Sunday, March 29, 2009

A multi-colored cardboard diorama

Spoiler alert - the plot and events in Watchmen, both the book and the film. This was originally posted on the Ships and Giggles board.

Weeks later, I've talked with a lot more people. Some of them liked the movie and others thought it was garbage. At least one of those people who didn't like the movie went back and read the book afterward. So as an ad campaign for the book, I guess it worked out. With regard to my own feelings on the movie, I still can't say I like it.

The folks who liked the film seemed to respond most to its visual elements, though a few here have suggested that the musical choices were interesting as well. I can not disagree more violently with the latter, though the former... I'd have to say yes, it's certainly a pretty film.

I'm watching Across the Universe at the moment, and I think that Zack Snyder tried to do with Watchmen what Julie Taymor did with the Beatles. While
I'm not sure that either is a great film, they're really pretty. I find the performances in Across the Universe to be much stronger, and obviously Taymor didn't use direct visual reference to the Fab Four. I think of the Watchmen film as a sort of cardboard diorama of the book. I still haven't heard or read of anyone saying whether the movie adds any additional value to the Watchmen experience. If you can think of a reason why anyone who has read the book really needs to see the film, I hope you'll please respond.

To compare the movie to its source material, it seems necessary to consider the elements that were changed from the book. Most of the changes I feel were in aid of making the conclusions for the audience: the song choices, the score over Veidt's opening speech, Manhattan's ability to let everyone see the world as he did, Dan Dreiberg's scream at the end of Rorschach. None of these are elements in the book. For a film that fans claim was so true to the source material, these little things make a huge difference. As I have said before, I initially felt that the choices were on-the-nose. In further consideration, that hasn't changed much. Where this is most vitally different from the source material is that I have always felt that Watchmen book let its readers come to their own conclusions and that was important. How much do we suspect Veidt when we first meet him? Do we really need to know specifically how Dreiberg might react at the end? Might he not have been much more pragmatic? Also, what happens to the metaphor when there actually existed a team called The Watchmen?

I'm still bothered by the addition of lengthy fight scenes and the gratuitous sex scene. That opening fight scene is completely out of character for The Comedian, I feel. Especially in light of his emotions in light of discovering the conspiracy. Watchmen to me is a book of conversations, where violence takes place in the context of those conversations.

Which brings me to Malcolm Long. Other than being a confidante to Walter Kovacs in the film, he doesn't serve any purpose. In the book, he serves in so many contexts - he is the well-adjusted person who is finally touched by the abyss and moved toward heroism, at least in my interpretation. Other than the obvious gag of showing Kovacs the blot-tests, what purpose does he serve in the film?

Click on the image for a closer look.

I'm not ready to conclude these thoughts. I'd like to hear your comments.

1 comment:

Fad23 said...

Since posting this, I have come to watch Across the Universe many more times and have come to find it quite an astonishing piece of work.

Not so for Watchmen. I still won't give it a second viewing.