Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, and Malin Åkerman
Have I Seen it Before: Yeah. I mean, I’ve read the comic book, so there’s not a lot that doesn’t cover both spheres of that particular venn diagram.
Did I Like It: Well… It’s not my least favorite Zack Snyder movie. It may even be my favorite Snyder film. But I’m quickly realizing that this doesn’t answer the question.
Here are some things I really like about Watchmen:
I’m eternally a sucker for alternate histories set in the 1980s. Ultimately, this is going to be granddaddy of that very niche genre.
I’m eternally a sucker for characters who can’t/won’t see time in a linear fashion. Billy Pilgrim, The Doctor, Doc Brown, Doctor Manhattan. They are all my kind of folks.
The Owlship is a neat vehicle unlike anything seen before or since in comicdom.
It’s always worth engaging in a story with no easy answers. Morally reprehensible characters have a point. Likable people make awful choices.
The costume choices made in the film subtly hints at the costume design of the Batman films in the 1990s. The armor Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) even has nipples.
Look at that, I eventually got to something I like about the film. There isn’t much there, sadly.
While reading Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen comic, I was struck by how good the work is. How comprehensive. How fully-realized. How dense, but in a good way.
And I remembered how much I didn’t think the movie lived up to that promise. However, now that the film has no sense of anticipation hover around it, it must have improved with age, no?
Sadly, no is right. I went for the Ultimate Cut in this viewing, rationalizing that perhaps with more of Moore and Gibbons’ work injected into the proceedings, things will have improved even more still. Not so, as Snyder’s insistence on transcription is only offset by some his truly baffling choices when he takes a swing at adaptation. Snyder probably shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame for the misfire, as Moore really intended for the work to be unadaptable and appears to have largely succeeded. It is entirely possible that there isn’t a cinematic version of this story that works. The forthcoming HBO series may or may not prove me wrong on that one
Also, I have a confession: I have never quite understood why Tales of The Black Freighter is such an essential part of the story in any format, beyond driving home the fact that in a world where superheroes were real, people would search for escapism in some other kind of story. Sure, there are some parallel qualities to the two stories, but beyond that it just added some depth to frames including Bernard (Jesse Reid). Now with all of the side story cut into the film, everything is just a longer and feels that way, with two feature-length movies fighting for screen time. Even the comic realized a little bit of Black Freighter goes a long way.
I’ve never seen a filmmaker who so wildly veers between tone deaf musical choices, and cues that are way too on the nose. In one of his better sequences—incidentally, the one where there is the most adaptation over transcription—over the montage opening credits, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” pins the tail right on the donkey. On the other end of things, Wagner blaring over the conclusion of the Vietnam War makes me feel like I’ve seen this movie before, because I have. The less said about Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” over the Owlship sex scene, the better off we all are*. I’m not sure why “99 Luftballoons” or “The Sound of Silence” are in this movie, other than they are both catchy and at least one of them would have gotten some serious FM play in 1985.
The cast is all over the place, sadly. Haley does yeoman’s work holding the movie together as what turns out to be the protagonist. Jeffery Dean Morgan—a good actor—is so earnest in every scene he inhabits that the earlier moral ghoulishness never comes across. Billy Crudup is supposed to be sleepwalking through the film, but I can’t quite figure out why everyone else decided to do the same thing.
Snyder may be a good director, but until he makes a film that isn’t irritating at its core, I’m not sure anyone is going to believe it.
*Okay, you want to talk about it? I challenge you to find a more awkward, uncomfortable sex scene in a movie. I don’t want to sound like a prude, but I just got embarrassed with its wanton earnestness. The comic book didn’t have that, I assure you.