Watching the Watchmen

Yes, another movie review post and of a movie everyone else is watching. I need to write more…

Watchmen has finally made it to the sliver screen with much fanfare and service. The preamble has been enjoyable with posts from The New Frontiersman. An ingenious way of putting more use out of B-roll and props the film created.

MINUTEMEN 1940 by The New Frontiersman, on Flickr

This photo for example was the first put on the Flickr account, and the most important one. But there were a slue of other significant artifacts including this video “6 Minutes to Midnight”. Don’t want to dwell on this for the post, but I really wanted to illustrate that this was pre-release marking at it’s best. These things weren’t blatant and weak attempts, but strong pieces to help establish the narrative.

The format of the Media

The main point I want to make is how the format of the media can hinder or strengthen an adaptation. Watchmen is a 12 part story which also included ‘book excerpts’ for all but the 12th chapter. Even when you read the novel in the complete book form, there are 11 intermissions between each chapter; You can pause and take in the stories. Movies don’t allow for the audience to ‘digest’ the story before continuing. You have to go along for the ride until it is done. While you can pause a DVD, the fact that the movie doesn’t allow for these pauses by design.

This was the inherent problem for me with adapting Watchmen for the silver screen specifically. Even if there was a ‘part 1/2’ of the film, it still wouldn’t be enough to digest the narrative parts. I don’t claim that this film shouldn’t have been done because of this; I have to embrace the fact that we can never be satisfied with a film that can’t be broken into it’s parts.

But what form of media do we have that can be separated into parts but still yield the high production value required for the film? TV has the ability to separate into parts, but not the kind of production value to supply the demand. The movie industry can provide the funding, but the format limits. The Internet in general can do this, but not enough capital can be made to fund the production.

The Changed Ending

My LA collogues already warned me that the ending was different than the novels, but made sense and worked. When I saw the movie, I agreed that this change made a nice take. Though I would have loved to see a large squid…

What I find interesting is what kind of ‘other’ that left the society with each ending. For the novel, the ‘other’ is an alien race. This leaves the society to think to the stars and to not feel alone in the universe. Though hostile, there were other sentient beings in the universe. With the movie, the ‘other’ is Dr. Manhattan. Since he’s simply indestructible, the best path is to avoid him at all costs. Thus society is closed off from the rest of the world.

Personally, I’d rather have a world of a giant squid than Dr. Manhattan as the enemy. At least we’d be looking towards the stars more.

The Soundtrack

Being a period piece, using licensed songs can do a good job taken in the mood of an era. 99 Luftballons was welcomed both for the choice of the german version and that it’s a cold war protest song. Then it got weird.

While I can’t recall the specific songs and scenes, what stuck out was how simply inappropriate these songs were. I felt like I was back at Emerson where a professor would play a scene of Triumph of the Will (1935) and play the Yakety Sax song as the soundtrack. It ruined the mood and was simply awkward in a couple of scenes. ESPECIALLY with the sex scenes.

This is the only aspect of the film that was a completely wrong choice.

Random other thoughts

Jupiter / Silk Speckter II: Didn’t smoke. Was only apparently missing with the Mars scene.

Night Owl I: Completely skipped his death which was an extremely key aspect to Night Owl. Obviosuly we’ll be getting it with the 20-hour DVD version, but the situation around Rorschach’s death (the 2nd friend he looses in a day) really explains the crushing weight of the situation.

Rorschach: Jackie Earle Haley needs to be nominated (again) for best actor due to his performance in this movie. I can’t put it plainer than that.

2 responses to “Watching the Watchmen”

  1. Hey Seg, I’ve noticed that you’ve been consistently using the proper article and singular for a title that is written (on the book’s cover and on movie posters and what have you) in the plural and without an article. (That is, you’ve been writing for the last few days “The Watchman” instead of “Watchmen”.) Is there a particular reason for that?