just watched, did the film adaptation deliver?

As a faithful adaptation, yes it delivered. It's amazing to see a graphic novel come to life the way Zack Snyder made it - every frame, even the minute details that I loved in the novel were done essentially the same way in the movie. The frame-by-frame zooming in or out was there in the movie as well. In terms of content, the movie still retained the gist of what the novel is all about but less meatier. I like Snyder's technical style, but the gloss & vibe of the movie didn't feel too 80's, which is a shame because there's something about that era that I love. Yes, in alot of ways Snyder's Watchmen did deliver (and more than enough... and better than most comicbook movies), but essentially, there's something lacking, there's something uneven in his execution.
I did love the opening credits, the history of the Minutemen was nicely summed up in a very entertaining, eye-candy way. I also love the fact that the cast were very similar to the novel's list of characters, with one or two exceptions. Like I said, it's a very faithful adaptation, even with the changed ending. So what went wrong?

It's not that the movie failed in general. This is just me. Maybe my prior knowledge about the story affected the way I regarded the film, maybe it's a typical book-to-movie expectations of those who love book versions, I don't know. This is my personal opinion and I could very well be wrong. Anyway, these are some of the things I found in the movie that didn't seem right.

For those who haven't seen or read Watchmen, this is NOT a spoiler-free environment. You've been warned. :)
Ozymandias. For me, Matthew Goode as the beautiful face of consumerism & all that is good and fit is a miscast. It's not about him as an actor, and if it was any other character or movie, he would have been great. But in the novel version, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias is a big body-building guy who was able to beat The Comedian to fruity pulp & throw him out of the window without any difficulties. Goode just doesn't seem like the guy who could do that. Also, novel-Ozy looked like a harmless guy, a retired superhero who was smart enough to quit and venture into business... and nothing else. Forgettable. Charming, unassuming face. Goode, from the get-go looked sinister. Like he had evil plans swirling around his head the moment he was born. He sneers, he smirks, he looked like someone who knows something that most do not. And that's where Goode's Ozy fails. But, I liked how he played the "assumed homosexual" part. Really nice.

Laurie Juspeczyk. Playing Silk Spectre II, Malin Akerman falls second on my Miscast List (there are only two of them on the list lol). She had her good moments & she did look alot like the novel-Laurie, but most of the time she felt flat. I liked the movie-Laurie better, but that's only because novel-Laurie is a whiny bitch who just uses her womanly wiles, whether it's intentional or not, to toy with her guys' feelings. It's interesting to note though that she is the reason for "jump-starting" both Dan's & Jon's waning passion to save the world. Although she used tears & her boobs for that. Girl power!

The ending. I had no problem with Snyder changing the alien ending of the novel into a typical "terrorist attack" angle - I guess he had to do that for easier explanation. Admittedly, the alien factor kind of surprised me a bit as well. Like woah where the hell did that come from? But I still prefer that. It's more tongue-in-cheek, has more comicbook vibe, like Ozy quoting Hitler, the bigger the lie the more believable it gets. And what's bigger than aliens, right? For me, the terrorist angle is cliched. Plus, if that's Ozy's way of uniting the world, is it really believable? Countries suddenly feeling mushy and peaceful and not blaming the U.S. for its haphazard handling of a powerful weapon (Dr. Manhattan)? The way the novel presented the alien angle & Ozy's logic, it's easily believable to unite the world against "alien invasion" rather than a terrorist mayhem, obviously, even though unwittingly, caused by one country. But that's not my real issue regarding the ending, it's actually Rorschach's ending. To me, the reason why the novel felt so perfect is because it depicted the imperfect world of vigilantes. We're all shown a dysfunctional, even sociopathic, lives behind those masks. How they fought for justice, and eventually fought against society's fear of them. And while most of them have hung their capes and went on with their "normal" lives, only Rorschach continued his fight against injustice. And that's the reason why I liked him. He is painted as a sociopath, the antithesis of a costumed hero (e.g. Bruce Wayne/Batman) - a smelly loner who lives in a dump, with an affinity for violence as a means to his end, and with a black & white view of the world. Yet, he is the real hero here. His real face is Rorschach's, Kovacs is only his alter ego. He refused to be domesticated by the government's Keene Act, because he felt the need to clean the streets reeking of evil. He never stopped being a hero. And how did Alan Moore kill him? He was blasted into pieces by Jon while Rorschach's only closest friend, Dan, is being all lovey-dovey let's-kiss-now-because-the-world-is-saved with Laurie inside Ozy's fortress. He was killed without anyone batting an eyelash. And there in lies the real tragedy, which is in continuance with the novel's theme or mood - that is the futility of everything they've worked for or they thought they were fighting for. We've seen that in the Tales of the Black Freighter, with Ozy's grandiose plan for utopia, and now with Rorschach. Like The Comedian upon figuring out what's really happening, he said it's all a joke. They're all pawns to society/government/whatever crap humans can think of, and history do tend to repeat itself, no matter what heroics have been done. And while the movie version was better for most, because of Dan's emotional reaction and Jon's hesitation before killing Rorschach which makes his death seem relevant, the fact is and my interpretation of the novel is that it IS irrelevant. Despite him being the only one who really cared for the world without any agenda, still, he is irrelevant. That's what made the novel perfect in its tragic and imperfect reality.

And now I've rambled on too much.

There are things that I really liked in movie. Carla Gugino as Silk Spectre, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. They fit in their roles perfectly and I was thoroughly entertained everytime they're included in the scenes. Patrick Wilson as Dan was good, still geeky, but a bit cooler than the novel-Dan. Dr. Manhattan is essentially the novel-doc come to life, but I was just annoyed with the glowing blue - it hurts my eyes. Oh and I love the owlship! :)

I just have to mention this, so the lesbian superhero & her lover were murdered for being "lesbian whores", and the "antagonist" is a possible homosexual. Hmmm. Is that tongue-in-cheek as well? Possibly. Hopefully. lol.

To finally end this, the novel is fantastic, not one page to throw away. And I'll say that the movie is a breath of fresh air. While The Avengers still remain my favorite ensemble cast superhero movie mainly because of its comic relief and Joss Whedon's execution (kill me now, pretentious bastards =P), Watchmen is the best adaptation in my opinion and it also stands out among all those influx of CGI explosion superpower extravaganza. But it also makes me wonder, is Snyder's adaptation really a good movie OR is it only because of the novel's intriguing content and great story? It's like re-painting Mona Lisa, maybe it could be done stroke by stroke, but is the essence really captured? Is the smile still as enigmatic? I think Snyder did a good job technically/visually-speaking, but I don't think he grasped the novel's totality or essence. But then again, can anyone do both? That is, to delve deeper into the complexity of the novel & the characters while remaining as faithful to the novel as Snyder has been?

My Rating:
(novel) - 5/5
(movie) - 3.5/5
- mainly for the technical/visuals

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