WATCHMEN: There must be some kind of way out of here


Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” If that’s true, in the case of Watchmen the message should be, “stick to your medium.” Because if you haven’t read the book, don’t waste your time. If you’re reading this I’m not going to belabor the backstories of the graphic novel and the movie directed by Zack Snyder. In the event of an emergency the oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead compartments. And Awaaay We Go!

First the good. The visual effects are probably the best literal translation of the comic book panel since the “ZOK!” superimposed over the fight scenes in the 1966 Batman TV series.

Second the bad. The acting is atrocious. Defendant number one, Malin Akerman. I’ve seen particleboard with more emotive ability. There is a scene of coitus superherois between Akerman and Owl Man (Patrick Wilson) in the Owlmobile that I think is the sole reason Akerman was hired. And Wilson displays all the depth and range of paint drying. Mathew Goode, the anti-hero hero is right up there with gypsum board. The rest of the cast is burdened by makeup that they cannot overcome with their limited abilities (acting, not superhero).

Next the ugly. The absolutely gratuitous, pointless violence with compound fractures and blood squirting captured in glorious slow-mo close-ups a la The Matrix to inspire the next generation of Gary Ridgeways whose parents are too lazy or too damn dumb to know that an R rated movie like this is inappropriate for kids under 18. (It really should have been rated NC-17, not R). And did we REALLY have to see multiple shots of Dr. Manhattan’s MIRV?

Now the blasphemous. They changed the ending – and it was better!

Finally the point. Watchmen was a originally drawn and written as a graphic novel and is a master of that medium known as “panel art” to the Upper West Side (Dr.) Manhattan crowd and “comic book” to the Great Unwashed. While individual scenes and sequences may have been translated literally (or as best as possible) to the moving image, it is simply impossible to take an art form which is a stationary medium and translate ALL of it literally to the moving screen without the result resembling Rorshach’s ever-changing blobular mask. – in other words a confused, incoherent mess.

The bottom line. Contrary to the fanboys, film students, and critics, Watchmen is NOT another Battleship Potemkin (let alone Star Wars). However it is NOT League of Extraordinary Gentlemen either. It is an interesting failure. Should you spend your hard earned $7.50? Only if you can see it in a theater with five other people like I did. Wait for the dvd. The theatrical version, not the “special director’s nine millionth edit” release they are planning. Cuz crap with a cherry on top is still crap. But it’s not TOTAL diarrhea. Confused? So am I. Said the joker to the thief.

5 thoughts on “WATCHMEN: There must be some kind of way out of here

  1. I caught it and, not having read the graphic novel, the biggest failure in my mind is like you said: the medium. I thought it was mostly well done but with only a couple hours to go through such a dense plot, it felt extremely rushed. I don’t know if the novel was like this, but it seemed like most of the movie was flashbacks. Not that I was confused by the jumps in time, as I’ve heard others saying they were, but at the end you realize hardly anything has happened in the present tense and somehow that’s supposed to make a story worth watching. It’s clear why the novel would be better.

  2. The comic is written just like that. Lots of flashback sequences – and it works. You can borrow it from People’s Museum of Decadent Western Arts next time you are in town. Just return on pain of death from NKVD.

  3. I think your review is pretty spot on in many ways. Like Dick, I haven’t read the comic but I enjoyed the movie. I had low expectations but was pleasantly surprised to lose my sense of time and surroundings while watching this flick. It didn’t feel like a 2 hour 40 minute movie to me. I do think its worth seeing in the theater — preferably IMAX for the special effects alone. Agreed, it could have used a NC-17 rating!

  4. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was an awful movie. This sound pretty not good as well. My friend said he enjoyed this a lot more than Indianna Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but that might not be saying much.

    The biggest problem I have with adaptations, be it from comic book, book, or a previously made movie, is that people expect it to be the same as the original. The whole point is to make a movie, not an animated comic book or novel. A movie has different plot requirements from other story telling media. So changing things up can be good if it makes the movie better. Sounds like that wasn’t the case here.

    Lord of the Rings is a classic example in my mind. While Peter Jackson made a good attempt, I think the 2nd and 3rd movies in his series show that great books don’t necessarily translate into great movies. Superfans complained when he cut out some inconsequential character here or there; in my mind, he should have cut out more. Moral of the story: if you want Lord of the Rings, read the books.

  5. This is why I don’t see movies made from books I really like. I like coming up with my own in-head movie while reading. I have never and will never watch “The Polar Express” or “The Grinch” for just that reason. While they may be finely made movies, I know they will never live up to the high standards I have set for them.

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