Watchmen the movie, unlike Iron Man the movie, doesn't know how to laugh at itself. And so when what's unbearable crosses the screen and you say 'what!?' there's not much cushion. That said, the film starts with probably the best opening credits I have probably ever seen.
Watching the beginning of Watchmen is like believing you are seeing a great American film worthy of Oliver Stone at his best. But somewhere in the latter parts you start to say, damn this is a long movie. The problem is that Rorschach is too much with us, but we don't feel his pain as we did in the book. Instead of being the conscience of the story, he's just a ugly little brute with mommy issues, which he always was, but.. But the smell of the city is not the city's own, it's just rubbed off on the characters and the city disappears because nobody relates to it. It would have been too difficult to pull off I think, and so music pulls more weight - putting us in the mood for what is essentially wooden acting. We all end up a little like Dr. Manhattan, whether these characters are alive or dead they still have the same number of particles.
Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen goes down in history as being the naked man movie, or Blue Man Group Porno. There's no way you can't not look at dude's junk, he's a human V. So half the time you're trying not to look and the other half you notice that the camera is hiding his crotch so that you can't look. It's an awful distraction, primarily because he's speaking in this slow disinterested monotone which is still unnaturally tender.
In the end, I asked myself yet again why I bother to watch movies about comic book characters and if there is anything at all happening in American film if this is all that's happening. But that's only because I am tempted into believing that movies are worth thinking about simply because of their extraordinarily beautiful filmmaking. It is truly possible to do anything on the screen, there's nothing visual that is an inch out of place. In fact it is a movie that begs to be slowed down for easter eggs and other fanboy flotsam. It's all cleverly there, I'm quite sure.
Instead, all of the drama leading up to the nuclear brink and paranoia is spread to wide across a net of verisimiltude that is actually part of the sweetness of the film. That Kennedy, that Nixon, that Kissinger, that Iococca - they were all perfect. I was right in this film's 1985. But the kinetic energy of the Defcon countdown didn't translate well.
Rorschach was flawlessly cast, down to the grunts. And the mask, perfect. I kept looking to see if I knew this guy because he seemed awfully familiar and perfect for the role. The music was, as I said, just right smack dab on target in every case. The 80s of the period was done to perfection. One thing you can say about Watchmen, is it has got style. The camera work was superb - there are some shots in this film I still can't figure out technically.
I have to give Watchmen two grades. You see I found it more compelling than Sin City whose story was completely incoherent. At the same time it failed to hold together well in terms of dramatic momentum, and completely dropped the ball in certain spots. On the other hand it was visually stunning in a mixture of periods that were truly evocative of our country. If I were the sort who liked to indulge in categorical critiques of America, I would say that this film mirrors America in its greatness and its troubles and its flaws and all that kind of NPR-speak. I'm still seeing images from the opening credits in my mind as I speak.
Speaking of images, I imagine that I do have to deal with the graphic aspect of shooting a graphic novel. There is a bit of a voyeuristic quality to the sex and violence of the film. It has a lot, very little of which is any fun to watch. There's a whole lot of grunting going on. The photorealism of the entire film is reminiscent of those murder scene photos from the 30s and 40s New York I've seen somewhere. It's just bloody grisly. It makes me slightly uncomfortable to counter the vague bleatings I percieve from reactions of fellow conservatives and comic afficionados to various reviews in the mainstream press. Sure there's a boy-like boy that gets started with the simple ideas of comic books that none of us are afraid or ashamed to admit. But there's also a reality-based discipline in intestinal fortitude that keeps us coming back to stories of blood & guts in the struggle for good against evil, order against chaos, purpose against nihilism, meaning against absurdity. The difficulty I have of course is that this quest is not adequately satisfied by this fiction. We must go elsewhere. But that doesn't change the fact that Watchmen tries bravely, and unfortunately less successfuly than the book, to address the bloody battles which are entirely inherent in the travails of American superheroes.
In that way, Watchmen goes awkwardly back to back against Dr. Strangelove which by some ironic twist can be taken more seriously because it's funny. Any yet by comparison, there are still far more people with far more of their ordinary lives at stake in Watchmen, which for all its flaws remains more human than Strangelove. Can you remember one woman in Strangelove? Me neither. Oh yeah well the hot assistant. That's drama.
I have the feeling that Watchmen will bear a repeat watching. The Comedian's entire angle could be taken a bit more seriously. We'll see what other's have to say. Watchmen can and will be discussed because it's that good, and that disappointing.