I stand by what I said – Watchmen is an unnecessary adaptation of the graphic novel. As a piece of visual pulp art, the film succeeds. But as an adaptation of Alan Moore‘s ideas, Watchmen is a failure albeit an interesting one.
The opening credit sequence is a brilliant slow motion montage set to Bob Dylan’s Times They Are A-Changin’. This establishes the Watchmen universe – an alternate reality where Nixon is in his fifth term, superheroes are real, a giant blue man wins the Vietnam conflict for America and the Cold War has escalated to a nuclear stand-off. The plot follows a masked anti-hero, Rorschach as he tries to uncover clues to the murder of a former masked vigilante, The Comedian.
Visually, Dave Gibbons‘ frames are perfectly translated on celluloid and despite what I feared, the slow motion shots and fight sequences are quite nicely staged when compared to lazy quick cuts prevelant in action films today. The colour palette suits the dark tone of the film. Dave Gibbon’s choice of colour in the book was unlike those of most comics at the time (case in point, Frank Miller‘s revival of Batman) and was an attempt at highlighting the absurdity of masked men running around in tights; that doesn’t seem to have been lost on Snyder.
The plot and narrative lean heavily on Alan Moore’s writing and for most part, doesn’t stray away from the brilliant source material. Where the film fails (and disastrously s0) is when it tries to come up with an original alternative for the ending. There is a huge tonal shift in the third act and character motivations are never obvious to a viewer unfamiliar with the book. Honestly, it was downright silly. However, my favourite bit from the book – Doctor Manhattan’s self imposed exile to Mars – was perfectly done. Doc Manhattan is a naked blue godlike being who has since his freak accident (physics lab accident, of course) become detached from humanity. He teleports himself to Mars after learning he may have been the reason his old friends and lovers seem to have developed cancer. This is perhaps the most outrageous and fantastic arc in the book but it fits right in with the rest of the film.
The soundtrack unfortunately is grating and very out of place. Apart from the opening and closing credits, the songs feel like they were picked out of a Greatest Hits collection from the 80s (Cindy Lauper, Simon and Garfunkel etc). Audiences laughed at what was supposed to be a disturbing sex scene only because Leonard Cohen and a church choir crooned ‘Hallelujah’ in the background. Alan Moore would roll in his grave if he were dead.
I walked out with pretty much the same feeling I had after 300. The film is beautiful to look at but is a muddled mess with flashes of brilliance here and there. Zack Snyder may be a devout fanboy but he may have missed out on what Moore really tried to say – there is no civility in civilization.
Filed under: Art, Books, Movies and Reviews thereof, Movies | 6 Comments
Tags: 2009, Cinema, Comic Book, Film, Graphic Novel, Review, Rorschach, Times They Are A-Changin', watchmen, Watchmen Opening Credits, Watchmen Review, Watchmen sex scene, Zack Snyder
Right now, the upcoming Watchmen film ought to be the least of my worries; but I’ve seriously considered not watching Zack Snyder’s apparently faithful adaptation of the seminal graphic novel. You see, a comic geek scorned is a force to be reckoned with.
The first comic book I remember falling in love with was an issue of Batman (a Man Bat story arc) sometime around 1993. Frequent trips to India allowed me to source comics from airport stalls. Ever read the now discontinued and forgotten Thunderbolt? I have. And I remember specific frames from the book. Perhaps it was an escape from my relatively drama free childhood or maybe it was a rite of passage every young boy went through; whatever it was, I never got over the medium.
Third year of college. Holed up in that room, Watchmen convinced me that the comic book was far more than just colourful frames with conversation bubbles. The Comic Book had become The Graphic Novel. Characters had become morally ambiguous all of a sudden, heroes had become fallible and lofty ideals seemed suspicious. The Superhero concept had been deconstructed. Alan Moore joined the ranks of Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Dave Gibbons that of Rembrandt and Picasso. (Oh yes, comic book nerds are known to make wild exaggerations.)
I’ve been reading the book again; taking in every frame, digesting every line and assimilating concepts, some of which still strain my primitive frontal lobe. The book is an assault on the senses like no other; a work that perhaps was best left untouched.
However, I am mildly curious to see how Snyder translates something this complicated. 300 wasn’t exactly a brilliant film. If he does pull it off, will audiences be able to sit through 3 hours of an uncaring superman, an impotent vigilante and a masked anti hero who goes by the name Rorschach?
Filed under: Art, Comic Books, Movies, Rantings | 10 Comments
Tags: Alan Moore, Comic Books, dave Gibbons, Films, Graphic Novel, Thunderbolt, watchmen, Zack Snyder
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow.
I remember reading Philip Roth’s Everyman a couple of years ago and then Garcia Marquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores more recently; both of which tell rather morbidly, the stories of old men who after living lives of regret and philandering are faced with their imminent mortality and unfulfilled desires. Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino draws strong parallels to these stories. Walt Kowalski, however, shuts his emotions in and redeems himself in the strangest and, for a film with so much profanity and tongue-in-cheek political incorrectness, most gut wrenching of ways.
Eastwood plays a tired and lonely version of Dirty Harry or even, Blondie, who finds himself as an antique from a bygone era in drastically different times. Like most scowling old people, Walt Kowalski is an irate old man who feels the world truly went under after the 60s. He invariably ends up helping a young Hmong immigrant find his bearings in a gang infested neighbourhood. Unlike the terrible Seven Pounds, Gran Torino lets us empathize with a character who learns how to finally let go of life. I do realize suicide is an ethically sketchy subject, but rarely has a film tackled it with such grace.
And that final scene where Tao drives off in the Grand Torino – such catharsis.
PS: Oh yeah, spoilers.
Filed under: Art, Films, Morality, Movies, People | 5 Comments
Tags: clint Eastwood, Gran Torino, Suicide