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Watching - or would you rather look away now.
I am still suffering the effects of inamac's cold but the coughing stopped long enough yesterday for us to go and see Watchmen. As we are probably the very last people to see this who are going to watch it on the big screen, it is a tad late for spoilers but, all the same this has been cut.

Actually, it was better than I expected. The first half hour was stunning. If only it had continued at that quality.

There is always a problem with making a film from an original work with a rabid following. Peter Jackson was criticised for making changes to LotR (unfairly, in my opinion, as each change improved the movie as a movie) while the first Harry Potter movie got a lot of (deserved) flak for sticking closely to the original text.

This is the problem with Watchmen. It is a movie made for fanboys, an attempt to cram every single thing that happens in the comic (minus the comic-within-a-comic and the squid) into an (overlong) film. You just can't do that and make a great film. The sex scenes were unnecessary, and should have been chopped extensively, so should the prison sequences as not necessary to the main thrust of the story. Reduced to two hours, it wouldn't have sagged so much in the middle. Too much exposition.

Also, Moore's characters are not superheroes but costumed vigilantes - and you sure-as-heck wouldn't know it from this movie (though you would from the comic.) The Comedian should have died long before being thrown out of that window, and none of the people in the end action sequence except Dr Manhattan should have been able to walk. This is one of the reasons it remains inferior to The Dark Knight. Another is the lack of even a single character with whom it is possible for the audience to sympathise. Frankly, I couldn't care about any of them - which I rather think was Moore's point, but it means a deep lack of any sort of engagement here.

So, there's a lot of exposition, a lot of nicely-choreographed but unimaginative violence, masses of mediocre acting, some decent special effects (and a couple of utterly dire ones), some very unconvincing versions of famous people (Oh, gawd, but their version of Nixon was... was... unspeakably bad), a lot of irrelevant references, a film that remained on-message, and a brilliant but intrusive soundtrack.

Also, you seriously do not want to think about the logic (or lack of it) and misogyny preserved from the original, with more of same added for luck.

(I really hate to agree with Alan Moore, for various reasons, but he is right in that you can get away with levels of sex and violence in a comic book that are simply gross on screen, because in a comic book it is much more detached. It is glimpsed, sidelighted, and you dwell on it precisely as much as you please, whereas with a film you can't do any of that, aside from looking away.)

In summary, it's not a bad movie. Indeed, recut, it could be a rather good movie, and it is certainly the best movie made from an Alan Moore comic book (though it does not have much competition.) On the other hand, it is not the "best comic book movie ever made" or "the first really adult comic book movie" and certainly not the best movie we are likely to see this year.

Three stars, with possibly a half on top for effort, though I'd have to see it again to be sure. I certainly won't be buying the Director's Cut.
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I haven't seen the movie, and am not likely to (having been warned that the level of violence in it is likely to make it unwatchable for me), so it's interesting to read a balanced review of it.

A movie for fanboys, by fanboys, by the sound of it. You confirm something I'd inferred from a review, complaining that it wasn't clear how many of the characters were superpowered - in that case, it's lost something which I think central to the book.

I really hate to agree with Alan Moore, for various reasons,...

Now, there's an intriguing remark!

inamac remarked (and may remark again as part of her review, but you are not on her flist so I feel safe to repeat it) that "If I wanted to see Saw that is what I would have gone to see."

Though, to be honest, it's hard to care about anyone in the movie, which does tone down the effect of the hard-core violence.

Actually, you can get away with the violence if you do what they did with Sin City and stylise it into comic book 'artistic' form.

Not a film Rosie would want to watch so I shall wait for the DVD.

Maybe the directors cut will be shorter?

Maybe the directors cut will be shorter?

Not a chance. We already know it will be about 40 minutes longer, and the comic-book-within-a-comic-book is already available on its own DVD in the States!

I'm confused. The first part of the comic claims that the Comedian was thrown out of the window by someone with super-human strength (or at least VERY strongly implies it). Also, in a scene not found in the movie, rorshach manages to break someone's arm very VERY easily (i.e. he doesn't need to get them into an armlock to do so).

If the Watchmen in the original comic didn't have super strength there are a lot of things which don't make any sense at all. Not least, how anyone came to think of them as superheroes.

I thought the movie was a great deal better than the pretentious comic upon which it was based.

You are expecting a logical series of plot developments from a Moore comic book. He is not and never has been interested in logical plot development, which is one of my problems with him.

I think what Moore, at least, is parodying is the unsuperpowered vigilantes of the Batman family, who do that kind of thing and have done it for many years. (Nite Owl strikes me as a cross between Batman and the original Blue Beetle, neither of whom have superpowers. Silk Spectre is more Black Canary than Wonderwoman - even to the mother who wants her to follow in her footsteps. The Comedian's original costume suggests Captain America (who only sort-of has superpowers), though in the movie he is played as The Punisher, and so on. I am pretty sure that the old Nite Owl's memoirs mention somewhere that they don't have superpowers - and, of course, Dr Manhatten is quite deliberately portrayed as the Only Real Superhero.

I do think that Watchmen is Moore's masterwork, but the more he tries to parody superheroism, the more he gets caught in its toils.

I was going to point out that you yourself had criticised the logic of the story in relation to the movie, but then I read what you wrote again:

"Also, you seriously do not want to think about the logic (or lack of it) and misogyny preserved from the original"

I had thought you were only talking about the misogyny being preserved from the original while claiming that the bad logic was new to the movie, but I see now that you were criticising the original material here. My mistake....

Thank you for noting the lack of commas.

Okay- different opinion from mine (I like (although not quite love) the comic, and was kinda disappointed by the film) - although it is a bit odd that you thought the comic was pretentious, when the film goes so out of its way to be close to the comic as possible (aside from the aforementioned squid removal).

Relating to the strengths and abilities in the comic vs the movie... in the comic there's a little exaggeration for dramatic effect going on (to be honest, I don't remember Rorshach directly breaking someone's arm - are you thinking of the sequence with the finger breaking?) but it's mainly keeping with the idea that these are just very fit, pretty well-trained people who've done a lot of crime fighting, not the hyper-stylised look-at-me-in-slow-mo superhumans of the film (especially in the end fight sequence).

The Comedian's death... well, that's mainly due to the fact (played down in the movie) that Ozymandias is not only the world's smartest man, but he's also at the peak of physical perfection (even after he gives up the crime-fighting life). He's basically one of the few people who could actually have taken the Comedian down.

So, no, they didn't have super-strength. And basically, in the 'Watchmen' universe, they're not superheroes. They're costumed vigilantes, and treated as near-criminals after they're outlawed in the 1977 Keane Act. (Again, something that's glossed over in the movie).

Just as extra info- your mention of the Blue Beetle is accurate, as Watchmen was originally going to be a gritty version of characters originally published by Charlton Comics (and then bought out by DC) - each Watchmen character has a direct antecedent in Charlton characters (Nite Owl=Blue Beetle, Rorshach=The Question, Dr. Manhattan=Captain Atom). Then DC decided they wanted to keep the characters, so Moore basically made his own version. The whole point of Watchmen was essentially to do a completely self-contained superhero story with its own continuity - because back in 1985 nobody was doing that - and to tackle the idea of superheroes in a more realistic and psychological way. That's how it started, at least.

Oh, and I completely agree about the Nixon make-up. Absolutely bloody dire, and another example of the kind of thing that comics can do so much better. To be honest, most of the prosthetics (especially the ageing make-up) were some of the worst I've seen in a major Hollywood movie for some time. Wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't given Nixon an extreme close-up in the first two minutes...

Oh, and I do agree quite firmly with your original review.

it is a bit odd that you thought the comic was pretentious, when the film goes so out of its way to be close to the comic as possible (aside from the aforementioned squid removal).

And the Tales of the Black Freighter. Don't forget the Tales of the Black Freighter. A 'comic within a comic' so miserable that even the comic-book reading character admits that he's really dissapointed with the first issue (and yet, for some reason he continues to buy the following issues and we are forced to read them all along with him).

I don't remember Rorshach directly breaking someone's arm - are you thinking of the sequence with the finger breaking?

I thought he moved on to the arm. In any case, he seems to do it far too easily.

Even a man at the peak of physical perfection could not pick up a big man like the Comedian and chuck him out of a window. The detectives at the beginning of the comic recognise as much.

(The movie definitely mentions the Keane act on several occasions. They might not have mentioned it terribly explicitly, but you must remember that the original cut of the movie is a lot longer.)

My previous comment was before reading the whole post. I've got a few questions:
- Which effects did you think were dire?
- What was wrong with the logic? (It made more sense to me than the original comic. All that stuff about a psychic person having visions of a squid or whatever was thankfully removed.)
- You didn't actually say why it was inferior to the Dark Knight. What's the reason?

I agree with you about Nixon. In the close-up shots it looked almost reasonable, but in the long distance shots...

The Martian building was particularly awful. Mars never convinced.

Just one example: it looked to me as if the next to last scene was written before they decided to dump the squid - what does the phrase "Dr Manhattan watching over us," (or whatever the exact phrase was) signify? If DM was still around, what would be the point in clubbing together to try and protect ourselves against him, as that was plainly impossible? The problem with removing the "aliens" threat signified by the squid was the hopelessness of resistance against Manhattan.

There are a number of reasons - The Dark Knight is more of a piece, more real, it has a sense of humour, it has a number of excellent performances, it has a message that one person can matter, and that people can act idealistically. It had its faults, but it was superbly acted and filmed, and I was struck by its humanity.

I thought the Martian building looked pretty cool. The backdrop of Mars, on the other hand, I think I'd agree on.

It seemed obvious to me at the time that "Dr. Manhattan watching over us" meant "from space, threatening to attack again". Is there any reason why that wouldn't make sense in the context?

It seems to me that your method of comparing Watchmen to Dark Knight is somewhat dodgy. Perhaps Grey Owl and Silk Spectre II could have been a little more human, though no one is really supposed to seem totally likeable. The other characters are intentionally inhuman and if Moore intended his story to be even remotely realistic he was kidding himself.

Then again, I found myself questioning the psychology of Dark Knight as well. Why is Batman unwilling to kill the Joker when he's standing in front of him and clearly about to kill so many others? (After all, why drive towards him in a motorcycle at full speed when he could instead just shoot some kind of stun dart at him?) Meanwhile the change of Twoface was just absurd. There was no real reason why he would suddenly change from upstanding citizen to raving psychopath. - But in spite of that, I did love "Dark Knight" and I'd agree that it was better than Watchmen. On the other hand, I think that a lot of this has more to do with it having Nolan rather than Moore doing the writing, than it has to do with the direction.

Interestingly "Two Face" was what he was called by his staff before the movie starts - Gordon says so - so the the upstanding business was simply another mask. Not absurd at all.

I think, for me, it is that it is the ordinary people (even criminals) who make the really moral decisions, that endears The Dark Knight to be. Modern Batman is fanatical about not killing, so I have no problem with that aspect - it is part of his strange psychology.

My main point about Dr Manhattan is that there is no defense against him. None. Therefore there is no reason to unite against him, because it makes no difference. On the other hand, it might make a difference against the alien-squid.

Two Face was called Two Face for his work in Internal Affairs (and we know from the first movie that there was some seriously bad corruption in the police force before Batman showed up). He was not called Two Face because of some kind of psychological disorder. In fact, his old nickname denoted someone who was ultra-keen on keeping things by the book, not someone who was interested in killing people on a coin toss. His shift from upstanding man to crazed killer made absolutely no sense. The encounter with the Joker simply was not enough to explain the change in him.

Batman might be fanatical about not killing, but his accident on the motorcycle seemed to be a matter of more style than sense. It looked awesome, but Batman had plenty of non-lethal options available to him without falling off his bike.

As far as the Dr. Manhattan thing is concerned, it's not such a bad comparison. There's no defence against nuclear war either. All they have is the hope that if they unite together, they might be able to come up with something. After all, they have little reason to think they can defeat the alien either. (Also one thing that really annoyed me about the comic was the way the media instantly presumes the squid is an alien from another dimension. Where did they come up with that from? But, in any case, how do you defend against another dimension?)

I don't agree with you about "Two Face" - when someone is "two faced" they are deceitful. I presumed, and still presumed, that this meant that his squeaky clean image was, in fact, a lie, and that his "bad side" was always there, but had been hidden during his campaign.

But nuclear weapons were/are kept in check by mutual assured destruction. The presumption of the world at large must be that Manhattan is acting on his own account, and that there is no defense against him. I suspect that, far from a united front, the result would be anarchy and despair. Also, multiple cities means an attack on the world (and one from which it might not recover) while the squid's arrival in New York left all systems of government, with whom Veidt would have to deal, intact, and left open the possibility of an accident, rather than an attack. Likewise, the squid died, so there was hope, almost immediately. "All we need to do is find out why..." Of course, that is a flaw in the "unite against a common threat plan" but so is what happens in the film - where, incidentally, suspicions would immediately arise as to why the centres of government had been taken out everywhere except America.

"On the other hand, it is not the "best comic book movie ever made"

Some which come to mind:
Road To Perdition
A History of Violence

I certainly don't think Watchmen beats any of these. It's not like with movies based on video games where a better than average movie might instantly become 'the best ever'.

Must get round to seeing Persepolis.

Agree with you completely about A History of Violence.

Even if you narrow it down to superheroes, both of the Nolan Batman movies are better, and I found Iron Man more enjoyable.

Can't agree with you on Iron Man. Sure it was a decent enough action movie, but I preferred Watchmen. Nevertheless, Nolan's Batman movies are in a whole other class and Watchmen didn't come close to them.

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