Better Late Than… Watchmen Review with guest star Patrick Kennedy (part one)

 

watchmen

I finally saw Watchmen last week: the Chinese Democracy of comic book movies.  An idea with so much promise that had been taken on and abandoned by almost every confident filmmaker for a generation.  I had been personally waiting at least 15 years for it and had a full on nerd chubby ever since the first 80’s style set pieces had been released on the internet.   And then I saw it with my Mom.  Oops.

A week later and I’m still trying to sort out my feelings.  The great tragedy of such an epic complex film was that I had no one to talk to about it with after.  Most people I know who’ve read that book are too purest to watch the movie.  And those who have seen the movie, have rarely read the book.  So I’ve brought in uber literate Canadian party school grad Patrick Kennedy to help me.   I picked him mostly because of a Facebook status update last month where he mentioned how the movie made him love the graphnov (my contraction) even more.   And he was exactly the person I thought would help me decide if I loved or hated it.

OK, Pat.  Ready?

I had 3 thoughts when I left the theater: A) I would rather sit through a 24 hour loop of the French Stewert Inspector Gadget Sequel  than sit in a movie like Watchmen again with my Mom again.  It’s hard to see a film when you’re in a permanent cringe.  B) That, like 300, Watchmen was one of the most faithfully adapted comic to movies I’d ever seen, and C) that faithfulness may have been its weakest point.  What were your initial reactions?

 

 

Patrick Kennedy in all his rimmed goodness.

Patrick Kennedy in all his rimmed goodness.

Patrick: Well, on point A, I would have to imagine that as nothing short of terrifying, something that would bring me back to teenage years of channel-surfing the cable channels with my parents in the room.  My experiences were actually fairly benign, especially now, but in junior high a friend of mine saw Leaving Las Vegas.  In the theatre.  With his parents.  Awk-ward!  Nothing like trying to block out the presence of your givers of life, sinking ever lower in your seat to the cheery tune of bottomless alcoholic death and the brutal lifestyle of a sex worker.  That being said,Watchmen‘s creepy-intense Nite Owl-Silk Spectre II sex scene — to the decidedly unsexy version of “Hallelujah” no less — without a doubt would have to rank in terms of unnerving dread.  No matter if you’re twelve or twenty-nine, their uncomfortable slo-mo grinding conjures the disapproving headshakes of one’s elders quite effectively.

Even beyond that shining example, though, it was an R-rated comic-book movie in every sense.  Visceral violence, amoral characters acting amorally, giant blue penises (seriously, Dr. Manhattan’s junk was all over the place, God forbid if I saw it in IMAX).  Zach Snyder and the rest of the creative staff made sure it was still a story about five aging superheroes and how their worldviews made them the people they are, in both bleakly good and destructively horrible ways.  In terms of that approach to a grown-up comic, I definitely applaud the decision to present the comic as is and avoid the demographically-savvy PG-13 route.  Which ties nicely into point B, the faithfulness of the film to its source.

Watchmen was probably one of the most faithful adaptations of a difficult source material since A Scanner Darkly.  Both films kept their original source’s unwavering dark underbelly, and each one followed their books almost to the exact letter (save for Watchmen‘s time-based edits, which I’d like to talk about later).  Even though each film was a great representation of their ambitious origins, they both had me leave the theatre very happy only to mentally revisit the film as somewhat distant and cold.  This is always one of the biggest problems with the book-vs-movie arguments: in many cases, the book wins in terms of what medium transmits the best version of the story.  Part of that has to do with one’s imagination and the ability to sink into the plot on the page.  Another part of that has to with snobs, those same folks who can’t wait to tell you they don’t even own a TV.  But I digress.

 

The best reviews I read for Watchmen touched on the following point: the film did enough to faithfully represent the fans and cater to a broader audience, but didn’t do enough to completely wow either side.  I feel that’s a simplified yet accurate version of my take on Watchmen: the overall flow of the story is still there, the opening-credit sequence was a stellar introduction to the superhero backstories for old fans and neophytes alike, and the casting was largely inspired and well thought-out, yet the movie didn’t shake me as deeply as the book does.  Again, a big part of that has to do with the best parts of reading through a story-world, as well as what the film left out of the final presentation and/or changed.  What do you think…as someone who holds the book near and dear to your geeky heart, do you think the film did enough to make you happy?  Also, I’m curious to know how the movie affected your memories and feelings about the book, a topic I’ll be sure to expand upon as well (after all, I should justify the Facebook status that prompted our two-seater roundtable discussion).

 

Sometimes faithfulness to source material is not encouraged. Like with giant Blue penis.

Sometimes faithfulness to source material is not encouraged. Like with giant Blue penis.

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One Response to “Better Late Than… Watchmen Review with guest star Patrick Kennedy (part one)”

  1. […] Watchmen Review with guest star Patrick Kennedy (part two) Didn’t read part one, click here stupid. First, the Blue Penis was the bane of my existence.  I would also like to thank Billy […]

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