Watchmen (Zack Snyder, 2009)
The latest attempt to capitalize on the graphic novel adaptation trend is a nearly 3 hour wannabe epic that takes itself way too seriously. Perhaps if a third of the film wasn’t in slow motion, the run time might have been a little less excrutiating, unfortunately this film was directed by, “Zack Snyder, who is being marketed by Warner Bros. as a “visionary” which is grateful studio’s code word for “competent hack.” (J. Hoberman)”) The film begins by simultaneously butchering American history as well as Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are A-Changin’” by way of tacky 3 minute title credit montage. That would be the first, but not the last song this movie would desecrate. The soundtrack reminds me of the first mixtape I made after becoming a Napster member when I was 14, as it spits on everything from Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday, to Philip Glass, Joplin, Hendrix, and probably most embarassing of all, Simon & Garfunkle, among others; the choices become gratiutiously obvious and rather comical. It’s so hystrerically awful, that it brings The SNL parody of the OC to mind. The convuluted semi-nonlinear narrative is presented poorly. The bad makeup jobs, and abhorrent CGI doesn’t help matters much and the fabricated reality world isn’t even slightly believable for me. Films like Roger Rabbit or Cool World, where cartoons characters interact with real people, have more plausiblity to me than the video game quality special effects in this movie; and it’s not just the CGI and obvious greenscreened studio sets that makes this so hard to swallow, but also the complete lack of emotional connection with any sort of sense of humanity outside the “superhero” community.” The film leaves me no choice but to be as apathetic and disconnected towards “the world” as they speak of in this film, as Dr. Manhattan.
The crowd sequences are obvious set pieces and completely souless. Take for example the mob scene: Dozens of extras holding picket signs, as the camera pans over and two men step into the foreground to throw a molotov cocktail; it appears to be nothing more than a group of bored extras giving a half-assed effort more than an actual riot. There is no chaos, the blocking is dull as each of the extras basically remains static, and the bar scene has a similar feeling. It’s not surprising that Snyder’s crowd scenes are so dismal and his character development so one dimensional considering his film 300 (representing the number of Spartans) only introduced us to a handful of Spartans without any sort of depth, and never showed more than about 30 men standing in the frame. Even the main character’s are poorly developed and it’s not as if the dialogue and action picks up the slack. Maybe if Snyder could have spent a little more time making us care about the character’s and the story if he wasn’t preoccupied with his gimmicky overstylization. I personaly found the fight sequences to be yawn inducing. I’m sure the story and artwork itself makes for a great comic. To be honest I like some of the themes and plot points, and of course there are a few worthwhile shots within the 2 hours and 50 minutes, it’s just a shame it wasn’t left to be digested strictly as the originally intended medium. I don’t blame the studios though. Watchmen has certainly already proven itself to be a financial success and entertaining enough and comics and graphic novels are a hot commodity at the box office these days. I just feel that cinema is the most powerful and expressive tool we possess and it’s a shame that this is the kind of film that is making excessive amounts of money and being overhyped and seen by the majority. The source material could certainly be made into something worthwhile if only the budgets of mainstream cinema and sensibilities of auteurs such as Darrren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, or maybe even Richard Kelly could coalesce. When I see film franchises like The Fast and the Furious getting 4 films, it’s not only extremely discouraging, but seems more grounded in an alternate reality.