Mar 5, 2009

Do you like to Watch?

Voyeur: one obtaining sexual gratification from observing unsuspecting individuals who are partly undressed, naked, or engaged in sexual acts; broadly: one who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means. If you aren't one already, you will be by the time you walk out of Zack Snyder's Watchmen

The best part of reviewing a movie like Watchmen is it's based on a graphic novel everyone and their mother (well, not my mother) has read. That means I don't have to waste time explaining the plot and introducing characters. Keep in mind, SPOILERS abound for movie specifics, especially how mind-blowingly awesome it was.

Watchmen plays exactly like a comic book and it works perfectly. Starting with the big mystery (who killed the Comedian?), to back-stories (Sally Jupiter) and ending with the villain explaining his master plan (Ozymandias) it's everything a comic adaptation should be. In fact, Watchmen's success is partially because it's telling the tale of one graphic novel. This isn't a Batman, Iron Man or Spider-Man where you have 50 plus years of history to choose from for one movie. This has a beginning, middle and end that were already expertly laid out by Alan Moore over twenty years ago. 

The Minutemen's history is told almost entirely in the opening credit sequence of the film. It definitely leaves you wanting more, to the extent that I thought they should have made another movie just about them. Seeing as how it runs almost three hours as it is, this was the best way to showcase the earlier costumed vigilantes' exploits and it's done really well.

Sally Jupiter (Carla Gugino) is the only member of the old team who gets more screen time as she's an intrinsic part in both her daughter, the second Silk Spectre, and the Comedian's lives. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's portrayal of the Comedian insured I will never look at him the same way again. Even though I knew what kind of character he was it still shook me to see his debasing actions. All of the actors were superb in their roles and Morgan was only upstaged by one - Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.

Haley's got a bit of the Bale Batman growl going on but it fits Rorschach better. He's not a sizable actor by any means but his presence is felt like a giant on screen. Whether it's simply breaking and entering or violently extracting information from an unwilling source he's Rorschach through and through. And all that without the use of facial expressions, though his inkblots say plenty and he's impressive out of the mask as well. I'd like the shake the hand of whomever designed his ever-changing mask, it makes a big impact.

Speaking of big impact, "Lower" Manhattan makes more than a cameo appearance, it's practically a supporting actor. It's nice to see the male figure get as much play as the female for a change, even if it is computer generated. Doctor Manhattan, as portrayed by Billy Crudup, is truly the heart of the film. I definitely found myself having more sympathy for him here than I did reading the graphic novel. Even though he's the only hero with actual powers there's just enough of the real man under the surface to keep him human.

While the majority of the cast is working in costume for most of the film, it felt like Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre) and Patrick Wilson (Night Owl) would never get there. But when they did, it was instant chemistry. The awkwardness they shared while in plain clothes disappeared once they donned their rubber and latex and kicked some good old fashion ass. It's one of the greatest team-ups I've seen in a while.

I hold true to my original assertion that Tom Cruise would have made a fantastic Ozymandias but Matthew Goode played cool, cunning and crafty with ease. Not only that, but he's the epitome of eighties fashion. He's rubbing elbows with Ziggy Stardust at Studio 54 and getting painted by Andy Warhol all while running the wealthiest corporation in the world. He's the focus of a plot point that might bother some fans but it doesn't stick out and doesn't change anything overall. Bonus points for Bubastis showing up near the end.

There was once talk that the setting of the film should be updated to modern times. I'm so glad they didn't. Some of the younger audience might be confused by Nixon-era references and public figures but not enough to detract from the overall message I think. I must highlight an area in which Watchmen really excelled - it's soundtrack. Each song is placed perfectly and aides in the emotional impact of each scene, not just background music.

Boys AND girls have plenty to look at in Watchmen. I honestly can't see how fans of the graphic novel won't like the film. It feels like not much was cut at all (besides the Black Freighter) and there are plenty of little nods to readers throughout. A large number of shots are taken directly from panels in the book and set design is to die for. Archimedes, I'm looking at you. Watchmen is visually gratifying and stimulates the nerdy glands in every way possible. Make sure you don't get too excited while sitting in the theater though, you never know who might be Watching you.


Big thanks to the IMAX theater in the Palisades Center Mall for my preview screening.


You can also view and discuss this article at GEN.

24 comments:

Randy said...

Thank you so much for posting this review, Jill. I'm not going to bore people anymore, but as a 'long time' comics reader who remembers having to wait a month or more between issues of the floppy Watchmen series, long before waiting for the trade was even an option, I admit to having some slight ambivalence still about the movie.

I was already planning on seeing it tomorrow with a buddy of mine, as my wife has no desire to see it. Even though her boyfriend Denny Duquette is in it.

Anyway, hearing that the Nerdy Bird loved it takes my 85-90% of excitement to a full 100% and beyond.

Thanks, Jill.

D0nnaTr0y said...

Wow. This is the first positive review (by an actual comics reader) that I've read. I'm glad to hear that someone out there likes it! I'm looking forward to seeing it soon and am hoping the fact that its been a long time since I read the book will help me enjoy it a little better. Thanks for the post.

Amber Love said...

You had me rolling on the floor at "Lower" Manhattan!

I also don't see what would draw non-readers/fans to the movie unless they are someone's date. These are characters in a story that the rest of us are looking forward to seeing. I'm sure when the first Superman movie was coming out there was a bigger rush of excitement because he has a broader history among the popular culture. Watchmen has been relegated to cult status meaning, my mother has no idea what it is but she knows Batman and Superman.

I fear that I will also detest Jeffrey Dean Morgan after it as well, and I like him SO much. I know that the Comedian's screen time will be quite difficult for me.

Andrew said...

Great review! And too funny that you saw it at the Palisades. I was actually hanging out there last night (though not at the IMAX). I so can't wait to see this flick now.

The Comic Book Novice said...

And here I thought my 9:30pm screening tonight would have been the first!

I get the Nerdy Bird get the worms!

The Comic Book Novice said...

that was supposed to be "I GUESS the Nerdy Bird get the worms"

The Nerdy Bird said...

You're very welcome Randy. I hope it exceeds your expectations. As much as I love "Denny" I'd have to say now it's probably a good idea she doesn't see it.

@D0nnaTr0y, I have heard there were a lot of negative fan reviews too. Maybe I'll go looking up some of them now to see exactly why. I don't get it. It had been a while since I read it too, that does add to the enjoyment I think.

Beth, when I was walking out of the theater I heard an older gentleman say he felt like walking out. I didn't ask but I don't think he was a comic reader.

Thanks Andrew, small world!

Let me know what you think Mark. And funny you should mention worms...I was eating gummy worms in the theater!

Anonymous said...

Well Jill, I gotta ask, if Hollywood comes to there senses and does a Ted Kord: Blue Beetle movie, should they hire Owl 2? Or get someone else?

Home of the celebrities said...

Thanks a lot for posting your review about the movie Watchmen.

I saw the movie yesterday...and I still don't know what to think of it...as I'm not into the comicsthing. But I watched it because I'm a huge fan of Matthew Goode.

I was wondering if I could add your review to the fansite...and forum of Matthew Goode.

Here's the address of the fansite

www.matthewgoode.net

Please let me know if I can add your review...

Thanks again!

Suzette

Manster2099 said...

"He's not a sizable actor by any means but his presence is felt like a giant on screen."

You have no idea. At Butt-numbathon X in Austin last December, he presented a portion of the film and did a Q&A. JAckie is so tiny I could put him in my pocket. I think he's the same size that he was in Bad News Bears.

Ritch said...

Because i'm a thousand years old, I read Watchmen when it was ORIGINALLY released in comic form. I've got an ORIGINAL Comedian pin, as well as the SC, HC, and Absolute editions. I'm actually on my third copy of the SC. It's part of the DC trinity- Dark Knight by Miller and Sandman by Gaiman making up the other two. I'm an enormous fan of Alan Moore, and I'm a stickler for proper treatment of adaptations and sticking to the book (anyone see 30 Days of Night? I wish I didn't...)

With that being said...should I worry? I plan on seeing it this weekend at some point...And I don't wanna scream when I leave the theatre. i DO trust your opinion Jill; I know you have good taste!

The Nerdy Bird said...

@Anonymous, Patrick Wilson did a great job as Night Owl so he would probably make a great Ted Kord but it's doubtful he'd take on such a similar role.

@Suzette, the friend I saw the movie with is a Matthew Goode fan too and she said she likes him much better with brown hair and his usual accent. :) I'll send you a message on your site about the other thing.

@Manster, yeah you don't notice as much when he's by himself but when he's standing next to one of the other actors it's definitely noticeable.

@Ritch, an original Comedian's pin! That's great. I don't think you're gonna scream leaving the theater but you might be upset by a few things. Mostly though I think it was a great representation of the source work.

The Comic Book Novice said...

Ok, I'll go into details on my tuesday's blog (cause i really want to let it all sink in), but (and keep in mind that I read Watchmen only once a hundred years ago) I really really liked it. It was visually stunning (except for the blue penis!) and very deep and heavy. Just one Question, where did the Silk Specter II get her costume from the night that they went out? She was staying with Night Owl (and I doubt she kept it with her all that time)...

The Nerdy Bird said...

She's got a secret pocket in her vagina.

Randy said...

Well, I saw Watchmen last night and I give it a 9 our of 10. I'm only disappointed in one thing that I cannot really share with anyone but my friends here.

Jill, I did not see it with my wife. And I'm glad because seeing Edward Blake most certainly would have ruined her image of Denny Duquette. Anyway, she'd think me crazy if I told her of the missing line from the movie.

I can't talk to my friend who I saw it with because he hasn't read the book yet, even though I bought it for him this past NEW Year's Eve when we had dinner and went to a nearby Borders.

The missing scene should have been the second time Rorschach's prison therapist showed him the ink blots. He sees the first picture and is asked what he sees. Then he replies, "Dog. Dog with head split in half."

The therapist gulps (and probably vomits in his mouth a bit) and asks who split the dog's head in half. Rorschach's reply is, "I did."

Call me crazy but I was really looking forward to hearing Haley say that the instant I first heard him speak.

And that is the only reason I give it a 9 instead of a 10. I loved it, panel for panel, frame for frame. I even think the new ending worked better for this than the original would have. However, I was hoping to see Night Owl and Silk Spectre in blonde wigs when visiting her mom and the talk of Silk Spectre needing a gun.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Yeah, that is a classic line, now that you mention it I'm surprised they didn't use it. Glad you liked it though!

Ritch said...

OK.... I saw it.... finally.... and I walked out after an hour and 20 minutes with a pit in my stomach. Alan Moore was right: "It's unfilmable". To do it any REAL justice, and not just slapping panels on a screen? Impossible job. I know im WAY in the minority on this one, but c'est la vie.

Unff said...

NerdyBird you posted some doubt as to why people (especially any girls) may think Lower Mnhattan 'too large'.

Well, do you think Lower is bigger than in the comic? If not, fair enough, but if so, then why have they done this?

Mind you, as soon as I saw the 'enhancement' I immediately thought - people will mention this online and then girls will snigger 'size issues, gentlemen?'.

Humans are so predictable.

Fair point about the male body being on display instead of the female body though. It does make a change.

The Nerdy Bird said...

@Ritch, I'm sorry to hear that. Can't win 'em all I guess.

@Unff, I don't recall how large he was in the comic, I just didn't think Lower Manhattan was as enormous as some people were making it out to be. What I mean is, I wasn't sitting there thinking, "Oh my god, they made it so much bigger than in the comic!! Why?!"

I don't think the comments about "size issues" are the problem, it's the guys complaining it was too large. The point is, who cares? I don't see them complaining about the size of Malin Ackerman's breasts you know?

Another fair point for the men complaining about the size is - who was in charge of designing the size and shape of it? It might have been a mix of men and women, but it was most likely a predominantly male crew working on the CGI. It's their call and the decision of those making the film in general. They decided to give him that particular size. Why, is a question for them to answer. I, personally wasn't taken aback by the size.

Unff said...

"I don't recall how large he was in the comic"

-Well, he wasn't as big in the comic. Hope that helps.

In the comics he kind of reminded me of David, or Vesuvius man..

"What I mean is, I wasn't sitting there thinking, "Oh my god, they made it so much bigger than in the comic!! Why?!"

-Well I was. Briefly. For a film which prides itself on sticking to the comic, this was a *big* difference. Of sorts.

Silk Spectre II's / Malin Ackerman's breasts seem to be proportionate to the comic, I feel. Feel?

"I, personally wasn't taken aback by the size."

-Fair enough, but the difference from the comic was up there on screen.

"It might have been a mix of men and women, but it was most likely a predominantly male crew working on the CGI."

Perhaps the CGI crew was gay? ...But seriously, they probably did it to make him look more macho, or just visually impressive. Who knows.

Essentially I think the reason people are surprised about the size is because of the difference with the comic. If he had been big in the comic then it wouldn't be as much of an issue.

The Nerdy Bird said...

"Fair enough, but the difference from the comic was up there on screen."

But from what I've read, it's not the fact that it was bigger in the movie that's been upsetting most of the guys, it's that it was there at all. I honestly don't think they ever expected it to show up on screen ever. I haven't come across one person, with the exception of you now of course, whose argument was, "I would have been perfectly comfortable with penis on screen as long as it was the same proportions as in the comic." So, I understand your grip, I just don't it's the general consensus.


"Perhaps the CGI crew was gay?"

Whether you are serious about that question or not, that's precisely the type of comments that grated me while reading peoples penis complaints. (Peoples Penis Complaints, can't you just see an inbox marked with that one someone's desk now?)

What I meant by my CGI crew statement was, dudes made it, dudes should stop arguing about it so much. Not one person said they felt uncomfortable looking at the Comedian because his costume was not exactly like it is in the comic. Some people thought the new costumes were dumb but not one person I've seen said they were disgusted just looking at them. It was the creators artistic license to choose their own visuals for each aspect of the film and you can't please everyone.

Anonymous said...

Finally got to see it, and was happily impressed. I expected to be let down, but far from it - I think they did a great job in the end (and yes, I agree that the new ending worked much better for the film).
I went with my partner who is not a comics fan, and she enjoyed it so much she now wants to read the book (although not my Dave Gibbons signed copy I hasten to add)!!
Can't really understand why so much grief about a penis being on the screen! Personally I hardly noticed it, and anyway, it's not like it was being "used" - get over it and grow up a bit!

disa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RobP said...

Obviously, I'm way late (almost a year!) on this, but, like I said yesterday, I just discovered your blog. Anyhoo...

I'm very glad to see another fan of the comic give the movie this strong of a recommendation. I was also very please, and surprised, to see that you had a more emotional reaction to the film than the book (esp. in regards to Dr. Manhattan-- I never cared for him that much in the book, either). I really do love this movie. It's a different sort of love in relation to the comic, but I love it just the same. And, yeah, a big part of that movie-love comes from it being so close to the source material.

As for the Lower Manhattan issue. I'm not sure what anyone's gender/sexuality has to do with the size of the CGI member. I know that isn't the position you were taking, but it certainly bears repeating (even though no one else will probably read this). You did mention that the filmmakers had creative license to make Lower Manhattan any way they wanted, and you're absolutely right. Lest we forget, Old Blue re-made himself from scratch, and if we measure pre-accident Billy Crudup against post-accident CGI Man, it's clear that John Osterman didn't just re-make his old body, but he gave himself a "better" body-- more muscular, taller, and, yeah, probably a bigger penis. I'd do the same thing. Any guy wood-- er, would. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

As for the people who are against Doc's male genitalia in the general: He's basically a god, right? Why would a god bother with covering himself up if he didn't want to? He's a gorram god! Actually, when you think about it, the penis is Exhibit A in showing how inhuman Manhattan is supposed to seem, even in how he envisions himself. It's one of many aspects of his character that makes him so Other. And, really, that's the point. I think...

Sorry for the long rambling rant. Cheers!