watchmen: my review

[A note on spoilers: if you’re familiar with the graphic novel, this shouldn’t be terribly spoilery for you, because I don’t go into detail about any big plot changes.  If you’re not familiar with the graphic novel and wish to remain 100% spoiler-free regarding who lives and who dies and who sleeps with whom, proceed with caution, but really, go read the freaking novel.]

Wow.

The way I put it to my friends upon leaving the theater was, I think that was the best possible movie that could have been made based on the material.  The graphic novel was described as “unfilmable” for a reason, and this gutsy attempt at defying that pronouncement wins my thumbs up.

That said, I respect negative reviews like CNN’s, where the reviewer clearly understands the significance of the graphic novel but has a critique of the way it was adapted for the screen; what I cannot stand are reviews like USA Today’s, which dismisses Watchmen as a smidge better than Catwoman but not as good as the Spider-Man movies.  If you approach Watchmen as just another comic book movie, you’re missing the point.  It’s not a comic book movie.  It’s an indictment of human nature, that just happens to involve a group of people who dress up in costumes and fight crime.

The alteration to Adrian Veidt’s plan worked well and didn’t bother me at all.  What bugged me were some of the much smaller changes – those moments of “but that’s not what Rorschach did to the kidnapper.”  One small change I did like was having Dan witness Rorschach’s death and be affected by it.  In the novel he was too busy boinking Laurie to care, and Rorschach deserves someone to mourn him.  After repeatedly dismissing New York as a city of whores and politicians, not worth saving, he’s the only one who can’t live with the compromise of letting Veidt get away with killing them all for the sake of a beautiful lie.

When NYC was being destroyed, I was waiting for the obligatory shot of the Twin Towers disintegrating, and it didn’t come.  What a master stroke by Zac Snyder: instead, the camera pans across the desolation, and the Twin Towers are the only recognizable buildings left standing.  It’s a “wow” moment.

Music selections – awesome or distracting?  Some of the song choices were a bit jarring, but I think that sense of dissonance was intentional, to put a subtly different spin on what would otherwise have been completely serious scenes.  We’re meant to consider whether this is all, after all, a big joke, as the Comedian claimed.  The one time it seemed over the top was the use of Ride of the Valkyries over Dr. Manhattan’s intervention in Vietnam.  That was just too much.

Overall, seeing the story brought to the screen deepened my appreciation and enjoyment of the graphic novel.  Sometimes seeing a shot in motion instead of as a still comic panel, or hearing a line spoken aloud instead of reading it as dialogue in a bubble, makes you pick up on things you hadn’t realized were there.  The movie has inevitable flaws and will always be one of those films that a lot of people just don’t get; I don’t think it has a chance in hell of being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, as interesting a choice as that would be.  But the important thing is, here it is the next day and I still can’t stop thinking about this movie, going over and over it in my head, and I can’t wait to see it again.  Bravo.

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