We made the 45 mile drive to distant Alexandria to see Watchmen this afternoon. On the way there, I learned that neither Skatje nor Collin had ever even tried to read the graphic novel, so I almost slammed on the brakes and turned around to make them sit down and read it before I’d take them — but my own fanboi nature prevented me from putting off the movie any longer, so I took them anyway. The kids have been sternly instructed now that we’re home that they’re required to read it. Good thing I kept going, too — it was excellent. Where Ironman was last summer’s exhilarating carnival ride of a superhero movie, this one is the grim and intellectual anti-superhero movie of this year. Ten tentacles up!
It is true that the movie did remove the giant space squid from the ending, but — and this is rather heretical for me to say — this ending was better, and made the story even stronger. I was imp…
Wait, what’s that noise?
There’s mad-eyed bearded man pounding on my window! It’s…it’s…Alan Moore! How did he know what I was writing? I haven’t even posted it yet!
He’s broken in! He’s com…NOOOOOOOOOOO! <SQEEEEEEE> -fzzztzzzt- <crackle> *click*
Have no fear, gentle readers. I knew that would happen, and took precautions. While the enraged Mr Moore is distracted by my robot duplicate upstairs, I can continue my review from the safety of my armored bunker.
I did have some concerns. The director, Zack Snyder, last made the cartoonish 300, another adaptation of a graphic novel, and while stylish, it was also ludicrously macho to the point of camp. He may have been a good choice, after all, because what he did in that movie was slavishly translate the ludicrous machismo of Frank Miller to film — he seems to be a kind of visual mimic. What he did in Watchmen was to channel the cynicism and complexity of Alan Moore, instead, and thereby produce a movie that was cynical, complex, and interesting. There aren’t many movies that I can say I would like to see a few more times, just to pick up on the details, but this is one. Even if the ending is changed, it’s still entirely faithful to the spirit of the graphic novel.
Oh, dear. Don’t be alarmed — Mr Moore seems to have chewed through the casing of the robotic power supply, causing a rather large explosion in my living room. That must have stung!
The casting was phenomenal. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was the perfect image of the terrifying psycho — again, Snyder’s dedication to the source pays off. Heath Ledger was frightening as the Joker, but this Rorschach, who is playing a “hero” as a vengeful vigilante with an absolute moral code, is just as powerfully present. When he’s thrown in prison with a mob of criminals he was responsible for putting there, and he shouts, “I’m not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with ME!”, he’s convincingly dangerous.
Billy Crudup as Dr Manhattan has a strange role: he has been given godlike powers, and he has to play a being who is gradually losing his humanity. I thought he pulled it off. The role is key; one of the ideas Moore tries to portray…
Mr Moore is trying to batter the door to my lair down. I think I shall have to release the rabid bat-hyena chimeras; they’ll take care of him.
Anyway, as I was saying, the story is trying to address the standard superhero comic book trope of the superman, the man who is unstoppable, invincible, and nearly omniscient by showing what such a creature would be like, and what the world would be like with such a being in it. It’s not simple — the superhero certainly wouldn’t be rescuing cats from trees or stopping burglaries, he’d have much more cosmic matters on his mind, and you have to figure he’d feel a bit detached from a humanity whose members are as fragile as vapor to him. That’s an idea that the story explores.
There’s also the counterpoint. If we lived in a world where costumed vigilantes with powers that mainly seem to be enhanced combat abilities, what would we see? Moore sees it as a gateway for fascism, and I can’t much disagree with him.
These are good questions to ask, if only for the benefit of us godless folk (there is a connection!) It’s one of the questions we “New Atheists” ask: if there really were a god like the ones described in the Bible or Koran or whatever, wouldn’t the world look a bit different? Wouldn’t the existence of these kinds of beings have significant consequences, wouldn’t there be direct effects on reality that we would have to deal with? Postulate a superman or a deity, and suddenly there are all kinds of peculiarities of their apparent nonexistence that must be rationalized away…we have to pretend that such a being would be content with the occasional foiled bank robbery or tornado that misses Aunt Edna’s house.
Face it, we live in a world of moral ambiguity, where there are no simple answers, no uncompromised good guys and no unremittingly evil bad guys. And if a few individuals did have vast powers beyond the average person’s reach, it would not make the complexity vanish.
Uh-oh. He’s cut the power conduit from the fusion plant. I’m going to have to conserve my battery reserves to fire up the particle beam turrets, so sorry, I’ve got to cut this review short. Trust me, though, the movie is well worth seeing, if you don’t mind a little brutality and a rather grim moral.
Even better — read the graphic novel, Watchmen(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll).
Oh, man, I hope that appeases him a little bit.
Might be the best, and certainly the most fun review I’ve read yet. Rabid bat-hyena chimeras coming up sir. *bows*
My friends reviewing the movie said something about a Noodly Blue Appendage – does the Flying Spaghetti Monster make a cameo appearance?
Just wondering, what is your answer to this? I really don’t want to see it after that review.
Yes, it should be mandatory reading for the kids! I quite liked Spoony Experiment’s summation of the film too: http://podblack.com/?p=1276 – very much ‘get into the novel’.
I might go see this tomorrow, should read the graphic novel today in that case.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
Might have to solo it tomorrow. The wife is not convinced she wants to see it.
Can it geekier than going to see a comic book movie by yourself?
Have you read the graphic novel? It sounds, from that review, like the reviewer was simply describing the novel’s plot. It is a very grim piece of work, and very deep and complicated. It could not have been filmed without those objectionable bits, and remained true to the novel.
Of course, I have not seen the film yet, so ymmv.
Nerd of Redhead, OM says
Sounds like you’ve been hitting the root beer floats too hard PZ. Excellent review.
I’d never heard of Watchmen until you wrote about it on this blog some time ago, but you were soooo right! After seeing it today, I was stunned. An amazingly well done, culturally immersive movie with a deep, cynical, atheistic storyline. If you don’t mind, I’ll stick with the movie and skip the graphic novel.
I read the graphic novel, my wife did not, and we both saw it today (on IMAX, yay), and I agree with your notion that the ending was more effective. If the giant squid had been introduced (Easter Egg note: did you see the “S.Q.U.I.D.” on the monitor of the NYC explosive control panel?), the movie would have had to be lengthened to explain it or the explanation would have been unconvincing and unbelievable. Instead, the exact same result is manifested by quite realistically taking a character already familiar to the audience and twisting facts around to blame him. In a way, that ending seems to prove Ozzy’s great intelligence more than a genetically engineered alien squid would have.
My wife, who, again, has not read the graphic novel, agreed with that notion when I explained the original ending and showed her the squid in the graphic novel.
Regardless of all that, I’ve been calling the movie not “Watchmen,” but “Big Blue Penis Movie.”
PZ Myers says
Yes, Dr Manhattan does have a superpower not usually mentioned in those publications regulated by the Comics Code.
What, you don’t think that’s a power Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) shares? It sure seems like he would…
Have not yet seen it, but Jesusfreakingchristonapogo stick, if its remotely as good as this review, I’ll cough up the money to see it.
You totally crack me up.
::goes back to lurk mode::
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
Billy Crudup was on Jon Stewart the other night and I found him to be a pretty funny and quick witted guy. And yes there was talk about the large blue penis, which strangely enough makes me want to see the movie even more so. How often do you get to see a …
Eric Paulsen says
Yes, you could see alone and in costume.
Great review. Thanks for continuing the fun that started at 1130 this morning in a theater when a comedian died.
PZ, on a scale from 1 to Jesus, how would you rate Watchmen?
This was a fantastic review. I wish I could show it to my dad, but he’d probably freak at the kind of heathen sites I’m looking at.
Your point to the end got me thinking: has anyone written a (non-high fantasy) book (fiction or non) about what a world where God or a god did exist?
TigerHunter: Right here.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
I do have some blue paint…
Tony Sidaway says
Tonight I watched the last movie made by Robert Altman, A Praire Home Companion.
It features some of the greatest American actors and the quite unique and obviously aberrant event of a restrained performance by Kevin Kline, whom I had long ago written off as a deranged and overpaid lunatic, He redeems himself by a performance in which he does not scream more often than is required by the part.
It is set in a cinema in St Paul, Minnesota, and appears to be based on some aspects of a real life radio show set in the same town.
It’s so weird, as oppisite as I am politically to the Comedian and Rorschach, I find them to be incredibly endearing. I just like them, I suppose it’s just a testimony to Moore and Gibbons’ skill.
I think I’ll become a costumed crusader, I’ll be Atheist Girl.
Too true for many of those who watched it in the theater with me. There must have been a lot of unsuspecting youth, dating couples and possibly parents that expelled uncomfortable giggles at the sight of Dr. Manhattan in the quantum flesh, followed by another bout of squeamishness when Laurie and Dan embraced, uncensored, on the Mars landscape (I think it was).
I’ve seen it repeated many times that the film adaptation’s ending is better than the original’s since well before the movie came out, but the reasoning behind it is always severely lacking.
The mechanism of the adaptation’s ending is MORE FAMILIAR to the audience, therefore better? That’s squarely missing the entire concept of the plan in the original work.
Does that really count as non-high fantasy?
Tony Sidaway says
By the way, BBC America will soon be showing Being Human.
Hank Fox says
I saw a review on ABCNews.com, and the reviewer, Claudia Puig, didn’t get the movie at all.
The title of the review is “Watchmen forgettable after opening blast.”
“As the story proceeds, however, it grows plodding, convoluted and forgettable.”
“[Dr. Manhattan] struts around buck naked, bathed in a startling shade of indigo from head to toe, resembling a radioactive and NC-17-rated member of the Blue Man Group.”
Near the end, she used the word “campy,” and compared the movie to “Catwoman.”
I tried to leave a comment, but ABC seems to have taken to heavily moderating comments, and they frequently delete the ones they don’t like. My comment appeared, then vanished.
Even so, is this the best reviewer ABC News could get??
I thought the movie was riveting, every minute of it.
“Your point to the end got me thinking: has anyone written a (non-high fantasy) book (fiction or non) about what a world where God or a god did exist? ”
Would Piers Anthony, Neil Gaiman books count?
(sorry, was referring to #19 in #25 above)
Watchmen was 27 different shades of awesome (and definitely worth watching in Imax). Hopefully it will be the box office success it deserves to be, so that Zack can get around to finishing Sin City 2.
GAZZA: Ah, I didn’t actually read TigerHunter’s request that carefully. For that matter, the His Dark Materials does sort of have a God. It’s just my instinctive answer to questions like “what’s a good fiction book aimed at an atheist worldview.”
I come here for the science. I stay for the stereotypically nerdishe ancillary stuff.
Bullet Magnet says
He’s broken in! He’s com…NOOOOOOOOOOO!
I really thought that a member of the Combine Overwatch had been killed then.
Robert Sawyer wrote Calculating God (which is SF). It’s not a great book, but it has an interesting twist: it takes all of the anthropic principle stuff that creationists love, and posits that they are indeed the result of a superpowered entity… except the entity neither needs nor wants worship, and of course has nothing to do with the God of the bible. But this God does have an agenda, a reason for what it has done in creating a universe that can have and does have life.
Indeed, looking at the title, it can be seen as having multiple meanings: The God of the story is indeed calculating.
Not highly recommended, but of potential interest if you are interested in that sort of thing.
Bronze Dog says
Just got back from watching it, myself. It was awesome, and I agree on the ending change. It puts the story together in a nice, tighter package.
Tom Woolf says
I liked PZ’s review of a good moving. Very good – I might just have to see it again (once or twice).
Fair Warning – there are spoilers below (well, maybe not directly, but references to the graphic novel that were not identical in the movie)
It followed the graphic novel, oh, I’d say 80%. 15% was missing (sadly, a somewhat meaningful 15%) due to time constraints, and 5% changes. Those changes, like the missing psychic squid, were also probably victims of time.
I do think they could have squeezed in the squid with only 5 minutes. After all, the squid’s creation and the Comedian’s explanation how he found out what was happening did not consume many pages in the novel. If Micheal Bay had directed Watchmen, he would have found time for an exploding ship…
(Calm down fanboys and fangirls – that was a joke. A dirty, cruel, mean joke, but a joke nonetheless.)
BTW – if you read the review linked to by Flamehorn (#3), I’d take that review with a huge grain of salt. Sexism aside (yeah – both Silk Spectres dressed scantily, but name a comic book heroine who does not… better yet, name any comic character who’s bulging chest – whether breasts or pecs – aren’t shown off), his review reeks of somebody taking notes, glancing at the screen, taking notes, glancing…. throughout the whole movie with an eye on a deadline rather than in delving into a story. He’ll change his mind when he watches it again, or reads the graphic novel.
I really thought that a member of the Combine Overwatch had been killed then
That it isn’t is given away by the lack of a pleasant computer voice in the background giving status reports…
“Anticitizen Myers engaged. Expunge. Mandate removal of active signiture imprint”
What about parallels to the “war on terrah”? I saw a clip where one character says something like “even if Jon can stop 99% of the attacks — that 1% is all the bad guys need”, or something. I vomited a little; those are the exact words Bush administration officials parroted endlessly, to justify their excesses. I saw an interview of the director, where he says that the movie is faithful to the book, but it’s also “relevant to today’s struggles” (paraphrase).
Phew. I’m still going (tonight), but I’m a bit nervous about that angle.
Come for the superheroes, stay for the blue wang.
Ordered my tickets, I will be seeing this tomorrow. yay for Canberra Day!
To Flamethorn @3:
Without knowing anything about that reviewer past this particular review, frankly, I think he made a lot of poor assumptions and dismissals that poisoned the movie for himself. Such as “the characters are all assholes” instead of giving any consideration to their viewpoints. And two comments: “The movie seems to be pretty harsh on ‘liberals’ as well” and “There is a lot of sexism in this movie” tell me that he’s confusing the story showing something versus condoning it. Besides, that narration condemning liberals is from Rorschach’s point of view, and it’s clear very early that we’re listening to someone extremely biased if not outright cracked.
Watchmen, either book or film, is a very scary, harsh, ugly place to be. It’s a tragedy about how power, even super-power, doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. I think this reviewer went in expecting something more escapist, and I’m not at all surprised that he would react like this. I also happen to think that the movie didn’t do a sufficient job of highlighting the few glimmers of hope that contrast with the sea of darkness. Those of us familiar with the graphic novel are drawing on support of humanity that couldn’t easily fit into a movie framework.
I’d still recommend it, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
I personally though that the film failed, for the most part, to capture the spirit of the book. I thought it was comparatively bland, and lacked the subtlety of the novel at almost every turn. There were some fantastic bits — Rorschach was great — but mostly it came off more as a visual summary, plowing through plot points without actually managing to tell the story.
But I’m genuinely glad you enjoyed it so much, PZ. And I agree with you that the new ending is actually more appropriate, and brings everything together, better than the squid.
Glad you liked it, PZ. See? Hitler’s outrage was for nothing–he’s still a lunatic even when it comes to film criticism.
Bill Anderson says
Ediacaran @ #2:
You didn’t say exactly what your friend’s comment was concerning a “Noodly Blue Appendage,” and the thought occurred to me that it’s possible they watched the movie at the same theater and at the same time as PZ & Company, and the Noodly Blue Appendage may have belonged to someone in the audience who couldn’t keep it in his pants (sorry, PZ, but it sounded too funny to me).
Ian Watson says
PZ, I’d like to point out for your edification that the Veidt/Manhattan/McGuffin device is named, although the name is only in the background and flashes by rather quickly.
Sub Quantum Unifying Intrinsic Device
Rick R says
“The director, Zack Snyder, last made the cartoonish 300, another adaptation of a graphic novel, and while stylish, it was also ludicrously macho to the point of camp.”
Heh. I worked on “300” and you’re so right! When I first saw the footage I turned to another artist (also a gay man) and muttered “it’s a 200 million dollar Colt magazine!”
I thought it was fantastic and it is one of only a handful of movies that I would pay to see over and over again. I just wish we had it on IMAX here. Also, as a female, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to finally enjoy some male full frontal. Yay!
Rick R says
Jackie Earle Haley may be coming back in interesting adult roles, but to me he’ll always be “the feral kid” with mad slingshot skills in 1977’s hilariously awful sci-fi epic “Damnation Alley”.
When is that thing coming to DVD?
Blake Stacey says
Fiction in which God is real?
The Preacher comics take the position that anybody who has done even half the things which the Biblical God gets credit for needs to be brought to justice double-quick. The first man who gets the opportunity — the titular preacher, who fuses with the halfbreed spawn of an angel and a demoness — decides to bring God to account, Texas-style, with the aid of his gun-toting girlfriend and alcoholic vampire sidekick.
Then, of course, there’s Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Fewer vampires, but also with their own merits.
Romeo Vitelli says
Considering what Hollywood did with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore has no reason to batter down PZ’s door over this new movie. I haven’t seen it yet but my impression is that the ones who like it tend to be the ones who actually read the graphic novel. People coming to it without any introduction to the Mooreverse seem to end up confused.
Glad you enjoyed it PZ, thisparticular fanboi didn’t.
Oh, and didn’t you know that that best way to keep a raging Moore at bay is to release the crocoducks?
I didn’t realise that was a bush reference. Maybe I’ll notice more of that stuff slipped into the film later, but for now the only one I can remember is the extreme right wing newspaper not doing a story on Ronald Reagan’s (deferred) campaign because “Nobody wants a cowboy in the White House”
I’d have thought regular ducks would be enough to hold Moore off.
Blake Stacey says
There’s the short story “Hell is the Absence of God” by Ted Chiang.
Sven DiMilo says
There’s this one, but it gets mixed reviews.
Posted by: Broggly | March 8, 2009 12:41 AM
I’d have thought regular ducks would be enough to hold Moore off.
Hah, thanks for that link, I hadn’t seen it before.
Moore wouldn’t be half as entertaining if he was sane.
Oh man it’s nice to be around people that are as big of nerds as me.
Double post, sorry, but I just had a thought. If LC (#36) is right, and the Universal Union really is stealithily in control of the US government, then wouldn’t that make Dawkins Anticitizen one? You know, seeing as how they’re trying to ban him from Oklahoma.
Good thing you didn’t let the absence of squidage turn you away. Great film, glad you liked it.
Long time reader, first time poster here. I saw Watchmen a few hours ago, and I’m in desperate need of a place to geek out about it. I like the graphic novel, which I read years ago. I didn’t re-read it before I saw the movie, though I did consider about doing so. I ultimately decided that I wanted to see if the movie could stand on its own. I think PZ’s review is pretty much spot on. I enjoyed the movie thoroughly, and I think I may need to see it again before it leaves the theater (something I almost never do).
My feeling is that Snyder stayed tremendously close to the spirit of the story that the graphic novel told, although not to the goals that Moore had for it. My understanding has always been that Watchmen was supposed to be a commentary on the medium, and I don’t think it’s possible for that to be captured in a film. I have absolutely no issue with that. I think Snyder did a fantastic job with the story, overall. Certainly the casting was dead on. Where the hell has Jackie Early Haley been for the past twenty years? I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for anyone to make Rorschach a sympathetic character, but he pulled it off. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the film felt neither rushed nor overly long, despite coming in at just under three hours. It was very well paced.
I do have one quibble with the review though. Amusing as it was, you can’t possibly expect us to believe that Alan Moore would waste his time going after a mere fanboy. I can only assume that you’re letting the fact that Einstein was talking about you years before you were born go to your head.
I enjoyed the movie too, especially Jackie Earle Haley’s performance, but I didn’t like the new ending. It just didn’t make sense to me. Veidt’s plan was to create a catastrophe in order to unite the world. The squid made it seem like the world was under attack from an external force and thus the world could unite to face this new outside threat. But that doesn’t work with a Dr. Manhattan frame-up. If the world were on the brink of nuclear war and then America’s atomic superman went nuts and blew up some cities, why would that unite everyone? Wouldn’t that just make the world pissed off at America? Also, why did Bubastis exist? Wasn’t she a byproduct of the genetic experiments that produced the squid? Also, how did the comedian find out about Veidt’s plan if there were no secret island research facility or exploding ship?
Im intrigued to see there is also a brandnew animated movie version available,this doesnt seem very widely known…
Watchmen,the complete motion comic[/u] !
Ryan F Stello says
Drat, you just beat me to it.
Anyway, yes, the motion comic was phenomenal.
Voice talent was great, even though they used a male voice for female characters (how could they not have a budget for another actor or two?)
It’s a great way to kill an afternoon.
I am going to see it tomorrow. To many of my fellow Atheist and co-workers have seen it and while some (the fanboys) have complained on “NO Squid!”, I will still see the film. I have sadly not read the novel (Graphic), but will soon.
Anyway love the banter here.
Dr Kermode’s less ecstatic view
Kristjan Wager says
I need to get hold of that movie, just to see how much they slaughtered Roger Zelazny’s book.
the new ending did not make any sense. If they think its an unstoppable force why the hell would human kind unite to fight it? I thought the whole reason they decided on peace was because they could fight the squids in some capacity upon returning.
The gore was over the top, and is it really that hard to find a guy that looks like richard nixon? wtf was up with the sound track? 99 BALOONS???!! I was not really enjoying how the movie turned out. All the time eaten up by stupid slow mo and stringy bloody meat being exploded could have been used to develop the characters. or, you know, do the black freighter thing.
Tiger Hunter @ 18
Yeah, it’s called autobiography of scooter, and I wrote it you puny ignorant mortal.
Now get back on your knees before I poof you out of my sight!!!
Rick R, I got a great laugh out of your comment:
Ironically, South Park parodied the Film by turning it into a total dyke fest, so I laughed again remembering that.
Pontus Reed says
The biggest question I was asking myself as I left the theater:
Is order really more important than truth?
Apparently the smartest man in the history of the world and Dr. Manhattan thought so. I am still struggling to decide whose side I would be on in the final climatic scene. Each character seems to take a significantly unique stance.
Josh Lewis says
Was it turned into splatter porn?
I hear all these things about the slow motion fights and the gore. The Comic served up heaping helpings of blood and gore but I don’t think the co-creators loved blood or fetishized it.
Now it’s in hollywoods hands, you know the people who make a 300, a saw, a hostel.
Were you in the theater enjoying a deep movie next to a patron watching some well filmed cheap killing to keep him tied over until Saw 5?
Mr thalarctos had read the book years ago; I read it only in the week before we went to the movie.
One of my first reactions upon reading it was omigod, Bush was handed that exact scenario on a platter, and he squandered it. Mr thalarctos had thought a lot about the book in the aftermath of 9/11; I only now get why that’s so.
I think your point is one of the reasons the Twin Towers were so prominently framed in the shots featuring the New York skyline, especially from Veidt’s office.
Saw it today with one of my kids, we loved it.
I’ve read much of Moore’s works, but nothing all the way through due to eye problems, and tiny writing in Graphic Novels.
I know enough to recognize this is certainly the best film yet to capture the paranoia, and edginess that drove the original works.
I don’t know shit about the squid, so I didn’t miss it.
I thought the plot was logical enough, and the ending was dodgy, but it held together for me, create a common enemy, unite the world, it’s been done hundreds of times in Sci Fi.
Actually, I was more bothered by how the watchpeople moved so fast, and were so strong they could beat the shit out of everybody no matter how out numbered or out gunned.
If you have somebody who can catch bullets out of the air, there should be some passing explanation other than he’s the ‘smartest person in the world’.
Aside form that, I was willing to suspend disbelief on all the other stuff, and plot holes because the film was just waaaaay cool, stylistically, visually, was really well acted, and delivered what was intended, it was on point.
I recommend seeing it in the theatre, it’s worth it.
I’m not a fan of gore, and I only had to squinch once when they cut a guy off at the arms with a carburendum blade in a power grinder, that was a bit rough.
There was a lot of other violence, but it was more stylized, not the nauseating kind.
prismatic, so prismatic says
per zaardvark / March 8, 2009 12:00 AM:
The context of the book makes it seem fairly clear that Moore is commenting on SDI, a big issue during the 1980s; Dr. Manhattan is antagonistic to the Soviets (and spurs them to simply build a large enough number of warheads to overwhelm his efforts) in much the same way SDI was expected to be antagonistic to the Soviets in our universe (with the same countermeasure expected). But the film could have been clearer about the parallel, perhaps.
per Pteryxx / March 8, 2009 12:05 AM:
Good comments in that post. The last snippet above leads to one of my main quibbles–the characterization of Ozymandias. Not only is he supposed to be the world’s smartest man ™, he’s also supposed to pretty much be the world’s coolest dude. We didn’t really get a sense of that–instead, the most memorable window into his background and personality involved him telling Lee Iacocca to get bent. Instead, we should have gotten a sense of him as warm and truly “good” in almost every surface manner, and either more visibly conflicted about his actions or more visibly satisfied with himself about them. I think probably that actor didn’t make the greatest choices in how he worked with what he was given, but it was a script problem first and foremost.
per jp / March 8, 2009 1:53 AM:
Regarding the last point: Veidt’s disclosure made it clear that Blake was actually *in* on the plan, but had a “change of heart,” prompting Veidt to silence him. But the rest of your points definitely carry weight. While the framing of Dr. Manhattan creates more dramatic unity and was more satisfying in that way, it seems to me that the invocation of an external threat–and the fact that it was deployed only onto an American city–would create a very different decision matrix for the Soviets. It’s this that concerns me more than the mere absence of the squid itself… though I was *really* hoping to hear some of Linette Paley’s music, too.
At a theater near me the sign out front reads:
Well, this was the script that had Alan Moore saying it was the closest yet to source material and from what I’ve seen and heard so far it really does seem to capture the essence of a work that actively resists any other medium.
Hopefully this will lead to more work for both Zack Snyder and David Hayter. Maybe even a revival of the Black Widow project so we can finally have a decently written superheroine movie.
@45 (Rick): thanks for that, you made me choke on my coffee. awesome.
@75 (Gonzo): and a second round of monitor spray. I’m so telling that to my boyfriend. He’ll die.
“wtf was up with the sound track? 99 BALOONS???!! ”
You may want to learn what 99 Baloons was about. The soundtrack actually does fit the movie’s alternate earth five minutes to nuclear world war 3 motiff.
As for uniting against Dr. Manhatten remember until then it had only been the Soviets fighting against him so with the rest of the world including the United States it would be possible to come up with weapons to wipe him out if he ever returned or such beings came back. It’s how all Oz handles the media plus hey he is a famous inventer he could proclaim to invent the tools needed to prevent him coming back with some conditions put in place that would stop the US and Russia being at each other’s throat.
I hear Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written a whole bunch of them! (just kidding)
The long abandoned webcomic Apocamon was pretty interesting – and part four happens to have a giant squid thing…
I’ve only just finished reading the graphic novel and I’m hoping to persuade some friends to come and see the film with me.
Did the lesbian characters from the novel make it into the movie?
The only other Moore I have read (so far) is V for Vendetta. The part of that where Evey reads Valerie’s letter is one of the few things that is guaranteed to make me weep. (I don’t cry about real life things much, this is probably indicative of some weird personality disorder, but meh :D )
I thought the music was one of the best things about the movie. You’d hear something oh-so-familiar wafting in through your subconscious, and then bam! you realise that “Everybody wants to rule the world” is playing in the background as Veidt explains why big oil can’t stop him bringing free energy to the world.
In a way, I think they were using the music to do what the interleaving of different story panels did in the comic. Namely, creating associations and juxtapositions of thematic tones.
The worst thing about the movie were the prepubescents in the theatre who wouldn’t shut up about Big Blue Dong. Cue Bill Hicks: “A miracle is raising a child who won’t talk in a movie theatre.”
Try ‘Good Omens’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, great book, very funny. Maybe not quite what you’re looking for my I can never pass up the opportunity to recommend it.
Did anyone else think that just before he was exploded, Rorschach’s mask blot turned the shape of a squid?
So…They go on about the fact that it’s all about oil and energy and that Oz and the Doc are racing against time to solve the energy problem by finding out how Doc does his thing before a international tensions over oil lead to a nuclear exchange that destroys many major urban centers.
And then Oz figures out how Doc does his thing and rather than say “Dudes, chill, because, hey! I got genuine Doc Juice over here – Manhattans all round” he uses this awesome source of new energy to blow the crap out of many major urban centers.
Did I miss something, or is that pehchance the teeniest of plotholes?
Kaela Mensha Kaine says
Totally out of order and diskussion, but I had to scroll down and write.
Seldom enough, that I do something like that – I have to congratulate. What a marvelous example of fine work.
Mr Allan Moore, I salute you. A furious rampage of maniacal violence against property, hybrid-lifeforms and artificial intelligence, created only for the purpose of sacrificing it to the benefit of its cruel creator I have never witnessed
Posted this on the other thread, but I thought I’d move it over here.
This was Ebert’s take on the film. He seems to “get it”.
To be honest, I find the taste of the Americans and even the American elites quiet shallow when it comes to movies.
I read PZ’s review and I’m not impressed. I would certainly think it is a better movie than say 300, but 300 was a piece of shit to begin with.
At best, it looks like an action movie with bits of philosophical shit scattered in it. Apparently, in US that counts as a great movie.
So, no, I am not impressed and I doubt the movie will convey anything of value to me.
I can’t tell if Lotharloo is trolling or not. There’s this weird kind of lashing out at Americans for no apparent reason, and some weird comment about the American elite? Who is in that group? Is PZ an American elite?
Besides, it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy working retail, a politician, a professor, whatever. People like what they like. Different stories and genres appeal to different people, and while you may not like it, it’s kind of childish to declare their taste “shallow.”
As for movies conveying value to you, sure, there are those that do that. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy lighter fare. Some people watch movies to be entertained or to think about things they wouldn’t otherwise consider. If a “shallow” movie like Watchmen can do that, what’s the harm?
Into the Netflix queue it goes!
And let’s hope PZ is still with us!
Phoenix Woman says
Mermaid, the big irony here is that Alan Moore is utterly and defiantly English (not British, and certainly not a Yank). So Lotte Lenya’s attempt to wave around a Blue Noodly Appendage of Moral and Cultural Superiority over Those Icky Americans just crashed on the Shoals of Fail.
Oh, by the way, has anyone linked to this completely insane… review(?) by some conservative nutjob? http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2009/03/the_watchmen_li.html
I GUESS she’s really serious, but it’s so hard to tell. If the whole site isn’t satire, this woman is monstrously stupid.
There’s one point where she basically says “Sure, one character utters a line mocking the liberals and the intellectuals, but it’s not enough to redeem this movie” or something along the lines.
Yeah, take that, liberals! And… intellectuals? Wait, what?
She also doesn’t seem to understand that just because a character says something in the movie doesn’t mean that this character speaks for the movie or its message as a whole.
No, it is not. I presume you agree that people can hold childish beliefs but apparently you think they cannot have shallow tastes. As with any topic, there are grey areas but it is absurd to suggest that one cannot rate say Backstreet boys’ music below say Stavinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.
As with Americans, it is my personal belief based on 1) there are very few independent good American directors 2) the major American studios produce rarely anything of value 3) the critics are often equally absurd (with results reflected in Oscars) and 4) my personal anecdote.
I agree people can have childish beliefs and this is problematic if they aren’t children.
On the other hand, I don’t think it’s shallow for an adult to enjoy a children’s story. Some of the most enduring stories we have are adaptations of simple fables and fairy tales. If you can find something to enjoy by taking a story on its own terms, more power to you.
Take those Twilight books, for example. I think they’re completely awful and poorly written. But on the other hand, there may be things in those books that appeal to someone who reads it, even if it is only one person. Maybe they find something that resonates with them on a personal level and leads to some sort of epiphany in their own life. Personal, I find that extremely unlikely (I really hate Twilight), but then again, different people in different walks of life enjoy different stories and, more importantly, need different stories at different times.
Of course, it’s possible that this person might go on and read more intellectual stories, but is it really wrong or shallow to enjoy “fluff” books for the sake of entertainment? Even the most clumsy story might have the effect, unintended or not, of creating empathy in someone or allowing them to see things from the hypothetical point of view of another person. And we certainly need more of that.
I mean, to an extent, I get what you’re saying about “shallow taste,” but on the other hand, it comes off like Jeff Daniels in The Squid and Whale when he declares that a Dickens story is “minor Dickens.” It just seems like snobbery for the sake of it.
Your inability to share an opinion without spitting bile leads me to believe that you may actually like Watchmen.lol
Of course most Hollywood movies ar crap. That’s not news to anyone, but sometimes you get a good one. I love when people spew this crap as if they’re the only ones who get it. Man, that’s just so pretentious.
Anyway, I adgree on 300. That was a shiny turd of a film. It’s also the main reason I didn’t know what to expect from Watchmen. My fears turned out to be unfounded.
There were certainly things I’d like to have changed about the film. I felt the addition of gore wasn’t needed, and the sex scene was dragged out too much. It seems that he could have cut those things and it would have left more time to flesh out the back stories on Rorschach and Dr. M.
All things considered, I thought it was fantastic.
Can’t wait to see the extended cut on dvd.
“By making our explanation into the definition of the condition to be explained, we express not scientific hypothesis but belief. We are so convinced that our explanation is true that we no longer see any need to distinguish it from the situation we were trying to explain. Dogmatic endeavors of this kind must eventually leave the realm of science.” (Ronald Brady)
I (in my shallow, American opinion) give the movie 4 stars.
For those who are providing analysis and critique of the movie without seeing it (or even reading the graphic novel whence it came), you should really _see_ the movie first before you do so.
[snip rant regarding overrated classic music and boring ancient poetry]
Nerd of Redhead, OM says
Yawn, Simple Simon the boring Lieman. If you don’t like science and atheism, go elsewhere. And you, being a lieman, will never change our minds. You have no credibility left after your bad start.
To Sam #84:
Well, the underlying assumptions aren’t directly stated. First off, is it even reasonable to think that free unlimited energy = human nations are all friends now? Or does it just mean they’ll find other excuses for their warring… such as religion? Or revenge, or perceived insults? Would someone of Ozy’s intelligence really believe such a naive statement?
Second, historically, any scientific advance that can possibly be used as a weapon, has been used as a weapon, up to and including Doc Manhattan himself (in several ways). It’s interesting that Doc, the witnesses, and the scientists involved all buy into Ozy’s story about building the means to save the world, compelling as it is.
But Ozymandias himself knew from the beginning that free energy was just a cover for learning to duplicate and weaponize Godlike powers. Ironically, his use of those powers through a desire to save humanity is at least as horrible as Doc Manhattan’s actions through a lack of humanity.
#69 “Is order really more important than truth?”
I was asking the same question at the end of Dark Knight. In both cases a character was blamed for something he didn’t do in an effort to keep things from getting worse. As deranged Rorschach is, as Atheists we should agree with him. People take comfort in god, but it’s a lie. The truth can hurt, but that shouldn’t be a reason to keep it hidden. But Watchmen had larger stakes. The truth could indirectly destroy the world. I don’t know if I could keep my “truth above all” belief. Maybe eventually (as in several generations).
The movie itself was great. I liked how they picked the music. It fit so well when I noticed it. The violence/gore was shocking at times. The only thing I really objected to was seeing a family sitting two rows in front of me with little kids. I think the mother brought two of younger ones (under 8) out. If she complained, I would have been pissed. The movie is rated R for good reason. If AO wasn’t the kiss of death for movies, Watchmen would have deserved it.
“the rabid bat-hyena chimeras”
Wow. You’ve got to post the genome for those!
“If you don’t like
sciencefiction and atheism, go elsewhere.”
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
Do you have a point?
'Tis Himself says
A creationist is whining because he hasn’t made any converts in the past couple of days. It’s that damn rationality, logic and [hack, pooie] science that keeps getting in the way of all the atheists coming to Jebus.
I thought the altered ending was perfect — for a movie. I’d hate to see the squid and squid-related subplot snipped out of the graphic novel, though. And I think it’s ridiculous to say the movie’s ending is “better.” Different media. Movies have time and pacing constraints that graphic novels don’t have. An added layer of complexity can be delightful in a novel but confusing and unworkable in a screenplay.
And Lookyloo, you’re an asshole. Fuck off.
I also thought the Comedian’s murder was undermotivated (in the film.)
(Not that he didn’t need killin, cause he did.)
A nit, and one of the things I didn’t like about the movie: No one except Dr. Manhattan was supposed to have any kind of powers. Everyone else was just a good fighter, or in Ozymandias’ case, as good a fighter as a human can be (in the pinnacle-of-achievement way). The violence was overdone, especially in how much punishment people could take, and it detracted a little from the examination of “what if real people did this kind of thing?”.
Morgan — Exactly right. I loved the movie, except for exactly that. There needed to be a contrast between Ozymandias’ nearly-but-not-quite-superhuman abilities and the more ordinarily human abilities of the other folks. They were just too actionmovie kickass.
More origin/backstory on Oz would have been nice. They kept calling him the world’s smartest but underemphasized his athletic perfectionism.
Incorrect. New term: “Chekov’s gun”. Learn it, love it.
As noted above, Good Omens is an excellent, dark, funny book rooted around the Apocalypse. There’s also Niven/Pournelle’s remake of Inferno, which merges the structure, commentary and humor of Dante’s work with a sort of humanist apologia for the cruel Catholic deity. In comics, obviously there’s Preacher as mentioned above, as well as Hellraiser (the basis for the movie Constantine).
Most of these focus on the actions of angels and demons, for the obvious reason that it’s literally impossible to write the ineffable Abrahamic deity. If you’re willing to accept more pagan, limited gods then a wide vista opens up. On it, I’d point out: Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, which revolves around a conflict between the Norse gods who were created immortal and wish they weren’t, and most of Neil Gaiman’s stuff.
I ordered the graphic novel friday… I should get it this monday. Since it’s all I hear about since a few months I figured I should read it before taking my eyes on the movie. And it does sound like my type of thing.
Am I the only one who’s always wanted to see a movie version of Preacher?
As in, “Drop dead.” How cool would that be?
Or when he told the sherriff to go fuck himself.
From the article linked to from Flamethorn @#3
“pick any over-done cliche war song from the 60’s that they like to stick in Vietnam movies and it was there. That, in and of itself wasn’t so terrible bad (again, it might have been intentional) but the fact that they engineered it so it was the loudest fucking thing ever was really annoying to me (particularily since I think that the movie theatres have the sound too loud in the first place).”
As I worked as a manager at a movie theater for a couple years, I stopped reading after that. Almost everyone who complains about the sound being too loud in a theater, complains about everything they can possibly devise a reason to complain about. Therefore, I knew the rest of the review was going to be a lot of needless complaints from a miserable human being who just wants to spread as much misery as possible. I can do without that in my life.
If Dr Myers still retains sufficient vital signs to read this; may I recommend you stop trying to use mere technology to defend yourself against Mr Moore, it won’t work.
As someone not entirley unfamiliar with grouchy English chaos magicians, I suggest you collect together all the beer, wine, spirits, household chemicals and a choice selection from your, no doubt voluminous, collection of cephalopod erotica and place them in a big pile next to a comfy seat.
That should calm him down, eventually.
Want something horrible to look at?
Andrew McGrae says
The “cowboy” line was in the original comic (although talking about Robert Redford, who had been referred to as RR a few times before).
For the most part I liked the movie but I doubt I would have followed the plot if I hadn’t read the graphic novel.
I agree with Morgan. I thought a lot of the poignancy of the novel derived from the fact that the “superheroes” were just regular people. Some with better equipment or training and some not. For that reason I was disappointed in the slo-mo violence.
Also, like someone way up-thread pointed out, Dr. Manhattan was aggressively claimed by the Americans. Wouldn’t having him turn on the world, turn the world against America?
My husband and I were surprised that they didn’t update the plot a bit or at least provide more context for the kids who weren’t around in the 80’s. I don’t think it would have been that hard.
“My husband and I were surprised that they didn’t update the plot a bit or at least provide more context for the kids who weren’t around in the 80’s. I don’t think it would have been that hard.”
Good grief then there would have been a hundred times the hatred. The story takes place in an alternate 80s.
“Wouldn’t having him turn on the world, turn the world against America? ”
Which is why he was framed to attack America. The rest of the world was already against America why would that make it any worse?
“Some with better equipment or training and some not. For that reason I was disappointed in the slo-mo violence. ”
If they have better training and equipment then of course they are going to be faster in combat. This happens in the real world and pretty much the only way to see it on video footage is to slow down the action.
” No one except Dr. Manhattan was supposed to have any kind of powers.”
Inherent supernatural powers maybe. Powers granted by technological gadgets and innovatitive tech yeah sure they were supposed to have that.
One of the reasons vigilantes got outlawed was because they were using unlicensed expiermental technologies.
Oz due to his company and coming out in public would have the legal means to have such tech be secret and put to his own use.
On the presenting “God” in comics, Lucifer actually did a pretty interesting job. It even had a comic episode where a character is filling the God role and the difficulties in trying to manage actual free will and the undeniably God-like actions taken to prevent casualties based on things like the Conquistadors, etc… It also argues for the case that even if there was a God, we’re pretty much on our own so shouldn’t be relying on that deity.
Also when Lucifer rules the world, he outlaws worship of anyone including himself to prevent the stupid fighting and limitations of the other universe.
A couple of those comic book artists have gone on to do full length novels exploring similar themes of what a God-Devil feud would actually be like and about.
To Pteryxx #98
Good thinking – clearly I was focusing too much on plot points and not enough on the larger picture. Thanks for taking the time :-)
Just wondering, what is your answer to this?
Honestly flamethorn, the review you link to is pretty silly and simpleminded. I have no problem with people either liking or not liking the movie (I myself thought it was just OK) but the reviewer seems to have missed the boat entirely and is considering the film within a set of philosophical frameworks that cannot reasonably contain the themes presented within the narrative. For example, this:
Rorschach has such a dim view of humanity, I don’t know why he bothers to be a “hero” at all.
is such a bizarre formulation, I had to reread the review to be sure it wasn’t a spoof. To pose such a question is to indicate, very succinctly, that one doesn’t really understand the fundamental themes present in the story. The entire point of Moore’s story is to complicate our definition of the term hero and explore the motivations of its characters. To state that one doesn’t know why Rorschach “bothers” as if that is a criticism of the story is essentially the same as saying that the story holds no meaning for you at all.
Yes. One of the aspects of this movie that I enjoyed was how it dared to subvert heteronormative sensibilities in several ways including through the character of Silhouette seen only in brief flashbacks. A memorable scene with Silhouette is the reenactment of this iconic photo, Silhouette replacing the sailor.
Lotharloo commented on how America-centric the movie was, but I actually think it heavily critiqued dominant White America. Comedian, for instance, while in the midst of shooting innocent civilian protesters, says of the American Dream, “It came true. You’re looking at it.” I would even guess that the atrocious Nixon makeup was deliberate to show how silly it would all be if the American Dream came true.
Another thing that seems to be missed by some people is that Adrian, under the guise of Dr. Manhattan, disintegrated Moscow, Hong Kong, and several other major cities, not just New York. Adrian made humanity unite against what they saw as a god of destruction.
Guy Incognito says
Is Ben Lyons guest-blogging today?
When people complain about Nixon’s face and damn the film for “bad makeup,” it makes little sense to me, since much of the makeup was good. I wonder if it wasn’t a conscious choice to play on the idea of “masks.” I’d have to see it again to see who’s masked when and why. (The way the comic played with clocks/watches/ watchwork/the-ghost-in-the-machine (but there’re no ghosts, just machines) predestination/free will time/space etc.) Puppets, but Manhattan can see his own strings. The other makeup oddity I noticed was Kovacs’ exaggerated freckles. (He who called his mask “my face.”)
Rick R says
#108- “There’s also Niven/Pournelle’s remake of Inferno, which merges the structure, commentary and humor of Dante’s work with a sort of humanist apologia for the cruel Catholic deity.”
I would love to see this made into a movie someday. An action/ adventure/ black comedy set in the christian hell. I loved the demonic bureaucrats handing out 6000 page requisition forms to damned souls who lost their gowns and need a replacement, and the surreal scene of the protagonist having a casual chat with a giant demon (with a 20 foot long sword-like fingernail) about why such and such sinner deserved the punishment they were getting.
Maybe it would make a better video game. “Fight your way outta hell!” The movie would cost a zillion dollars to produce.
I also recommend “Hell is the Absence of God” by Ted Chiang. God moves in mysterious ways, indeed, and it gradually becomes clear that humanity is as important to the deity as pond scum. h
I saw Watchmen yesterday, never having read the graphic novel, and was thrilled to see a super hero movie with such a wicked grasp on the moral ambiguity of life and human behavior. Both my wife and I agreed that Rorschach was the best character followed by Dr. Manhattan (and his blue junk). Aftewards we stopped by the bookstore and picked up the novel – from what I’ve glanced at I have to agree the movie ending was better. Epicurus would have liked this film.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
Someone somewhere has just gotten an idea for a new fursona.
One quibble: I found Adrian Veidt to be miscast. The actor playing him seems too wimpy, somehow. I think it’s the shape of his head. That bugged me.
One question I had from the previews was: how would Hollywood deal with the fact that Dr. Manhattan can’t be bothered to wear clothes, outside of special occasions? Turns out they dealt with it by way of “so he doesn’t wear clothes. Cope.”
K. Signal Eingang says
Re: novels which explore the consequences of a real, active, God – Philip K. Dick’s “Eye In The Sky” does, at least for a bit. In the story the world is briefly remade to work as a religious fundamentalist imagines it does, with amusing results when a couple of engineers get to work rewiring a vending machine that operates on the power of prayer.
“Maybe it would make a better video game. “Fight your way outta hell!””
I believe that is the plotline of EA’s Dante Inferno video game that is a sequel to the book. It looks to be a beat em up from what has been shown.
“The other makeup oddity I noticed was Kovacs’ exaggerated freckles. (”
Matches the character from the comic. As for Nixon’s look according the extra miracles the Dick had to undergo heart surgery five times plus all those murders he contracted out to The Comedian may have taken their toll.
Dr Horrible says
Weighing in as another nerd who saw the film by himself :)
I thought the movie was OK, but I couldn’t understand why Snyder introduced a bunch of arbitrary changes!? Especially considering he’s been so gung-ho about how faithful he was being! (and I’m not just talking about the lack of alien menace at the end!)
That, and the movie itself seems to be a surface-reading of the book aimed more at 13yo boys. Cool! Splosions!
Not that a faithful adaptation of the book would have made any money :P
I guess I’ll need to see the DVD with the extra hour of material … :)
The only thing I didn’t like about the shiny new ending was it makes the animated Black Freighter interesting, but unrelated.
“(and I’m not just talking about the lack of alien menace at the end!)”
Dr. Manhatten isn’t human anymore so he fits the bill.
As for the changes they were necessary or you are misunderstanding things.
Dr Horrible says
so the changes to Rorschach’s “metamorphosis” were necessary?
I’ve just got back from seeing Watchmen. I haven’t read the book, but I did somewhat enjoy the movie – if ‘enjoy’ is a word that can apply to such a disturbing film – it took me into a very strange world that’ll have me having trouble sleeping tonight! My one big annoyance was the whole nuclear war and save-the-world ending shite. I mean, I just thought it was totally unnecessary. I didn’t care about the characters at all as individuals, and that suited me fine because the power was in the subject matter. But the writers seemed to want to get all soppy and suddenly make us try and care about these personas after two and a half hours of non-stop sticky violence from everyone involved. That just totally threw me off track. I honestly didn’t give a damn if they got out of the situation or not, it just felt like it was tacked onto the end. There was no need for any kind of saving-the-world plot at all, in my humble opinion.
BUT, I liked this film. Because of the subject matter, and it also felt really quite fearless and a lot of it worked. And because of the way it made me feel, the attitude it had, which was really something else. And genuinely scary as well, in more than just a gore-filled way.
This is more than a couple of my friends got from it. Most of their discussion was about the blue man’s nob…
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
I haven’t been to a movie with fourteen-year-olds for ages! ;-)
My one big annoyance was the whole nuclear war and save-the-world ending shite.”
You would be annonyed with the graphic novel then. The world takes place in a world where superheroes exist so the Nuclear War threat is far worse due to one superhero in particular. The doomsday clock being permently set to five minutes before midnight since the Vietnam war was ended in Operation Wrath of God in 1970.
David Canzi says
“Can it get geekier than going to see a comic book movie by yourself?” — Rev. BigDumbChimp
It can. Went alone and almost brought Sudoku book to work on in line-up. Took Scientific American instead. Hrrm. Nearly as bad.
Mixed feelings about plot changes but greatly enjoyed Haley’s performance.
Ken Cope says
As I worked as a manager at a movie theater for a couple years, I stopped reading after that. Almost everyone who complains about the sound being too loud in a theater, complains about everything they can possibly devise a reason to complain about. Therefore, I knew the rest of the review was going to be a lot of needless complaints from a miserable human being who just wants to spread as much misery as possible. I can do without that in my life.
Yes, you did say almost, but this needs saying.
I don’t have to devise reasons to complain about typical movie theaters. When I complain about sound being too loud in a theater, it’s because my seven-year-old is plugging his ears in a mostly empty theater, mine are bleeding, and we need a refund. When I have to get up and miss 10 minutes of the movie to inform somebody that there’s a problem, because the guy behind the candy counter who drew short straw to go upstairs and hit the start button didn’t bother to frame the film properly and everybody’s eyes are cut off at the top of the screen, or the matte curtains are still set up for flat when the movie being presented is scope, I’ll complain about that too, and believe me, somebody deserves some misery. The only reason I don’t often have to do that is because I’ve learned by now to view films I must see while they’re in first run at proper movie theaters, where they still know how it’s properly done, like the one in Marin County that George Lucas four-walls for staff screenings. Otherwise, I get better presentation at home on blu-ray with my properly calibrated 7.1 system.
I say this as somebody who was a projectionist at flagship movie theaters in one of my former lives, and most theater managers think they know all there is to know about running a projection booth, when they don’t. There are few places that hire managers who give two shits about the customers who pay for tickets. I understand why that is; most customers who pay for tickets are the rest of the reason I am so reluctant to spend money on a night out at the movie theater.
I loved the graphic novel and loved the movie. The movie is a far more complete adaptation of the novel than I thought they’d be able to get. Portrayals of the characters were full, complex, and felt very true to the originals.
The review linked in #3 is pure crap. The characters are flawed, angry, misguided at times, but the film doesn’t reduce them to assholes. Only an ignorant viewer can do that. The movie treats their flaws (including the noted misogyny) with clarity and honesty.
There’s only one thing that the movie really glorifies, and that’s the excellent but overblown action scenes. (I forgive them that excess, though.) There’s also quite a bit of gore, more than was needed IMO (I actually agree with the review linked at #91 as far as that goes), though it is clearly there for a reason besides audience titillation, and does readily accomplish its purpose.
The blue wang, despite the comments above, didn’t seem like that big a deal to me. But then again, I caught a midnight viewing.
@87: If you’re going to trash a movie you haven’t even bothered to see, I’m happy to dub you a Honorary Shallow American–you have certainly deserved it! No, seeing the preview doesn’t count.
@115: Disagree about updating the plot timewise. The time and place the movie is set in is an integral part of what makes this movie tick.
@74, 129: Gotta disagree with you about Adrian’s casting and portrayal. I thought they found a fine angle on this character–the perfect celebrity, svelte, media-drenched, image-conscious, and a deceptively formidable fighter. Though he’s bit beefier in the novel, I never got the sense from the novel that he was a cool dude in person–only that he had a good marketing agency. :-)
I definitely agree on the changes to the death of Kovacs scene, though it was explained to me that after the Saw movies they couldn’t do exactly what was in the comic, but I thought it was way over the top, even then.
“Gotta disagree with you about Adrian’s casting and portrayal. I thought they found a fine angle on this character–the perfect celebrity, svelte, media-drenched, image-conscious, and a deceptively formidable fighter. Though he’s bit beefier in the novel, I never got the sense from the novel that he was a cool dude in person–only that he had a good marketing agency. :-)”
One that may have covered up him being a homosexual. Also he the only unscathed former superhero who didn’t have apparent issues but had traits common to super villans. The only one of the lot really concerned with the future welfare of humanity was willing to sacrifice tens of millions in order to get the US and the Soviet Union to unite together in order to stop the threat of nuclear war.
“The time and place the movie is set in is an integral part of what makes this movie tick.”
As are the music choices which were actually in the Graphic novel. It’s hilarous that the people complaining about the music proclaim that the movie did a diservice to the graphic novel with the music choices.
Kel @ 39
Canberra day, Shmanberra Day! Some of us Canberrans still have to work, dammit!
I haven’t had time to see Watchmen, yet, but re-read the graphic novel a couple of weeks ago to refresh my memory. I’m really looking forward to it.
False Prophet says
@ #18, TigerHunter:
In addition to the ones already mentioned, I’ll add:
Mainspring and its sequel Escapement by Jay Lake, which take place in an alternate late 19th century where the solar system is actually a gigantic clockwork mechanism, and a 20-mile high brass wall with enormous gear teeth circles the earth at the equator and connects it to its orbital track. The belief system of the (British Empire-dominated) West is founded on Christian deism, since anyone can look up into the sky and see the clockwork universe God has fashioned there. “God” hasn’t made an appearance yet, but some angels have. Lake has stated in interviews that by describing an intelligently-designed universe in a work of fiction, he’s implying that such a concept only belongs in fiction.
Towing Jehovah by James Morrow. God exists, but when the story begins, He’s already dead and his two mile long corpse is floating in the ocean. The plot involves towing the body to the Arctic for burial. There were two sequels, but I haven’t read them yet.
Also by Morrow, Only Begotten Daughter, about the Second Coming in 1980s New Jersey.
I haven’t read it yet, but Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross is about sentient robots who believe in an Intelligent Designer. Given that they themselves are the products of intelligent designers, this may not be far-fetched. I’m interested to see how Stross handles it.
In the novel, there were little hints that there was more to him than just the celebrity aspect, like those posters for his projects in scene backgrounds. I think one was famine relief in India, or something like that; I can’t look it up at the moment, but it seemed to be like projects that Sting or Bono or celebrities like that organize and carry out.
Having just read the novel, I thought that Moore was actually taking a swipe at highly-visible celebrity philanthropists like Sting and Bono with that aspect of Veidt’s character, which would be consistent with your point about the good marketing agency. But the novel came out too early for that–I think Band Aid had done relief for Ethiopia by that time, but the rest of that kind of mega-project was still in the future when Watchmen was written.
Dr Horrible says
interesting that the changes they made took it more into Saw-torture-porn territory than the original!
and it’s not as if the “saw your hand off” thing hadn’t been done before Saw anyhow – the first Mad Max fer instance ;)
Moore is utterly wrong about the behaviour of humanity as a whole in response to an alien threat. Some will try to bargain with the enemy and gain an edge, while others will advise capitulation even when the threat has been demonstrated to be genuine (hell, we’re even doing that for threats on Earth these days). The basic premise underlying Veidt’s actions is terminally flawed, regardless of who is made out to be responsible.
I agree with all your points.
I was initially leary of the opening fight scene because it wasn’t in the book and lessened the mystery of Blake’s death. However, actually seeing the fight won me over.
On Adrian Veidt: I’n the book he was definitely portrayed as cool. When he was interviewed by that magazine (Rolling Stone?), the interviewer notes that every girlfriend he has had, has wanted to do Ozy. He was portrayed as utterly charming in person.
He had no intimidating scenes in the book like the verbal slapdown he gave to the big business execs in the movie. The most you get is when his interviewer states that he is glad Ozy is friendly after he shakes his hand.
Really I saw where the movie makers were going with Ozymandias but I liked the book presence better.
Still, on its own merits, I enjoyed the film!
Just got back from the movie, loved it. Now my mind is in a state of moral ambiguity.
Remember Perturbed. The Squid sent out psychic waves that left no doubt that it wasn’t friendly. Even “nonsensitives” were going to have nightmares for years.
Moore was totally cognizant that Adrian’s “Architect of Fear” approach to public manipulation was dubious at best. That was the point of the “Black Frieghter” subplot. It is what makes him the villian of the piece. The ends don’t justify the means. Especially, as Jon tells Adrian when asked if everything will turn out right in the end, “Nothing Ever Ends”.
It should have been a miniseries:)
“the interviewer notes that every girlfriend he has had, has wanted to do Ozy.”
Key words being wanted not did him.Lots of gay or bisexual male celebs before they came out often had girlfriends that said the same thing.
http://www.thenewfrontiersman.net/ viral website btw has a lot of Ozy viral content showing how his empire is on the Watchmen earth with a Veidt Airline, Veidt Music Network which is the Watchment earth MTV, African Famine Relief,
Dr Horrible says
It would have worked much better as a miniseries! :)
But that was never gonna happen.
At least they got Jon, Dan, Eddie & Rorschach spot on.
so for those of us who haven’t seen it… can someone explain how exactly the ending works without the giant cthulu-lookin thing?
i kept hearing that question when that spoiler leaked, and had no idea what the heck it meant. but i’ve just finished the comic, and, um, it does seem rather integral to the whole plot.
I took my wife and 18 year old sister in law to see Watchmen on Saturday. They came grudgingly, indulging my FANBOI status and incessant yammering about just how fucking great the graphic novel was. Then they saw the movie.
I loved it, and anyone making negative comments will be hunted down in a jihad of fanboi purification. Just so you know. My wife was very impressed, liked the story, was amazed that there was a Hollywood action movie that had a plot, and a plot that didn’t insult her intellect too badly.
My 18 year old sister in law liked the movie too, but was very interested in Dr Manhatten’s blue glowing penis and made several comments on the subject. Her best question/comment was “wasn’t it a bit small and not in proportion to his body?”.
This caused some hilarity. It also caused a few comedy questions from my wife and I about precisely what sort of penises she has been exposed to. Strangely she tried to avoid answering those questions (and failed! Har har har). The girl is due for a) a great future and b) rather a large amount of disappointment in my opinion.
I saw it the other day and found it a bit of a let-down.
The major disappointment for me was the failure to instill a sense of foreboding for the impending nuclear war that is supposedly the prime motivation for the various plot machinations. The characters themselves were OK although Adrian should have been portrayed more as a fitness fanatic. The soundtrack was hilariously silly. What has a series of 60s and seventies soft rock tracks (used in every single Vietnam movie you’ve ever seen) got to do with the mid 80s? I know it was an alternative version of the 80s but it was also an alternative 60s and 70s.
And the sex scene! I expected to hear a soft porn soundtrack saxophone to kick in at any second!
The problem with the ending was not that they removed the squid (which is also a bit silly in the graphic novel) but that there wasn’t sufficient danger to avert that would have made the US and Soviets unite against a common enemy.
Apart from that it was fine!
Will E. says
The soundtrack was hilariously silly.
Have to agree 100% on that. I know all the songs were quoted in the original comic, so I understand why they were chosen, but they’re blasted at the viewer, rather than interwoven as comment or counterpoint. The songs came off as rather trite and obvious rather than witty and insightful; easily my least favorite aspect of the movie. And whoever decided to let a Top 40 band like My Chemical Romance come within any amount of distance of “Desolation Row” quite simply has ears of purest tin.
I got tired and didn’t read to the end, but if noone mentioned these:
“Your point to the end got me thinking: has anyone written a (non-high fantasy) book (fiction or non) about what a world where God or a god did exist?”
Vonnegut’s Player Piano describes a world run by an all powerful god.
His Sirens of Titan and Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describe different versions of Earth or humanity created for a purpose. (Many other Sci-Fi stories do this as well.)
“Her best question/comment was “wasn’t it a bit small and not in proportion to his body?”. ”
Tell her she should prepare to be disapointed in life. Dr. Manhatten is actually anatomicaly correct.
As for the lack of common enemy tens of millions of people got wiped out across the globle and well the US considered Dr. Manhatten a potential threat. Having the squid just attack the US wouldn’t exactly get a global response right away it may ease tensions and the US would certaintly be on the full alert but not the other countries.
“My Chemical Romance come within any amount of distance of “Desolation Row” ”
Blame Dylan and his people. They were the ones who let “My Chemical Romance” who are fans of his music do it.
Also the movie has lots flashbacks so music in the flashbacks makes sense and well a lot of the music you claim to be sixties and seventies was still being played in the eighties and fits the plot.
I’m not sure what the real intention was with the soundtrack but it came across as a mess. Was the director trying for some sort of post-modern pastiche or something?
Was it meant to be funny?
“Was the director trying for some sort of post-modern pastiche or something?
Was it meant to be funny”
Blame Alan Moore for putting the songs in the graphic novel.
I loved the soundtrack, thought it was profound in how it really sucked me into the cultural realm of the Cold War era stretching from the 60’s to the 80’s and the feeling of desolation that rang high in the air under the movie’s alternate reality where Nixon is elected over and over and over.
I’m sorry, I’m a bit late to this thread. As I was reading which was hard to do because I simply cannot get over the question: WHY ALEXANDRIA!!??~!!!
>< You do know that theater is run by a bunch of panties-in-a-knot Christians who normally refuse to let good movies through unless they expect it would make a exponential killing in prices. I get to listen to my sister complain ALL the time that there are no good movies playing at that theater. Anyways GLAD to hear you loved it ^_^. One of my friends was disappointed, but I talked to the people at The Source (the biggest nerd-fest type store in the twin cities) and they even loved it!
I only got one thing to say about the movie.
Nite Owl I = Armored Speedo!?!?!?!?
That aside, it rocked.
I didn’t see a link to it, and I think it’s worth posting that Ebert saw Watchmen again in IMAX and wrote a second review saying that he “got it” this time around. Here is a telling response to one of the comments on his blog:
I hadn’t read “Watchmen” – or any other graphic novel – before I saw the film version yesterday, but I decided to give it a go because Alan Moore’s non-graphic novel “Voice of the Fire” is one of my favourite books. To say that I was bowled over is an understatement; it was quite simply the most visually astonishing and thought-provoking film I’ve seen for a very long time. Encouraged by a “show-your-ticket-at-Borders-and-get-the-book-half-price” offer I bought the novel and was pleasantly surprised at how successfully the film had captured the spirit of the original.
Yes, there were over-simplifications (inevitable even in a three-hour film) – as has already been pointed out, there was little point in including Bubastis as an example of Ozymandias’ pioneering work in genetic engineering when a limited nuclear war replaced the giant squid at the end. I have to say that I actually preferred the film’s conclusion – I can’t help thinking that even the best computer generated squid would have looked slightly comic on screen. I was more bothered by the lack of a back-story to explain the origin of Rorschach’s mask, which is so brilliant in the book.
Yes, the violence was sometimes a bit over the top. I suspect it was that rather than Dr Manhattan’s naughty bits or the sex and swearing that earned the film an 18 certificate in Britain.
The film’s use of 60s to 80s popular music struck me as being spot-on.
As for the “bad” Nixon makeup – oh, come on! The man looked like a comic book villain in real life and the “Watchmen” version is only slightly exaggerated…
Oh, and three cheers for the Big Blue Willy. It’s high time that Hollywood stopped being so squemish about male nudity, even in CGI form!
Watchmen is a visual and psychological cornucopia — definitely worth watching
Just came back from the movie. I enjoyed it. There were some changes from the original (e.g, giant squid), but for the most part it was very loyal to the comic. Defintely not the usual regurgitated hollywood film.
One complaint however. I can’t get the image of Dr. Manhattan’s blue penis out of my head…..
Pierce R. Butler says
Finally got around to seeing Watchmen, using this dead thread as an excuse to write out a reaction.
Zach Snyder gave us as good an adaptation as we could expect from modern Hollywood. His vision followed the original closely but understandingly, his changes are intelligent and coherent, his casting, music, & special effects almost perfect.
Having missed a few minutes due to a bladder break, I snuck into another showing at the ‘plex and watched the second half over again. Attention to detail shows under such examination, and Watchmen was clearly done right by that metric.
(Obligatory nit: If Archy gets in and out of the Owlcave through the Hudson River, rapid flight explains arriving at the action dry – but how does it return to the perch dripless?)
Losing the Black Freighter substory was worth it to escape that asshole truck driver, the biggest flaw in Moore’s work. The newsstand features regularly in the theater version, so there’s hope for the pirates and their metastory getting their due come DVD time. (Bonus points to Snyder if he disappears or metamorphoses the damn dyke – no, not The Silhouette…)
[To non-readers of the book: the above ‘graf contains no non sequiturs.]
I s’poze the blue penis does mark some sort of big-screen breakthrough, but less interestingly to me than the other visuals on display in any given frame. My eyeballs spent more time on Malin Akerman’s attributes – throw Snyder another bouquet for highlighting the sexiness of a slender bust, something celebrated much too rarely in my prurient view.
Readers of High Literatchure often bemoan the lack of nuance & subtlety in comics & movie, while failing to appreciate how both media make their points through intensity, paradox, motif, cross- & self-reference, metaphor, etc. No surprise many critics apparently missed what they saw.
That audiences aren’t, fwih, mobbing the box office, isn’t too surprising either, but on very different grounds. Americans are hooked on white sugar, and this is not a feel-good movie.
Time to start re-reading the book.
Pierce R. Butler says
PS: Really missed the “Coke in green glass bottles” line.
Great review, PZ. I finally got to the theater this past weekend to see the movie with my wife.
Billy Crudup. I sometimes wonder why he’s not more famous. He turned in a fantastically charismatic performance in Almost Famous. (Oh, the irony.) Apparently Crudup, whose character was a lead guitarist, had never played guitar. The guitar coach on the movie was Peter Frampton. I have to say, they worked well together. I’ve been playing for 35 years, and half the time I would have sworn that Crudup could have been playing those parts live, on camera. Nice job. Right up there with DeNiro’s faux sax playing in New York, New York.
I read Watchmen back in ’87 or ’88 when it was given to my a a couple of friends who were more attuned to what was going on in the comics/graphic-novel world. (Yes, I own a 1st printing… wheee! But it has suffered from too many years in the basement. Ack!)
The book blew me away. Its cult status is well-deserved. As a Watchmen fanboi, I have to say: the movie rocked. I have a few complaints, but overall it was very well done. The casting choices were excellent, the performances very good overall. The screenwriter and director respected the material, and as a visual experience, well… it was literally breathtaking to see some of those scenes realized in live action. Wow. Wow, and wow again.
The decision to drop the Black Freighter thread was probably a very wise one. It would have been difficult to pull off effectively, and might have bogged down an already lengthy movie. On the bright side, it’s motivation for neophytes who enjoyed the film to go read the damn book. (Which I will have to do again soon. It’s been a long, long time.)
Complaints? Nothing major. No deal-breakers. As much as I liked Malin Akerman as Laurie, I felt her acting was a little flat in spots, and that flatness struck a wrong note up there on Mars when she learned the truth about her paternity. The other moment that troubled me was in the soundtrack. The music worked well overall, but the entrance of “All Along The Watchtown” was a little to… blatant. It’s a great song, but the timing had the acrid aroma of opportunistic song-insertion. No big deal, though. I got over it in, oh, ten or twelve seconds. ;-)
My wife started reading the book a couple of months ago, and got bogged down in the first 30 pages and the “dark and bitter edge,” as she so succinctly put it. Her expectations for the movie, despite my opinion of the book, were fairly low. I’m pleased to report that she was VERY impressed with the film and with where the story went. (Heh. I knew she’d like it.) I mentioned having the urge to see it a second time, and she agreed.