Watchmen

Movie Information

The Story: A deconstruction of the superhero myth grounded in a mystery format and set in an alternate version of 1985. The Lowdown: Long, lumbering, bloody violent and unsatisfying, with flashes of cleverness that are too often just smart-alecky. Watchable, but forgettable.
Score:

Genre: Postmodern Comic-Book Movie
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino
Rated: R

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is at once better than I had expected and a lot less than it might have been. If it’s never quite the train wreck it could have been, neither is it much more than just OK. The problem is that OK is far removed from the delusions of grandeur and pop intellectualism that surround this film version of the highly regarded 1986-87 comic-book/graphic novel by Alan Moore (whose name is not on the film) and Dave Gibbons. Stripped of its gory, blood-soaked, sexed-up R-rated approach and its plodding 163-minute running time, the film isn’t much more than another entry in the dysfunctional superhero subgenre.

If The Dark Knight (2008) offered us the most pretentious comic-book movie to date, Watchmen tops it by offering us the first pompous one—with considerably less justification. While I’m in the minority in considering The Dark Knight more than a little overrated, I would at least concede that its depressing nihilism is grounded in a single vision. Watchmen is more like a grab bag—one that tries too hard to honor its source material, brings little new to the table, and ultimately subverts both its source and what little identity of its own it has. Snyder hasn’t so much made a film of Watchmen as he’s performed taxidermy on it.

Assuming for a moment that you’re out of the loop on just what Watchmen is all about, it’s a story set in an alternate version of America in 1985. This is an America where Richard Nixon (TV actor Robert Wisden with a really cheesy prosthetic proboscis) is still president (term limits have been removed) and the threat of nuclear war is omnipresent. It’s a world where masked/costumed “superheroes” have been outlawed as vigilantes and where America’s biggest asset is a bulky blue unmasked bona fide superhero (thanks to an accident in something called an “Intrinsic Field Subtractor”) called Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup with a blue CGI willy). The famous costumed heroes of the past have been killed, vanished or retired to other pursuits—save for a couple of renegade spirits, The Comedian/Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy) and Rorschach/Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children).

The film opens with The Comedian’s murder by an unknown assailant. This is the event that propels the story, which, despite claims to the contrary, isn’t that hard to follow as a story. Understanding the dynamics and motivations behind it all is another matter—one that even the source material doesn’t completely master, though it comes much nearer than the film. It’s not just that the film simplifies the material—that’s a given—it’s that it’s too hung up on duplicating the look of the comic to deal with its essence. Changes are to be expected in a film version. They can even be desirable, forcing the viewer to consider the source in a new light. But that’s not what happens here. Instead, what we get is a movie that exchanges ideas for how “badass” it all is. It’s not a good trade.

I’m not going to make a case for the book as great literature, because I don’t think it is, but it does deal in ideas. Granted, the whole business of deconstructing and de-mythifying superheroes was a lot fresher 20-plus years ago. The movies got into the flawed/damaged hero as early as 1989 with Tim Burton’s Batman and have rarely let up. But Watchmen, the book, went a step further. It addressed a specific time and type of hero—one with a strong relationship to the WWII serial films (specifically referenced in the book as “Republic serial villain” and dumbed-down and generic-ified to “comic-book villain” in the film). It tackled the whole question of the need to dress up and fight crime. And it dared to take a poke at the very fan base that supports the genre. Snyder’s film subverts nearly every aspect of this and smothers it in his so-called “style,” which mostly means ramped-up violence and lots of slow-motion.

The idea that the film might be confusing to viewers unfamiliar with the novel owing to its “complex structure” is laughable. The novel has a complex structure, the movie doesn’t. Flashbacks do not a complex structure make. (You want a complex structure, go see Slumdog Millionaire, with its time-shifts, flash-forwards and visual cross-references.) The potential confusion in Watchmen stems from its clunkiness, sketchy motivations and even sketchier characterizations.

It’s not all bad. The montage sequence that traces the history of the characters is actually brilliantly achieved. Unfortunately, nothing that follows comes anywhere near it. Overall, the movie is less repellent than Snyder’s last film, 300 (2006), which is some kind of a gain, though hardly a great one. While Snyder’s use of “All Along the Watchtower” and “Desolation Row” on the soundtrack are dictated (sort of) by the novel, and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Sounds of Silence” are effectively used—there’s a sense of a greatest-hits mentality at work that’s just plain dull. On the other hand, the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to back the dismal soft-core make-out scene (a sop to the geek fantasy of being a superhero and getting the “hot babe”) is inexcusable.

In the end, I can’t say I hated the film. I’d respect it more if I did. I’m left largely indifferent to it. I wanted to like it, if for no other reason than the spectacle of certain nervous fanboys being made uneasy by the movie’s big blue penis. The problem isn’t fidelity to the source; it’s the dumbing-down of the source’s intellectual quality. I’ve often criticized comic books for reducing complex ideas to the level of bumper stickers. This goes one step further, and reduces them to Twitter feeds. Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

49 thoughts on “Watchmen

  1. John R

    I will admit to having been a fan when the comics first came out, so I had to see this movie. The movie had an iteresting dilemna; draw the interest of movie-goers that know nothing of the book and not alienate long-time fans. Therin lies what I deemed to be weaknesses in the film. Do the filmmakers focus on depths that would confuse newbies or make a typical superhero flick? Choosing the middle of the road approach may satiate more average movie watchers, but loses the opportunity to create a memorable film.

  2. Vince Lugo

    Given that the book was considered unfilmable for years, I think Zack Snyder did the best job that anyone possibly could have. Personally, I was very, very impressed and only have one minor nitpick (which I won’t mention to avoid spoilers). My mom saw it with me and, surprisingly, she enjoyed it almost as much as I did, so at least they did a good job of making the film accessible to people who don’t read comics. I fear the film will drop out in week two, though, and go in the books as a failure, a fate it most certainly does not deserve. The best hope is that positive word of mouth will keep it going as a sleeper hit. I intend to do my part to help make that happen.

  3. ncain

    I think a large part of the problem with Watchmen, is that it’s very much a period piece. It focuses relentlessly on nuclear holocaust,which it uses to emphasize the abusurdity of individual heroics, seems hopelessly dated. Of course, when Moore wrote it, it was quite relevant. How many moviegoing kids who make up the audience for comic book movies are old enough to remember the Cold War? I am old enough, and it still felt like watching the History Channel at times.

    Another problem is the ending. The comic book pretty much falls apart at the end. The movie imroves upon Moore’s ridiculous plot device, but the ending is still weak. Putting people through three hours of story and then having the main characters shrug their shoulders in the face of mass death is not really going to get a movie a lot of positive word of mouth. The film will have very limited appeal outside of fans of the book. (This is not to say they should have changed the ending.)

    And, yeah, using Hallelujah as the soundtrack to a sex scene is the lamest choice ever.

  4. Dionysis

    At the risk of alienating fans of the book and film (and I admit never reading the original graphic novel), based upon Ken’s review (and some at Rotten Tomatoes) as well as the comments by ncain, the whole thing sounds silly to me. I’ll pass on the opportunity. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  5. Freespace

    No one read Watchmen when it was published and all the marketing in the world is not saving it or this movie from ending up the same way. The British faux-comic couldn’t really get the idea down as to what a comic really is. Aside from that, the historically low audience turnout speaks for itself, as it always does. That’s the way it goes.

  6. Dread P. Roberts

    Walking out of the theatre after watching the “Watchmen” left me somewhat dumbfounded by the overall proceedings. Not because I was confused by the movie, but rather because I was confused by the ‘direction’ of the movie. I never expected much (in fact I felt a bit of a sense of dread) out of Zack Snyder, having seen his previous body of work. After the initial opening credits, with a super-hero alternate universe history montage playing over Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, I was tricked into getting really excited about a movie that I was trying to not set my hopes too high for. I thought to myself “this is brilliant!” Unfortunately, this impact did not remain. The strange part is how such perfectly executed sequences and performances – like Billy Crudup narrating Dr. Manhattan’s back-story, Jackie Earle Haley’s fantastic performance as Rorschach, or the Comedian’s funeral sequence – are captured by the same director that then turns around and gives us such horribly executed sequences and performances – like a cringe inducing Nixon caricature, a laughably bad, borderline soft core porn scene, and a very unconvincing, bad acting old Silk Spectre. At times I was shaking my head wondering how such brilliance got mixed in with such crap. The worst part of this movie is the blatantly obvious potential to take this a step further, that everyone sees, but can’t do anything about.

    I have ultimately concluded that the problem lies solely in the hands of Snyder. He seems to believe that a story MUST be what he thinks is ‘hardcore’ and ‘cool’ in order to be any good. If there is fighting in the original comic book, then that should be turned into an over-the-top scene of crushed sculls, compound fractures and excessive gore. Zack doesn’t seem to care (or understand) about the physiological undercurrents of the human mind. All he wants is excessive, shallow sex and violence, and the only reason that there is anything else is because the script calls for it. I think that part of the reason he sticks so close to the graphic novel, is because he doesn’t know any other way to handle character development. So he is essentially depending on the original material to carry all of the weightiness so he can focus more attention on what he enjoys – eye candy.

    I think a large part of the problem with Watchmen, is that it’s very much a period piece.

    It was reported that at one point in time Darren Aronofsky was attached to directing “Watchmen”. He wanted to do a more modern take and substitute the vietnam war for the war in Iraq. While I think it is an interesting idea, I ultimately think it would have been a bad move, and I am glad that they stuck with the graphic novels period. I think that in the right hands even past events could feel intense and relevant (think about the opening to “Saving Private Ryan”). If you think about it, history just revolves in an endlessly repeating cycle anyway. Otherwise we wouldn’t still be fighting wars.

    By the way, great review Ken.

  7. Rob Close

    I had a great time. Visually stunning, those montage scenes were fantastic, and a nifty new ending that works slightly better than the original.

    Was it perfect? Nah. Were a couple actors kinda weak? Sure. But it was still solidly engrossing, appropriately faithful & adaptive to the original, and only a few minutes longer than it had to be.

    Good enough for this fanboy to be pleased.

  8. Dread P. Roberts

    Also, I thought that Tyler Bates composed music score was fantastic. It’s too bad that a couple of poor song choices distracted and disengaged the viewer, when a little bit of Bates subtle background score could have potentially had the opposite effect in some of the scenes. I think that Tyler’s work here will be under-appreciated because people are distracted by Snyder’s song choices.

  9. Steven

    One problem I had with Watchmen (along with many) was that there was never a sense of impending doom. There was never a feeling that a nuclear war was actually going to happen, which makes the ending almost useless. I think excluding the news stand worker was a huge mistake. He is the voice of society.

  10. Dread P. Roberts

    One problem I had with Watchmen (along with many) was that there was never a sense of impending doom.

    This is true. I think they tried to compensate for this with random scenes of the president. Not only are those scenes poorly executed, but people just aren’t going to relate as well to powerful authority figures as they will to the fears and paranoia of everyday ordinary people. I have a feeling that the news vendor will show up in the extended cut, but this still probably won’t be enough to capture the same mood of the comic.

    I love how the chapters in the graphic novel always ended with the doomsday clock moving ever closer to the stroke of midnight and the final black page would drip a little more blood every time. One thing that I thought would have been a cool esthetic touch would have been to have blood slowly dripping down behind the ending credits.

  11. brebro

    “The film [300] seethes with homophobia—presumably as a sop to nervous fanboys who need to justify their interest in watching two hours of beefed-up gym rats in leather briefs and little else.”

    “I wanted to like it, if for no other reason than the spectacle of certain nervous fanboys being made uneasy by the movie’s big blue penis.”

    I don’t know why Ken misses no opportunity to continually express his disdain for what he seemingly loves to deem “geeks” and “fanboys” nor why he insists on painting them as self-loathing, closeted homophobes any freudian chance he gets, but I think he is acting out against the wrong group. Ken, those kind of guys who beat you up and took your lunch money were JOCKS, not fanboy geek nerds. They were just as abused as you were, so have some compassion and stop assailing their every cross-medium film with personal attacks on what you think their pent up sexual frustrations or prejudices are and just review the film instead.

  12. John

    I’m going to admit, perhaps I’m strange, but I love movies that don’t necessarily have happy endings. I walked out of this movie nearly shell shocked with just how… bad things had all gone for the ‘heroes’. So much so that I fully intend on seeing it again (though not at 12 bucks a ticket at the Imax), so I can get beyond the story, and look at the details that Im sure everyone will miss on their first viewing.

    I think too many people have forgotten what the meaning of an anti-hero is to really enjoy, neigh appreciate this movie. And its not as if it did badly, in the terms of an R rated movie, it did really rather well.
    But I will agree that this movie needed a little less giant blue glowing penis. Yes, we get the idea, hes ‘above’ the idea of modesty. Now put some dam pants on.

  13. Vince Lugo

    Why do I get the feeling I’m going to be eternally defending how brilliant and masterful this movie is to people who just don’t get it? Ang Lee’s Hulk was brilliant in its own way too and I still defend that movie whenever it comes up in conversation. It’s a pity I seem to be in the minority. Watchmen deserves better than all this sniping.

  14. Earlofthercs

    Isn’t Leonard Cohen’s `Halleluia’ (all glory is god’s) ABOUT clumsy sex?

    You was a time when you let me know
    what’s really going on below
    but now you never show that to me, do ya?
    there was a time when I moved in you
    and the holy dove was moving too
    and every breath we drew was halleluia

    seems pretty appropriate to me.

  15. Sean Williams

    The problem isn’t fidelity to the source; it’s the dumbing-down of the source’s intellectual quality.

    That’s the single sentence that best encapsulates the film.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I have ultimately concluded that the problem lies solely in the hands of Snyder. He seems to believe that a story MUST be what he thinks is ‘hardcore’ and ‘cool’ in order to be any good. If there is fighting in the original comic book, then that should be turned into an over-the-top scene of crushed sculls, compound fractures and excessive gore.

    Pretty much identical with my feelings about the film. Hey, I like good severed arms as much as the next fellow, but it’s still an utterly pointless embellishment to the source material and fits your point exactly.

  17. Ken Hanke

    One problem I had with Watchmen (along with many) was that there was never a sense of impending doom.

    A very good point. I can’t help but wonder if this has as much to do with a lack of emotional resonance with the characters as anything else. It may just be me, but I didn’t especially like any of the characters. The best formed was Rorscharch and I can’t see I really cared about him with his bargain-basement Ayn Rand attitude and his raging puritanism. Would I have felt a sense of doom if the characters had been better drawn? It would have certainly helped.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know why Ken misses no opportunity to continually express his disdain for what he seemingly loves to deem “geeks” and “fanboys” nor why he insists on painting them as self-loathing, closeted homophobes any freudian chance he gets, but I think he is acting out against the wrong group. Ken, those kind of guys who beat you up and took your lunch money were JOCKS, not fanboy geek nerds. They were just as abused as you were, so have some compassion and stop assailing their every cross-medium film with personal attacks on what you think their pent up sexual frustrations or prejudices are and just review the film instead.

    Oh, my, such rancour over this. First of all, “fanboys” bring this on themselves. They are the ones running around calling critics names on sites like Rotten Tomatoes whenever the critic doesn’t agree with them — often about movies they haven’t themselves even seen yet. They are the ones propelling each new “cross-medium film” into the top 250 on the IMDb before the movies have even come out. Are you seriously saying this isn’t childish and absurd behavior? It’s fanboy postings about how the movie shouldn’t have shown so much of the penis and hearing fanboys talking about it that prompted the particular remark here, which, you might note refers to “certain nervous fanboys,” not all fanboys. The remarks are only “personal” if you choose to apply them to yourself.

    Here’s the thing, I’m a geek, too. I’m a movie geek and I’m well aware of the fact and it doesn’t bother me in the least. But that doesn’t mean I feel it is my bound duty to go around calling people who don’t agree with me names — nor my right. It’s worthless as discourse and certainly doesn’t help your case. It’s playground stuff.

    As for “just review the movie instead,” why? The movie doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is part of a bigger picture of pop culture as well. I did review the movie itself in some detail, too.

    And for the record no one — neither geek, nor jock — ever beat me up and took my lunch money.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Why do I get the feeling I’m going to be eternally defending how brilliant and masterful this movie is to people who just don’t get it? Ang Lee’s Hulk was brilliant in its own way too and I still defend that movie whenever it comes up in conversation.

    Vince, I’ll stand side by side with you and defend Hulk, but not Watchmen.

  20. ncain

    One of the really confusing things about the film was the violence. Some of it, like the scene where Night Owl and Silk Spectre break into the prison, is comic-booky, and some of it, like when The Comedian is shooting people with tear gas canisters or Rorscharch kills the kidnapper with a meat cleaver (a scene not in the book), seemed very realistic. It left me unsure whether Snyder was trying to turn Watchmen into a comic book movie, or stick with the source material’s indictment of comic book style violence.

  21. Dread P. Roberts

    Ang Lee’s Hulk was brilliant in its own way too and I still defend that movie whenever it comes up in conversation.

    While I’m not among the Hulk supporters by any means (In fact, though flawed, I probably still like “Watchmen” more), but I can understand and respect Ang Lee’s fan-base a little more for one basic reason – the movie is basically HIS creation. He took the basic principals of the ‘Hulk’ character, and made a statement and a movie that is uniquely HIS. Snyder didn’t really add anything MORE to the “Watchmen” universe other than excessive sex and violence – don’t get me wrong, I don’t really have a problem with sex and violence when it’s used appropriately and not simply for the sake of ‘being there’.

    Isn’t Leonard Cohen’s `Halleluia’ (all glory is god’s) ABOUT clumsy sex?

    Yes, but…I never thought that was the problem with this scene. Your argument could just as easily be made for almost all of the song choices. The issue is that the elements were not put together correctly, and therefore became distracting, and separated me (the viewer) from being drawn in and engaged. A movie is often most successful when you get sucked in and almost lost in the movie to the point where you almost forgot that you are even watching a movie. I GET the fact that Snyder was trying to be clever with the meanings of the songs. I know that “99 Luftballons” is a Cold War-era protest song, but did it really have to blast over the proceedings at a random moment in the movie so that I’m left asking myself “WTF was that!” Perhaps scenes with songs like that (and “Hallelujah”, and “All Along the Watchtower”) would work better if they were used a little more subtlety. Why not have some of these songs play in the background on a radio or something? Then you are adding an extra layer to possibly be discovered at a later time. Snyder had already started to do this by having things like the “New Frontiersman” comic book store in the background behind some of the scenes, or the “Outer Limits” episode (that the ‘squid’ is based on) playing in the BACKGROUND at the end. That stuff was great! Why not do that with some of the songs so they still get their point across without feeling inappropriate?

  22. Ken Hanke

    Yes, but…I never thought that was the problem with this scene. Your argument could just as easily be made for almost all of the song choices. The issue is that the elements were not put together correctly, and therefore became distracting, and separated me (the viewer) from being drawn in and engaged.

    I’ll put the objection in another direction. A quick count turns up no less than 17 instances of “Hallelujah” being used on the soundtracks of movies or TV episodes prior to surfacing here. For me, that’s part of the distraction. It’s a case of, “Oh, no, not this song again.” I have nothing against pop songs being used on soundtracks in principle. (Wes Anderson is a master of this.) But a little originality in the matter of choice would help.

  23. Dread P. Roberts

    A quick count turns up no less than 17 instances of “Hallelujah” being used on the soundtracks of movies or TV episodes prior to surfacing here. For me, that’s part of the distraction. It’s a case of, “Oh, no, not this song again.”

    While I agree with the ‘overused’ argument to a certain extent, I still think that there is even more to the problem. The main reason I say that is because the love scene in “The Departed” with “Hallelujah” playing didn’t bother me at all (and I could say the same for “Shrek”). For some reason the scene didn’t feel awkward and cheesy like it does in this case. My conclusion is, again, that the issue rests in how it’s ‘directed’.

    The irony in all of this is that “The Times They Are A-Changin’” scene is one of the best openings that I have seen in a comic book movie. When I stop to think about it, Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” playing during the opening of Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, was my favorite opening for a zombie movie. In fact, one of my favorite parts of that movie was Synders decision to use a jazzy Richard Cheese remake of the Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness”.

    For the record, I love Leonard Coen’s music. Much like Dylan, I think he is a phenomenal songwriter. If anyone is interested in seeing (what I consider) good use of his music, then check out the much underrated “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”. On the surface this might look like a geeky video game player documentary, but underneath is a great movie with a heart, and a tale of perseverance. Coen’s song “Everybody Knows” is great in this movie.

  24. Justin Souther

    In fact, one of my favorite parts of that movie was Synders decision to use a jazzy Richard Cheese remake of the Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness”.

    Oh jeez, I had just forgotten about that.

  25. Ken Hanke

    Oh jeez, I had just forgotten about that

    And here I am wandering about in blissful ignorance of who Richard Cheese and Disturbed even are.

  26. Dread P. Roberts

    And here I am wandering about in blissful ignorance of who Richard Cheese and Disturbed even are.

    I’m not terribly familiar with either one of these…um…’musician(s)’, but I will try to enlighten you to the best of my ability, so that you can never again claim ignorance as a defense. Richard Cheese is sort of the equivalent of what would happen if Frank Sinatra and “Weird Al” Yankovic had a baby who (for obvious reasons) was very confused. Disturbed is just your standard run-of-the-mill poppy heavy-ish metal band, that occasionally enjoys imitating random simian grunts (for the obvious artistic merit that is associated with ‘simian grunts’). Now…if you put those two together, you will get an amusingly (to say the least) funny surprise that probably could only work in a zombie movie.

  27. brebro

    You should try to seek his work out. For brilliant parodic fluff, you can’t beat Dick Cheese.

  28. Ken Hanke

    For brilliant parodic fluff, you can’t beat Dick Cheese.

    Even I’m not commenting on this statement.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Well, there was a topic that killed this thread dead in its tracks. Understandable really.

  30. Ken Hanke

    For those following the fate of Watchmen, it’s been reported that attendance was down a whopping 71% from opening weekend.

  31. Vince Lugo

    What troubles me about that is that the film’s screenwriter, David Hayter, said that if Watchmen fails the studios will never allow a film like it to be made again. I’m a huge fan of the comic book/superhero movie genre (I’m planning to write a book about it, in fact) and I’m terrified that there won’t be any more of these kinds of films made now. Everyone will assume the bubble has burst and cancel any projects currently in the pipeline, including several I’ve been waiting years for like Sin City 2 and Captain America. It truly is a scary time to be a fan, especially considering that the reason Watchmen is failing is because the majority of the non-fan audience was expecting a straight-up crimefighter flick and can’t wrap their head around something as artistic as this (just my opinion). The dumbing down of American pop culture continues.

  32. Tonberry

    This movie has “Lucas Film” syndrome to me. Like the Star Wars prequels or the new Indiana Jones, as soon as I walked out of the cinema, I was pretty dazed from “Watchmen.” Then, slowly, as I began to think more and more about it, sleeping on my opinion, I woke up without the daze and felt ‘meh.’

    Your review is spot on. I want to see it again though, however, I just don’t feel like investing another three hours of my life, to only have my feelings confirmed. I rather spend that time viewing the directors cut.

    And it is very telling that attendance dropped so quickly. The uber geeks burned themselves out on this one.

  33. Ken Hanke

    What troubles me about that is that the film’s screenwriter, David Hayter, said that if Watchmen fails the studios will never allow a film like it to be made again.

    Yes, and Eli Roth went out and told everybody that it would mean the end of R-rated horror if they didn’t get into the theater and support his Hostel II. It didn’t mean any such thing.

    I’m a huge fan of the comic book/superhero movie genre (I’m planning to write a book about it, in fact) and I’m terrified that there won’t be any more of these kinds of films made now.

    Well, you’ve more than a book’s worth of material now, but I wouldn’t worry. Even if the bubble has burst, it’ll be back. These things are all cyclical one way and another. Has it burst yet? I doubt it. It survived Hulk (twice), The Punisher (twice), Catwoman, Elektra, The Spirit, etc. This close to the phenomenal box office of The Dark Knight, it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the end of the cycle just yet.

    Watchmen is failing is because the majority of the non-fan audience was expecting a straight-up crimefighter flick and can’t wrap their head around something as artistic as this (just my opinion). The dumbing down of American pop culture continues.

    Just my take, but Watchmen failed through elements that have nothing to do with its artistry (your view) or lack thereof (my view).

    It starts off with a lack of immediate identification against it. Go outside of comic book circles and people don’t know the source material or the characters. I heard numerous stories of people asking who the blue guy on the banner in a theater lobby was. Put simply, the general public knows who Batman is, they never heard of Dr. Manhattan. The promotions — all aimed at the comic book audience — did nothing to clear this up, but tried to play up its niche popularity.

    Then it compounds this by going with a largely no-name cast. I have never heard anyone say they wanted to go see “that new Billy Crudup picture.” Never. And he’s one of the higher-profile names.

    Follow this with limiting the audience by going for a fairly hard R approach, and you’re asking for trouble at the box office. When I talked about the movie with Matt Mittan on the radio, he had been all set to take his kids to see the film. Then he learned it was R rated and had nudity, sex, extreme violence and gore and that was that.

    Then there are the fans themselves. You can’t really break this down into fans and non-fans, because a good bit of the displeasure with the film is in fact coming from fans of the source material, who are pretty unhappy with what Snyder did to it.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Then, slowly, as I began to think more and more about it, sleeping on my opinion, I woke up without the daze and felt ‘meh.’

    I was pretty much in the “meh” camp by the time I walked out, though being entertained by listening to two of my companions argue about how faithful is was or wasn’t. And I was a little annoyed that I hadn’t gotten the movie that the “Times They Are A-Changing” indicated I might have gotten. In all honesty, at this point, a little over a week and a few other movies later, it threatens to pretty much evaporate for me. A year from now, I’ll probably remember as little about it is I do of Daredevil.

  35. I’m the last one to complain about long movies, especially if the story is so compelling that it requires that much time to be complete. But it dragged, to the point that I was wondering if Snyder was trying to hit some kind of benchmark in minutes. Also, don’t take you’re comic book loving, thrill loving teens to this movie, unless you’re ready to parentally squirm in awkwardness during the schlocky, somewhat unnecessary sex scenes. I’ve seen many edgy films with the appropriate fore-warnings with the 14y.o., but one scene in particular was so, em, “thrusty,” that I was waiting for DSS to swing out of the shadows on wires and whisk blushing parents into a Hades reserved for bad cinematic judgment. Minus that and the dragging, and without knowing much about the comic, it certainly entertained and left the senses quite full.

  36. Jim Donato

    It’s been 22 years since I bought a superhero comic and 15 years since I saw a film based on a comic book. I am repelled by both the genre of superhero comics and the notion of films made thereof. But since reaching adulthood and finding the vast majority of my childhood/adolescent tastes lacking, I can’t really say that Moore & Gibbons’ “Watchmen” book is one of them. Far from it. My hardcover copy has fallen apart because of excessive re-reading. Each reading makes the book rise in my esteem.

    It really it the “Citizen Kane” of comics. It is a triumph of its unique form in that it exemplifies what words and pictures on the page can do more vividly than any other medium in much the same way that Kane showed how the techniques of cinema can be applied to storytelling in ways that were unique from print or the stage. The manifold layers of simile, metaphor, parallelism advance the themes of the story in ways that demand the ability to absorb it at the reader’s pace and refer back to earlier pages. That is its achievement. There’s not a line in a panel that isn’t there for a reason. I’d heard of the development hell that the “property” had for 20-odd years and was gladdened that no movie had resulted. Until now, at least.

    When I heard that the director who gave the world “300” was at the helm, I knew it would fail. The conventions of the modern superhero film as laid down by Tim Burton with “Batman” would all but assure that. We have come to expect superhero films to be all about the look. Shiny surfaces and bold visuals. In contrast, Dave Gibbons drawings are set within a rigidly conservative compositional framework and eschew eye candy. The matter-of-fact quality of his art serves the purposes of the book far better than a more flamboyant art style, say that of Neal Adams – with his constant sacrifice of storytelling to the altar of composition, ever could. Comic books at their laziest are no different from movie storyboards. It would be a common error to assume that adapting a comic book into a film would be simple based on this attitude. If one were content to adapt the vastly typical bottom-feeding comic book, I suppose it could be. The critical error here was in attempting to adapt a comic book which was by no means complacent. The error was compounded by giving the reins of the production to a mental teen-ager.

  37. Jim Donato

    P.S.

    Ken writes:

    >>I have never heard anyone say they wanted to go see “that new Billy Crudup picture.” Never. <<

    Then he has never been in my household. Both my wife and I hold Mr. Crudup in the sort of esteem one usually sees for Philip Seymour Hoffman (though we like him too). We have never seen him deliver a poor performance and actively follow his career path. I am somewhat chagrined that “Watchmen” features Mr. Crudup, though in voice and CGI only. It seems unusual to heap scorn upon the fruits of his work – but in this case I’ll make an exception.

  38. brebro

    Crudup is also a University of Chapel Hill alumnus. That alone is worthy of adulation, I say.

  39. irelephant

    I’m sad to say that I wasted my hard earned money to see this picture. Should have stayed home, drank a beer, been intimate with myself, then watched the home shopping channel till I fell asleep. Yes, I do have regrets in my life.

    Read that Terry Gilliam spent a number of years trying to get this picture made. Wonder what kind of spectacle it might have been.

  40. irelephant

    I can’t say I’ve ever seen a blue CGI winkie in a movie before. I s’pose that, if nothing else, is a breakthrough, and perhaps to some degree earns Snyder the title of visionary. Though the performance of the man behind the winkie bore too much of a resemblence to a disillusioned new age guru. You win some and you lose some, eh?

  41. Ken Hanke

    Both my wife and I hold Mr. Crudup in the sort of esteem one usually sees for Philip Seymour Hoffman (though we like him too). We have never seen him deliver a poor performance and actively follow his career path

    Yes, but I’ll watch anything with Chiwetel Ejiofor. He may, in fact, be my favorite actor going today. I do not, however, think that his name on a marquee constitutes a box office draw. Then again, I’ll watch anything with Gustav von Seyffertitz.

  42. Ken Hanke

    I can’t say I’ve ever seen a blue CGI winkie in a movie before. I s’pose that, if nothing else, is a breakthrough, and perhaps to some degree earns Snyder the title of visionary.

    And I still encounter people complaining about the big blue willy. Seems there’s nothing like a penis — CGI or otherwise — to set the world talking. Remember when Forgetting Sarah Marshall came out? One of these days I’m going to succumb to the temptation to do a special Willies-a-poppin’ Screening Room — as soon as we figure out how to deal with the photos.

  43. Justin Souther

    Willies-a-poppin’ Screening Room

    My title for it was better.

  44. Ken Hanke

    My title for it was better

    Yeah, but I’m not sure your title will get past the Xpress Powers That Be.

  45. Ken Hanke

    Heck, I’m with you on Gustav von Seyffertitz!

    That man was a god!

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