BNAT Footage Fest: Massawyrm Watches The WATCHMEN (for 22 minutes...)
Published at: Dec. 19, 2008, 2:10 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Doctor Massawyrm here.
It is Sunday, December 14th and we are watching 22 minutes of Watchmen. You would like it. 12 Second ago you were minding your own business in front of a computer. 5 minutes from now you will be calling me names in talkback.
Of everyone around these parts, I’m easily the most skeptical of Zach Snyder’s ability to nail Watchmen. It was almost exactly two years ago that I first wrote about my strong displeasure with his adaptation of Frank Miller’s brilliant 300 - chiefly that he robbed the story of one of its best characters (Stumblios) only to replace the missing story by expanding Leonidas’ wife’s role from one telling frame in the book into a 20 minute political rape story. And while a dark, political story involving the sexual abuse of a woman is about as Frank Miller as you get, it wasn’t the comic, nor the historical event. It just looked like it.
Now there’s not too terribly much wrong with that. I didn’t like it. A lot of people didn’t. But a hell of a lot more people did. They loved the loud, slow motion, visual pornography of it. And God bless you if you did. I wish I could love it like so many others have. It really is a very pretty movie. But Watchmen isn’t just a graphic novel. It is one of the best comic book stories ever told. It is a book I always thought might have been even better as a full blown literary novel – a thick tome deconstructing the superhero mythos and updating it into a time when it seemed like even spandex and super powers couldn’t save us.
Zach Snyder has made exactly two films before this: both of them adaptations. Neither of them faithful. So when he states how he has used the comic book as a Bible and couldn’t imagine changing a thing (except, you know, maybe the ending), pardon me if my asshole puckers up a bit. I’ll believe it when I see it.
So how did the 22 minutes play to someone nervous about it? Well, it certainly LOOKED like Watchemen, I can say that with absolute certainty. Virtually every detail pops right out of the comic book – from the way characters look and move right on to the angles from which things are framed and shot. The image that most tickled me and evoked the comic was a simple one – Rorschach and Daniel (The Nite Owl) sitting on the steps down in the Nite Owl’s lair. It was EXACT. Every detail, right down to how Rorschach walks down the tunnel afterwards is right out of the book. Seemingly word for word and beat for beat.
The credit sequence is gorgeous and entirely new. It is an elegantly shot series of 3D still-lifes of iconic photographs from the Watchmen universe and is a perfect example of what Snyder does best. It is beautiful, evocative and perfectly sets up the universe in which he is about to play. Several people have already asked me about slow motion in this film and what they’ve seen in the trailer, and I can say thus far there isn’t an abundant amount of it – not like 300. I’ve often joked that having cut out all of the story from 300, Snyder had to do SOMETHING to fill the time. This time around he doesn’t have a second to waste. So he doesn’t.
Now I said LOOK for a reason – because from what we saw I didn’t yet FEEL like Watchmen. But I’m not going to blame that on entirely on Snyder. Despite getting 22 minutes in (of what I keep hearing will end up a 150-some odd minute theatrical release) we got exactly 13 pages into the first issue of the comic. That’s it. Aside from the credits there is the death of the Comedian, the first half of Rorschach’s rooftop journal entry and his investigation into the Comedian’s apartment, Daniel reminiscing first with the elder Nite Owl then with Rorschach. The footage ended with Rorschach walking down the tunnel and Daniel sitting alone on the stoop. We never got far enough into the story to feel any investment whatsoever in these characters – we just weren’t far enough into the film.
As much as it all LOOKED right, this footage worried me for two reasons. Chiefly, it is that it takes 22 minutes to get through half of Chapter 1. There are 12 Chapters. The Pirate story is ending up on DVD and not in the theatre (a brilliant compromise), but what else will be missing from the final film. 1/6th the way through the film but 1/24th the way through the story. Just something to think about. Secondly, and far more minor is that the death of the Comedian is a bit weird. Despite Snyder saying that he couldn’t imagine telling that sequence any different than in the book, he does two things the book doesn’t. First off, it isn’t quite intercut with the subsequent investigation. He tells that linearly. And then he shows us the assailant (but doesn’t give anything away.) It’s not so much done POV like in the book. It’s watching this big guy whoop the ever living shit out of The Comedian. There’s NOTHING wrong with doing it that way. I only mention it because Snyder himself pointed out that sequence at Comic Con last year (a year and a half ago) and used it to illustrate what he intended to do.
All told, it was a very beautiful, original looking 22 minutes that perfectly evoked Dave Gibbons classic art. I’m just not yet sold on how faithful this will be to Alan Moore’s grand opus. Really, it’s one of the best comics ever written. So I remain cautiously optimistic that all of the remaining changes to the film are as minor as rearranging the Comedian’s death is. I really would love nothing more than to see this rock. Many who saw it with me were already convinced. Looks like the big hurdle now is going to be that altered ending. I’m dying to find out what they do.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.