Massawyrm is disappointed by the dangling blue dong of WATCHMEN...
Published at: March 4, 2009, 9:39 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
I want to love WATCHMEN so bad it hurts. I mean I really, really want to love it. But I can’t. It is the cinematic equivalent of a Penguin Blowjob, delivering the goods for a solid two and a half hours before overdrafting every last bit of goodwill it has earned in the last fifteen. It’s not that there’s nothing to love here. There’s a LOT to love. There’s a lot that Snyder not only got right from the comic, but actually did better. But, for me, it doesn’t excuse what he did to the ending. What, Wyrm? You mean the squid? No, not the god damned squid. I’ve written it before and I will no doubt write it again: when you are adapting something it is not the details that are important. It is the SOUL that is important. As long as the adaptation SAYS the same things and MEANS the same things as the original work, then I don’t care if it is a squid or a giant baboon or a nuclear warhead. As long as the story remains intact.
Here? It doesn’t.
Look, WATCHMEN is the HAMLET of comic books. It is our one great tragic masterpiece. As many have said and will continue to say, it is literature. The ending isn’t just IMPORTANT to WATCHMEN, it is the point of the story. The entire thing works up to it. The whole of the 12 issue series is filled with brilliant foreshadowing and little jokes about what is to come. Every character arc finds its end beautifully tied up without a single, unnecessary, dangling thread left behind. And while it does not end well, it ends exactly as it should to make the statement that it needs to make. Some people hate it the first time they read it. But many revisit it as it sets in and marinates over time. Well, Snyder understands that hate. And Zach Snyder would really like it if you didn’t hate the ending to his movie. So he changed it.
Imagine if you will the ending of the aforementioned HAMLET. As directed by Zach Snyder. (INSERT slo-mo/speed up jokes of choice here.) Now, this version of Hamlet is AWESOME. Everything is just as you saw it in your head, and while it isn’t a word for word adaptation, it captures every major scene in just the same way as the play did – only in less time and with much better production values. But then you get to the end. And it’s…different. Gertrude doesn’t drink the poisoned cup – instead she catches a nick from Laertes poison tipped sword. Hamlet, thrown into a rage drives his sword through Laertes, and then charges the king, killing him as well. Then hamlet, distraught over what he’s just done, falls to his knees and drives his unblunted sword (because blunted swords would look lame) through his own gut. Horatio lunges forward screaming “HAMLET! NOOOOOOO!” But it is too late. Hamlet is dead. Horatio gives a speech – and Fortinbras doesn’t show up, because let’s face it, it always was a little too convenient of time to arrive, don’t you think, and today’s audience won’t buy that.
You see, technically, it’s the same ending. Everyone who lives, lives, and everyone who dies, dies. But this is an ending today’s audiences will like more, right? Maybe. But that’s not how HAMLET is supposed to end. And this isn’t how WATCHMEN is supposed to end, either. This ending is a little too happy. A little too Hollywood. And the reason everyone goes their separate ways and the mood in which they do so just so contradictory to the original work that it is very jarring to fans of the book. I was LOVING the movie until the final chapter. I mean LOVING it. I was seeing the film everyone else had been writing about. Snyder had nailed it. And as everything started falling into place, I could feel it all slipping away. It was one of those “loss of erection” moments in which you pray that it stands back up, but in doing so it only gets limp and useless in your hand. NONONONONONON! Come back to me! Don’t fail on me now! But it’s over. It’s gone.
But the two and a half hours before that – fucking exquisite. What he gets right, he really gets right. There are a lot of things he leaves behind or under-explained, but it works for the most part. There are plenty of visual cues that convey a lot of the books in-jokes that might require longer explanation. And his work at putting you in the universe of WATCHMEN is incredible. The book really does come alive right in front of you. In fact, there are two elements I find superior here than in any other presentation of the work.
The first is Adrian Veidt. Matthew Goode lends a real humanity to the role that never quite came across to me on the page. READING Ozymandias speak is something like listening to an arrogant college professor drone on – what he has to say is important, but it never comes across like he FEELS what he is saying. Goode lends a delightful, excited touch of madness to Ozy, letting him come across as a guy who really believes in what he’s doing. I never fully understood Veidt until I saw Goode’s portrayal of him. I never liked him or cared at all until he was presented just so.
The second is Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach. He. Is. Rorschach. Period. Once you’ve seen this, sit down and reread the comic and you can’t escape Haley’s voice. His portrayal. It is seeing Shakespeare performed the way it was meant to be seen, an Oscar caliber performance that carries the film (and many of the weaker actors in the cast.) This is his movie, his truly epic performance. Even the people who hate the living shit out of this film will find it hard to knock what he’s done with the character. The look (even without the mask), the voice, the staccato of his speech. It all captures the book and at times elevates the material.
Entire patches of the film are thrilling, funny or downright heart-wrenching. Say what you will about the changes that were made (and I’ll have more to say later) it is clear that Snyder LOVES this book and its characters. Everyone is presented in a way that you feel for them; even the guys you never feel much for in the book. The stuff that’s gone – Captain Metropolis, the newsstand owner, the Psychiatrist’s home life – that’s all the stuff that I was fine with being left by the way side. It’s stuff that probably only worked best in the book anyway.
But many of the complaints out there are right on. The film IS dense. The makeup is occasionally complete ass, with almost every bit of “aging makeup” looking AWFUL. The lack of score is a bit jarring – I was kind of hoping for a healthy mix of era appropriate music and original orchestral – but several of the songs that weren’t era appropriate seemed terribly out of place. A few of the actors were a bit uneven, especially Malin Ackerman as Laurie Jupiter who comes off a bit stiff most of the time. And while I applaud Snyder’s stick-to-it-ness in bringing us dangling blue dong, after a while it becomes a bit excessive. They didn’t have to give the brother pants or anything – but Zach, come on. Medium shots? From the waist up, maybe? Once in a while? There comes a point at which I was reminded of SUPERBAD and wondered if Snyder sat around drawing Dr. Manhattan all day in school as a child. Put that together with 300 and it begins to paint a picture…
So will you like it? Fuck if I know. The audience opinion was across the board, from people wanting to name their first born Rorschach to people walking out in disgust and bitching for a solid hour. Not to mention all points in between. What I find most interesting is that Harry and I both equally love and hate almost the exact same things. And yet he walked out thrilled and I walked out dumbstruck, disappointed and completely unsure of what had just happened. I saw this film a week and a half ago and I’ve finally found the words to write about how I feel. And I have a lot more to say – so next Monday, once you folks have all had your shot at seeing it, I’m going to write something I almost never write: a spoiler heavy dissection of where I felt this went right and where it went VERY wrong. I look forward to the discussion with you all. Until then, I’m dying to see how this plays out. It is a divisive film, a mixed bag that everyone will react to differently. And right now I am absolutely fascinated by everyone’s reactions. See you guys Monday.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.