Friday, March 06, 2009

It Wasn't That Bad




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I'm talking about Watchmen. We caught it at Cineplex 10 earlier, and while we weren't able to finish it - I was in the company of the squeamish - what I managed to watch was entertaining enough AND close enough to the original graphic novel as can be imagined.

Now that's a tall order - if you talk to Jose, he will chew your ear out (no offense meant bro) with all the reasons why the graphic novel couldn't, and shouldn't, be turned into a film. And the truth is, he's right - something the breadth and width of Watchmen just can't be converted into something that's 180+/- minutes long. There's just too much territory to cover:

  • The opposing extremist philosophies of Rorschach and Ozymandias as they go about their own ways of developing their own way to save mankind - and how they got there in the first place.
  • Dr. Manhattan's internal struggle of what it is to be human and godlike at the same time - and how it is to love when you can see through the folds of space and time.
  • The sublime terror that the poor and eventually tragic Comedian is slowly subjected through, being the man who serves as a reflection of the world's face.
  • In the midst of it all, there are the Nite Owls and the Silk Spectres, trying to find a way in the world after their days beneath the mask.
  • The biggest problem with converting something of this grandeur into a three-hour flick is establishing the society. Zack Snyder isn't like Terry Gilliam. Gilliam can show you how dystopian a world has become by painting a living room scene (think the film Brazil), while Snyder is known for his signature bullet-time KICK. The only time Alan Moore was excited about making a Watchmen film was when Gilliam was supposed to helm the project because one of the most important factors of the story is the mood - you can't show an alternate universe of the 1980's cold war gone wrong if you're too busy trying to show how awesome Dr. Manhattan's lower body - complete with penis - is (btw, prepare for full frontal nudity - you will see a flaccid, luminous penis not once, but at least five times throughout the film).

That's a lot of things to consider, all things told. And we're not even talking about the dialogue. See, in Watchmen, there's hardly any action whatsoever - the brutality, the pathos and the horror of living in a world where not even superheroes can save your skin are all told through dialogue. It's almost like the same pathetic mistake Jackson did with Lord of the Rings, except that this time, there's less room to tell the tale, which means people who aren't familiar with the comic won't even know what's happening half the time.

Thanks to a lot of saving graces, however, the film didn't turn out so bad as it should have. As a matter of fact, if you forget about Alan Moore for a bit, it might even be one of the best films of 2009.

Why? Because despite the rather silly (not to mention alarming) series of trailers touting the entire Minutemen crew in what could be some of the lousiest costumes ever envisioned, most of the heroes spend very little time in costume - and those that do don't really look that bad, save for Hooded Justice and Ozymandias. Dr. Manhattan's skin looks like skin - again, I should mention that his penis is rather visible throughout the film - while Rorschach looks like Humphrey Bogart with The Question's mask on a very, very bad day. Peter Wilson does a very good job of Nite Owl, while Silk Spectre II needs some work. Her mom was way hotter than she ever was - that scene in the dressing room will be the stuff of male boners for at least five months.

The biggest problem here is Ozymandias, who looks like he'd been reading way too many Batman and Robin comics, and decided to take the latter's look into consideration upon conceptualizing his outfit. And Hooded Justice just doesn't look like hooded justice at all - he just looks like a fat man in an executioner's mask.

I love how Jackie Earle Haley decided to copy the way Alan Moore envisioned Rorschach's voice to be, though. If you remember a couple of posts ago, I put up a video of Moore reading the very first lines of Watchmen, and it was spine-tingling to hear something close to that same rendition throughout the film. Let's face it, Rorschach is one of the best characters in Watchmen, and if you cannot at least get him right, it isn't worth creating a film adaptation at all.

Another good character portrayal would have to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan's (of Grey's Anatomy fame) take on The Comedian. Brutal, bro, brutal. He was the gung-ho Comedian to the T. True, he could have used a little bit more muscle on him, but details, details. He is the one character you will hate from the very start of the film - as it should be - but the tragedy of his death (no spoilers here, it happens at the very start) and the way he lived is poignant and well envisioned.

I have yet to see the ending - I made it all the way to Rorschach's term in prison - but I hear that this was where Snyder did a few changes, with the blessings of Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. I will probably watch it again tomorrow. The quality of the film, for good or ill, is that it is worth seeing at least once. And that, my friends, is good enough for any film.

5 comments:

  1. I'm actually a bit curious to watch this film. I'm familiar with some of the characters thanks to a few fanatics on a site I used to go to. xD Rorschach in particular. :3

    Also, this is directed by Zack Snyder, so I'm interested to see how the battle scenes go. :3

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  2. hahahaha. di ko pa natatapos yung film, though. the comics are better, still.

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  3. It's also interesting to note that Terry Gilliam did NOT pursue the Watchmen movie, because he didn't think it was filmable.

    The Again With the Comics blog got the line I wanted to say the most - they were faithful to the material, albeit the shallowest possible reading of the material.

    When you have something like Watchmen, "It wasn't that bad" simply isn't good enough.

    End ear chew.

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  4. @ jose: while i agree with you, i'd like to think that it's good that at least they got something down. think of it a primer for those new to watchmen. somebody in that long-winded thread on peachy's facebook stat had it right: thanks to the film, more people will be introduced to the novels.

    only problem with that is that this time, people who wouldn't know how to appreciate watchmen will be touting bits and pieces of fact left and right as if they knew the entire thing better than alan moore himself. same thing happened with lord of the rings.

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  5. That's a double-edged sword, though. Assuming we're working with people who'd never read the comic here, there are people who liked the film who will read the comic, there are people who disliked the film who won't read the comic, and then there are people who liked the film who really won't bother with the comic.

    I'm not sure if I really want more of the first camp reading it, precisely because of the reason you mentioned. There will be people from that camp who'll read the book and be disappointed, thinking it's nothing like the movie, that it plods, that it's boring, that there's too much - GASP - characterization.

    As for the second camp, I think the movie is flawed even if it weren't based off a book I'd read, so I wouldn't even be able to blame them.

    Then there's the third, more likely camp, especially if history has taught us anything. There's statistically no correlation between the movies and comics, with the sole exception of V For Vendetta. Now, Watchmen sales spiked quite a bit due to initial marketing, and it's too early to tell if the sales will continue to increase, but here's the thing: V For Vendetta, the movie, made money. Watchmen isn't projected to break even, so I stand by my assertion that fans of the movie go to the movies because they like movies; they could give a rat's ass about the book.

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