Unrelated Preamble and “The Watchmen” Film Review

March 10, 2009

Flashes from the news this morning: yet another full story devoted to the media-dubbed “Octo-Mom,” this time in regards to a house donated to her and her close to 20 children by Dr. Phil. She’s a media sensation, she’ll probably get a book deal and inspire others to follow her example, and folks everywhere can snarl angrily and reinforce their false stereotypes that it’s Octo-mom type folks who drain up all the welfare from the good taxpayers.

Cut to Rush Limbaugh, a clip replaying him snarling and shaking, jowls flapping as he says “ I hope the President fails!” So this is the supposed “face of the Republican party” as many have called him, “the base unifier.” This man who is the very picture of intolerance, hatefulness, divisiveness, and political ugliness. This man actually hopes the president’s policies will fail simply so he can point and shout “I was right,” regardless of the effect such a failure would have on everyone living in the country today. RNC head Michael  Steele lambasted Limbaugh in one of the few smart comments I’ve heard him make, only to retract it the following day.

Then the news cut to a roundtable of financial advisors grading Obama’s first 50 days as mediocre to poor. Each stressed that Obama focus on the economy and the economy only, refusing to admit that health care reform has anything to do with improving the economy, education improvement and increased accessibility has anything to do with the economy, and the stimulus package with spots for new jobs in the energy and construction sectors have anything to do with it either. Focusing only on Wall Street in the hopes of bouncing stock prices still leaves the other 50 percent of Americans who own not a single stock nor even an IRA or 401K ravaged by the rising cost of health care and it’s declining quality and unable to send themselves or their children to increasingly expensive schools with the hope of bettering their opportunities. Even a quick bounce will leave the stock holding 50 percent better off only in the short run because those above-mentioned factors will someday hit them just as hard as well if something isn’t done now. The first 100 days is the perfect time for a new President to cast all of their nets into the sea and see which will make a catch. Obama had kick-started the talk for health care and education reform which if successful will make long term progress, opened the door for stem cell research to make advances in health, science and technology, and placed a renewed importance on the education sector of America, thereby restoring a bit more hope to future generations. So yes, Wall Street and the economy is very important, and it will likely take the majority of Obama’s time as President to work on. So give the man time, there is no quick fix as much as we all wish there were in this scary economic environment.

Now on to the “Watchmen” Film Review.

watchmen_movie_minutemen450

First of all, “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is the best graphic novel of all time and is also easily one of the top 10 best works of fiction of any kind of the twentieth century. No joke. So if you’ve never read it, read it before seeing the movie. If you have already seen the movie, go and read it now, it’s not too late. My book review of “Watchmen” as part of my “10 Examples of Comic Literature” thread is in my archives, so click on “comics” at the bottom tab and scroll way back to last summer to find it and read it if you would like to.

That being said, this movie does not live up to the book. But it does amazingly well at getting it’s points and themes across, and it does better than I ever would have imagined it possible to do. All in all, I give it a B +, an 8.5 out of 10, 4 out of 5 stars, somewhere in those mixed systems. The casting is great, it’s as if Rorschach and The Comedian stepped right out of the comic and onto the screen. Everyone does a great job. The effects are dazzling. Yes it’s long, but at 2 hours and 45 minutes it was over before I knew it, it simply sucks you right in. The ending is different than the one in the graphic novel, much to many fanboys dismay, but it gets the same point across. The effect is the same, and arguably the film’s version works much better on the big screen than the book’s would have given the time and medium at work here.
The title screen may be one of the best parts of the whole movie. While Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin'” plays, viewers see a summation of 40 years of major events in the Watchmen universe leading up to the 1985 setting of the film.

There are many things that simply cannot be reproduced in a film version of this story. Moore’s work was as much an example of what the comic and graphic storytelling medium is truly capable of as it was a story itself. There are so many wonderful explorations of the medium that were top notch and phenomenal just because they made you notice that such things would be impossible to do with any other medium.  Also with the length Moore had to work with, there was much more room for detail than this film has. That being said, the story-within-a-story “The Black Freighter” and the fictional autobiography “Under the Hood” sections that took place between each chapter are slated to be released as animated shorts in an upcoming straight-to-DVD release this month as “The Black Freighter.” Maybe someday there will be a directors cut DVD that interweaves them into this movie, I’d say it’s a possibility.

Other than that, most complaints I’ve read by fanboys and critics alike are overly critical. This movie was so mixed in its reception. Film critics were almost exactly split in half in their perceptions, ranging from A + praises, like that of Roger Ebert who said you should see it multiple times, to pans and F’s from folks like Gene Shalit. Fanboys that did complain chose funny things to complain about. One I read was mad at the soundtrack — “A song like 99 Luftballoons just jerks you out of the movie, and the ‘Graduate’ song at a funeral is just funny” (to paraphrase). I have to disagree. Of course, “99 Luftballoons” isn’t my favorite song but it worked perfectly in its brief use because it was very time appropriate since it was 1985 in the film, the song is a deceptively poppy song with lyrics about nuclear war, which the story is very much about, and the scene in question was a date so it doesn’t “jerk you out of the movie.” As for “the ‘Graduate’ song,” which is “The Sound of Silence,” really works better at a funeral than it did in “The Graduate,” as much as I love that film. The rest of the film soundtrack works perfectly, from Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to My Chemical Romance, and the score is good as well. Another fanboy complaint I read came from a guy angry that details like Ozymandas owning a pet lynx weren’t explained. Umm, he’s insanely wealthy and eccentric and thus owns a lynx, what’s to explain?

All in all, it’s a very watch-able, suspenseful, action-packed, at times disturbing and entertaining movie. Sure there are missteps, but it’s always ambitious. I think the only complaint I have is that characters who in the novel have no powers seem to be insanely powerful here (Night Owl and Silk Specter rumble through the prison destroying everything in their path with seeming ease, but hey).

So check it out if you’re considering it. It’s worth it.

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2 Responses to “Unrelated Preamble and “The Watchmen” Film Review”

  1. derricknation said

    Well for me, the film was everything that I expected to be. I didn’t care much about the story, even though I m a huge fan, because I already knew what Watchmen was about. I did not need to see the movie to understand that. I was just glad to see all the detail and wonderful cinematic effects of the movie. It was great to see the characters in something other than an illustration. Even though it was not the greatest thing in the world and will not replace the graphic novel at all.
    People need to take it for what it is. A movie.

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