I had about a dozen interesting film choices that I could have watched on Saturday night, all drawn from various posts and recommendations recently written about on this blog. Let me see.... there was Kris's Profit Motive, Graham's The Willow Tree, Tom's Sword of Gideon, Che! from the brief review by Justin, Ashes and Diamonds, Graham again, Joe's Wendy and Lucy, the fascinating sounding Pontypool from Kris's review back a few weeks ago and the list goes on.
What I chose, because I'm a fucking idiot, was..... The Watchmen.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that familiar with The Watchman graphic novel (or graphic novels in general for that matter). I like the idea of the graphic novel, but after a couple of pages, I normally come to the conclusion that I'd rather read a novel than look at pictures of one. Although I recognize that a great deal of talent goes into creating these uber-comics, I just can't shake the feeling that they're books for people who move their lips when the read.
Baammm! Pow! Zoinks!
I therefore sat down to watch the Zack Snyder's film adaptation not sure what to expect and without the requisite background knowledge of the comic's fan base. For a solid 20 minutes, I was much impressed. I loved the opening title sequence. It was smart, informative and gave just the right amount of background to flush out the setting and place. I thought the early scene with The Comedian getting his ass kicked, while shot in that terribly unrealistic and overused “superhero” style (super slo-mo, hyper detailed, navy bluescreen palette), was the best version of this little off-the-shelf technique I'd seen yet. What I didn't realize, at least at that point, was I still had about 2.5 hours left to go.
Eight clock-glances, two cans of coke, three trips to the bathroom and 16 cigarettes later, the closing credits ran. I admit to fast-forwarding through the Leonard Cohen “Halleluiah” boinking scene (seriously, what were they thinking?), but watched the rest of it pretty much straight through. I've read that the film is faithful to the original graphic novel but the result on the screen, quite frankly, drifted from engaging to a little bland and finally downright boring by the end. For all the up-to-the-minute technical wizardry on display, the pouting blue dude looked a lot like a character from some grade-Z '50s sci-fi.
The Watchmen was written in the late '80s, one assumes in reaction to the Ronnie Reagan polemics and politics of the day and while it probably seemed subversive back then, the post-Bush II era we live in has snuffed out any irony the original story had. The tongue-in-cheek horror of Nixon occupying the White House for 5 terms seems almost quaint along side the reality of the Bush/Cheney years. As a result, the main political underpinnings of The Watchmen world just doesn't work 20 years later.
A final note. Can you imagine being on a superhero team that included Dr. Manhattan? I mean, talk about a confidence-destroyer. The rest of the team seemed to possess some decent martial arts skills and zippy costumes but the swinging-dick-Doctor could blow people up and see the future just by stewing on it. It felt like a bunch of weekend gear-heads tweaking their 1996 Toyota Celica GT's and Michael Schumacher shows up with a 2200HP custom-built Scuderia Ferrari SPA F1 concept car and a complete pit crew to race with them. The best you can do is a very distant 2nd. I'd have voted him off the fucking island.
If you've not seen The Specials (2000), do so. The IMDb description goes, “The sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world pursue their rightful place in the harshly competitive world of toy tie-ins and fighting evil.” It's the best antidote to this kind of bloated film-making I can think of.
I should have listened to Kris and skipped The Watchmen in favour of any of the above noted recommendations (and now The White Balloon from Tom's morning post) but hey....
Wolverine comes out soon, eh?