Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Look - the Comedian is on my popcorn bag!

Look - the Comedian is on my popcorn bag!

Well, I did it today. I carved out a little niche of time, plunked down my $6 for the afternoon matinee (along with $8 for a delicious, extra-slimey, small popcorn & small cola), and saw Watchmen.

If you are bothered by “spoilers” then you should probably go away now.  Come back after you’ve watched the movie or decided that you don’t care.  And if you are one of “those” comic  book geeks – note that it does not follow “the books” 100%; get over it.

If you’ve been living under a rock and are wondering what all this Watchmen stuff is about, well I have a multiple choice answer for you.

The short answer: Don’t worry about it, just go watch the movie.

The medium answer: Get off your lazy ass and google it up.  I’ll even provide you a link to Google here.

The long Foghorn Leghorn answer: Get away from me boy, you’re – I say you’re bothering me.  Go read the medium answer your own self.

Anybody left?  Good, now I can tell you what I thought about the movie!

Rorshach is on the other side

Rorshach is on the other side

This may be one of those extremely rare movies that is actually better than the original source material.  They are few and far between – and I know that I am upsetting the Alan Moore fanboys but I’m O.K. with that.

Back in those heady days of 1986 (when “the book” first appeared) I was three years out of college and still indulging in my 4-color hero addiction.  So like every good comic book geek I glommed onto all 12 issues of Watchmen.  And like most geeks, I loved it.  They only real problem I had with the story was the Outer Limits “invasion from space” aspect of the ending.  Thankfully, the movie version fixed that.

Of course the movie suffers some from the lack of backstory and textual features that along with the “Tales of the Black Freighter” added an enormous amount of depth to the story.  But that’s just part and parcel of translating a work into a new medium.  Mike Sterling in his February 24th Progressive Ruin post even commented on the difference between reading “the book” in 12 periodic installments versus one monolithic trade paperback.  The movie would have had to be 12 hours long to include all of that material – and it wouldn’t have been any fun to watch.  So the movie doesn’t have the depth of “the book” (in whichever format you prefer) – it is a lot of fun and a very fine movie.

This movie is fun, and it features some of the best superhero fight scenes every put to film.  There is certainly enough chin-checking to satisfy Chris Sims and it looks hyper-realistic.  I don’t want superhero fights to look realistic.  In case you haven’t noticed, superheroes aren’t real – so their fights shouldn’t look realistic.  But these fight scenes, particularly of Dan and Laurie in the alley, look like real superheroes kicking some butt.  And they were editied so that you can actually watch the fights, instead of the jump-cut mishmash that was used so heavily in the Batman Begins snoozefest.

The actors & actresses were quite well cast, in fact I found only two nits to pick there.  The first was Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias.  While I realize that the character wasn’t the most masculine of the bunch, I certainly had envisioned him as less effeminate than Goode’s portrayal.  Not that he was bad by any stretch, I just wanted him to be more manly.

The second casting problem I had was with Malin Akerman as Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II.  She certainly is a beautiful woman, and makes the part look like a continuous shampoo commercial.  Silk Spectre as a Breck Girl amuses me.  My problem with her portrayal was that she just wasn’t “bad” enough.  I had envisioned her being more commanding in the use of her sexuality to control or influence situations.  Perhaps the unfathomable decision to eliminate her cigarette habit contributed to the my perception – missing out on the power of the old cliche’ that “girls who smoke, poke.”

The special effects overall were outstanding.  The contributed nicely to the story, without drawing attention to themselves – with one glaring exception.  The CGI for Ozymandias’ pet Bubastis was just plain awful.  I mean bad like the animated Human Torch in Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four movie.

And any review of Watchmen would be incomplete without mentioning the soundtrack.  It was, in a word, AWESOME! From the extended version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” to Jimmi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along The Watchtower” to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” to Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (the German version no less) to Janis Joplin’s cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” to Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” the music carried the emotion and atmosphere of the story forward.  And while I would have preferred the Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright versions, special mention has to go to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Oh, by the way – they really mean that R rating.  It isn’t a kid’s movie – so don’t take the kids. Duh.

Bottom line – I loved the movie translation of Watchmen.  And to those who feel that it never should have been retold in this media – don’t forget this:

This is where I first read Shelley

This is where I first read Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Thank you Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Prop It Up

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One comment on “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  1. GREAT review, brother!

    You know I’m a bit of an Alan Moore fanboy, but I’m also realistic in the fact that changes HAVE to be made from comic to film. Moore deemed the book “unfilmable,” and he’s mostly right, but I trust Zach Snyder to make the right choices. Many people argue that although the movie was good, it would’ve been better served as a 12-part series on HBO. Maybe so – certainly you could fit in the details better.

    It’s funny you bring up literary references in comics, especially Silver Age ones. My brother and I were discussing how much we actually learned from comics growing up, from certain Russian words (thanks to Colossus of the X-Men) to Norse mythology (thanks to Thor).

    Could you imagine how The Watchmen might have looked if Moore was allowed to use the characters he’d really wanted to use from Charlton Comics? I finally would’ve gotten to see The Question onscreen!

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