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Who watches the Watchmen?

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Nathan Strum

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Well, on a Friday afternoon matinee, that would have been about eight people.

 

Some 20+ years ago, I read Watchmen when it first came out as a limited series comic book. It didn't pick up the "graphic novel" moniker until a later reissue. But even during its first run, it was still widely (or wildly) heralded as a masterpiece.

 

I really don't remember much about it, other than it seemed to take forever for DC to get all twelve issues out, and after the first run-through, I don't think I ever picked it up and read it again. I think I got rid of my issues years ago. Maybe they're still in a box somewhere around here. I haven't even looked.

 

Anyway, when I first started hearing about them making a movie from it, I didn't think they could pull it off. But as footage began being released, it looked really impressive. They seemed to be really capturing the look of the original comic. I was interested in seeing what they came up with, and although I couldn't for the life of me remember what the story was about, I thought at some point during the movie, my memory would kick in and I'd remember the ending. I figured I had a pretty good chance of the film holding my interest, at least up until that point.

 

Fat chance.

 

Even while watching the film (even after a minor spoiler reminded me of who the villain was), I couldn't recall or figure out where it was going. I couldn't recall how it ended, who lived or died, or how or when. The problem was, I really didn't care, either. I didn't care about the characters, their situations, the world it took place in, the story, or how it was resolved.

 

In that regard, I think it was pretty-much like my experience with the comic book. Sure... I recognized it as being different. Ground-breaking. Maybe even a masterpiece. But I never went back and re-read it. Maybe having it drag on for twelve (or more) months wore me out, and I decided it wasn't worth slogging through it again. Maybe once the story was told, I didn't see any point in revisiting it. I don't really recall. It's one of those things where you may be able to recognize and even acknowledge something as being a masterpiece, without necessarily liking it all that much. Such was my experience with the comic book.

 

Or maybe it's just been over-hyped all these years by everyone else. I'm perfectly comfortable with either explanation.

 

So, is this movie a masterpiece, too, and I'm just missing it?

 

Nope. It's a twelve-month-long comic book story hacked up and crunched down into a three-hour-long muddled mess (and a very long three hours at that). What works in a comic book (endless backstory, inner monologues, time-hopping and plot exposition) doesn't necessarily translate well into film. Much of the film is spent hopping in and out of flashbacks, trying to cover too much ground, and ends up being confusing, badly edited, disjointed and woefully incomplete as a result. So much time is spent on character backstories, that by the time they get back to the central plot, it almost seems like an afterthought. That said, I think the film is faithful to the comic book in the sense I didn't care about any of the characters, story, or situations there, either. They're generally unlikable, unsympathetic, one-dimensional characters. The only one of interest (as he was in the original) is Rorschach (not to be confused with Horshack... which would have been cool if that's who he turned out to be under the mask).

 

The bigger issue, is that the film is already dated, because it's a essentially a cold-war era story. That's one of the things that made it so renown and powerful at the time. Many of the references from the era aren't merely dated, but obsolete. It significantly lessens the impact of the story. Also, (and I didn't find this out until after watching the movie),

they changed the ending from what it was in the comic book. No wonder I couldn't remember it.

 

 

As far as everything else goes, the special effects are generally first-rate. Except for a few minor things like a CGI tiger-thing which looks like it was animated by the guys doing The Clone Wars, and some scale problems where huge things looked more like toys. The costumes were excellent translations from the comic, and the actors looked a lot like their comic counterparts (although Nite Owl should have been fatter). Generally, the acting was very good, and at times excellent. Some of the dialogue came off as being pretty bad though, and there were times during the film where I was trying to figure out if they were trying to be serious, funny, or ironic. The makeup on some of the historical characters (particularly Nixon) was bad to the point of being distracting. The choice of music was at times questionable, and at least twice actually pulled me out of the movie. During one scene (in the owl ship) it was (probably unintentionally) funny to the point of being stupid. Some of it worked well to set the mood of specific time periods though.

 

When I found out they were releasing Watchmen in March, that set off some alarm bells. That's usually where studios bury movies they don't expect to do well. For a movie this high-profile and expensive, you would think it would be more suited as a summer blockbuster. But that's not happening. Watchmen is starting to bomb at the box office. Why? Well, for one thing, it's nearly three hours long (and there's a longer "director's cut" rumored to be coming out later). That generally will drive off audiences, unless it's a highly-anticipated release, and/or word-of-mouth on the film is excellent (The Dark Knight was only 15 minutes shorter, for example). So far, Watchmen hasn't exactly been tearing up the reviews. Also, it's an R-rated film (for good reason), which drastically cuts down the potential audience. And finally, even though Watchmen may be one of the most critically acclaimed comic books ever, once the comic geek crowd (which is relatively small) has seen it, who's left? These aren't well-know, mainstream heroes. They have no appeal outside of avid, hardcore comic fans. Even if you have a few million of those, that doesn't translate to huge box-office numbers.

 

Watchmen is a well-crafted film. It looks great. It has some good moments. But if you've never read the comic books (and even if you have), you may not find anything of interest in it. The big problem for me though, ultimately, was that I really didn't care what happened to anyone in it.

 

5/10

 

On the lighter side, if you have seen Watchmen... this is someone's idea of how it would have been translated for the small screen:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDHHrt6l4w

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I haven't seen the movie, though I might rent the Blu-Ray.

 

I first read a friend's copy of the graphic novel version in university. I guess it was good enough that I recently picked up my own copy. I find it suffers from the same problem as LoTR - too much to keep track of on the first read through.

 

I also was puzzled when I first heard they were making a Watchmen movie - too dense to adapt to the big screen. Sure, there are great scenes, but there's just too much backstory to include.

 

What I'd love to know is how the comic was created. Where all the ideas came from and how they were fitted together.

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I've just bought me a Trilogy package of the X-Men flicks and after watching them in a row again I'm now really looking forward to see a movie focusing on Wolvie ;)

 

(Just hope they do a better Sabretooth this time than the laughable X1 fleabag...)

 

I'm also hyped regarding the Avengers movie. After the recruiting scenes in Iron Man and Hulk it seems they're introducing Thor next, then Captain America and even an Ant-Man movie is rumoured. In 2-3 years everything is ready to go for the Avengers. I so hope their adversary is Ultron ;)

(Kinda hoping Ultron is introduced in Iron Man 2, albeit I think the Mandarin will be the main villain this time.)

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I liked the movie, though I liked the graphic novel as well. I wasn't into comics anymore when it came out - around that time was when I discovered the internet (usenet news groups, email, gopher, anonymous FTP sites, etc). I didn't read it until last year and read it over the course of a week instead of a year, which probably helped a lot in following the plot.

 

As for the ending,

I think it was done because of how long the movie already was and that they'd have had to spend extra time explaining the genetically engineered "alien", which they didn't have, so they went with an alternative that could be explained with a lot less screen time.

 

 

I went to a matinee on opening weekend with a friend and his fiancé. She liked it and didn't know anything about it before we went. Not sure what my friend thought - he was drugged up on pain killer, due to back problems, and fall asleep a couple times during the movie.

 

I'd probably give the movie an 8/10, and suspect the director's release would get 9/10 based on things I know they filmed that were cut.

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I've just bought me a Trilogy package of the X-Men flicks and after watching them in a row again I'm now really looking forward to see a movie focusing on Wolvie ;)

I largely lost interest in comic books years ago (I used to be an avid collector and X-Men fanatic). That's tempered my enthusiasm towards superhero movies in general. I thought the X-Men movies were pretty good, but was always disappointed it didn't have the particular group of characters I liked best from when I was reading it. (Of course, with so many characters to choose from, they'd never be able to satisfy everyone.) And frankly, even back when I was still reading comics, Wolverine was already starting to get way overexposed. Now it's just ridiculous. I like the character, but I'm not sure I want to spend $10 to see him and a bunch of third-stringers. (C'mon... Gambit?! Am I the only one who thinks he's completely lame?)

 

I'm also hyped regarding the Avengers movie. After the recruiting scenes in Iron Man and Hulk it seems they're introducing Thor next, then Captain America and even an Ant-Man movie is rumoured. In 2-3 years everything is ready to go for the Avengers. I so hope their adversary is Ultron ;)

(Kinda hoping Ultron is introduced in Iron Man 2, albeit I think the Mandarin will be the main villain this time.)

I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude with Avengers. Iron Man was excellent, but there are so many ways a large team-up movie could go bad (and Marvel has more misses than hits over the years) that I'm not holding my breath. I'm hoping they can do a good Captain America film. There's a lot of potential there for a great movie, and he's a terrific character, but the previous attempts have all been dreadful.

 

It's interesting that Marvel seems interested in "rebooting" their movie franchises, as they did with the Hulk. I've read they're also considering doing that with the Fantastic Four and Daredevil.

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(C'mon... Gambit?! Am I the only one who thinks he's completely lame?)

 

In the comics Gambit only works together with Rogue. Of course, the movies version of Rogue doesn't work at all ;)

 

It's interesting that Marvel seems interested in "rebooting" their movie franchises, as they did with the Hulk. I've read they're also considering doing that with the Fantastic Four and Daredevil.

 

Hulk got the reboot amazingly fast. Also the Punisher. It probably didn't work for the later though - last thing I heard was that it'll get a straight DVD release in Europe, they're not even trying the big screen.

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Of course, the movies version of Rogue doesn't work at all ;)

That's one of my gripes. She was one of my favorite characters back in the Chris Claremont/John Romita Jr. days. I guess now even in the comics though they took away Ms. Marvel's power from her (and the Carol Danvers neuroses that went with it). What's left? Oh hey... a character that can borrow other characters' powers. So that make her interesting for what... 30 seconds at a shot?

 

Hulk got the reboot amazingly fast. Also the Punisher. It probably didn't work for the later though - last thing I heard was that it'll get a straight DVD release in Europe, they're not even trying the big screen.

It tanked here in the states, badly. I didn't think the previous one was all that bad. I guess this is the third Punisher attempt, if you count Dolph Lundgren (and nobody really should).

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I guess now even in the comics though they took away Ms. Marvel's power from her (and the Carol Danvers neuroses that went with it). What's left? Oh hey... a character that can borrow other characters' powers. So that make her interesting for what... 30 seconds at a shot?

 

Yup. Replace Rogue with a Teenager without powers and you end up with a Teenager without powers.

Of course, just a matter of budget at the time. Thank heavens X and X² paved the way to X³, so we got that brilliant AAA X-Men battle for the final ;)

 

I didn't think the previous one was all that bad.

 

Nothing beats a scientologist in playing the bad guy ;) ;)

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Nathan, do you also like the works of Alex Proyas? All of his movies are favorites of mine: The Crow, Dark City and I, Robot.

 

Yesterday I was pretty impressed again by his newest creation, "Knowing". I think you might like it as well :thumbsup:

 

(It opened with a Trailer for Wolverine. Must see for me now! ;))

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I recently picked up the Directors Cut of Dark City on Blu-Ray. Hadn't seen it before and really enjoyed it. After reading about the changes, I'm glad my first exposure was to the Directors Cut - I liked trying to figure out what was going on and the opening voice over would have taken that away. I was surprised to see Riff Raff in it.

 

Haven't seen The Crow. Knowing looks interesting, but I haven't gotten around to see it yet. I didn't care for I, Robot - Asimov's books are amongst my favorites and way too many liberties were taken.

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I haven't seen any of his films except I, Robot. Can't say I cared much for it, as I felt it was mostly just another tired Will Smith sci-fi effort, where he plays the exact same character he always does.

 

I really don't watch a lot of movies (either in the theater or on TV). Last year's "Summer Full O' Movies" was an aberration. This year, the only films I'm currently planning to see are Up (Pixar) and Star Trek (just because I have a fascination with epically bad movies). I may go see Monsters vs. Aliens if I can find the time, but it's not high on my priority list.

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