A blog about movies and filmmaking.

I’m not locked up in here with you, you’re locked up in here with me!

In action, comic books, sci-fi on July 27, 2009 at 12:41 am

So, the DVD of the Director’s Cut of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of WATCHMEN. The movie based off the comic book, created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons for DC Comics in 1985. The story is a complicated, intertwining multi-timeline, many character-driven plot that covers just about every genre possible; while trying to also subvert the one genre it’s most to represent. The main characters are a group of people that in the mid-1970’s dressed up as super-heroes…well, masked vigilantes, really. The story opens with a man named Edward Blake, who has also gone by the crime fighting name, The Comedian; and someone breaks into his apartment and winds up throwing Blake out of the window of his high-rise building, with his smiley face button falling closely behind. Next we are given a voiceover of Rorschach, who grapple-guns his way up to the window and searches the apartment. Finding Blake’s secret-compartment, containing his uniform and photo of the group he was once a part of; instinctively, or suffering from paranoia, he thinks that there’s someone out to kill former super-heroes. He then feels the need to visit other former crime-fighters, to warn them.

He visits Dan Dreiberg, also known as Nite Owl – a hero who has multiple technological gadgets, including a pretty bad ass airship named Archimedes – who used to partner with Rorschach. He’s now an over-weight, impotent man who spends his nights listening to an older man who was the first Nite Owl, tell stories about his adventures. Next, he visits the office of Adrien Veidt, a rich industrialist who revealed his true identity after super-heroes were made illegal under a government bill. Veidt used to go by the name Ozymandias, another name for the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Lastly, Rorschach breaks into a government facility and tells us via narration that he’s “come to tell the invincible man, that someone is trying to kill him”. When he gets inside, we see a giant naked, blue man. When a woman, comes into the room also, we learn that this is Dr. Manhattan and his lady, Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II, having taken the name from her mother who was also a super-hero.

From there the story works it’s way around the personal relationships of each of the characters; the backgrounds on them and of course we get to the truth behind what’s really happening in the story. There’s betrayal, sex and the obligatory trip to Mars. The comic book is an unsurpassed classic in not only the world of comics, but has garnered numerous awards and accolades in the literary world as well. The book has been in a steady state of adaptation to cinema for nearly twenty years. With high-profile names attached such as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass. The general consensus from lots of fans, from half of the creative team and even Gilliam, was that the book was unfilmable. But, now there is a movie. With the Director’s Cut, we have a three-hour movie, that comes as close as possible to bringing these characters and their travails to life.

The story of the movie follows pretty closely to that of the book. The characters, while done up to what the creative minds thought needed to be adaptations to the costumers, all feel pretty much like themselves. The attention to detail, and almost direct interpretation from the book, is amazing.

I saw the original theatrical release when the movie came out in March, but I felt like there was too much there to have a total feeling on how I liked it. I thought that it was a great, if flawed attempt at bringing the story to the screen. My major quibbles were mostly in character choices, and with the ending. So, I was anxious to see it again. Now, having seen the Director’s Cut a good deal of the issues I had have been addressed – including the inclusion of a couple of scenes that really wound up being some of the best parts of the movie – and actually, the book too.

The performances, with but a few exceptions, are all top-notch. Patrick Wilson, as Nite Owl, is probably my favorite. He gained some weight to play the pudgy, retired techno-geek. Jackie Earle Haley plays Rorschach, the tortured uncompromising vigilante, who spends most of the movie behind a mask of liquid ink that moves to create symmetrical patterns – y’know, like that test; whatever it’s called. When he does make his appearance, and delivers the chilling line that this post it titled under, it’s a moment that’s almost (but, not quite) as effecting as it reads in the book. And it’s this one change in how Rorschach is presented that is one of the quibbles I have with the story.

Also, joining the cast is Billy Crudup (just mentioned in my post about PUBLIC ENEMIES), as Dr. Manhattan. The man who in the 1950’s, gets stuck in a particle accelerator intrinsic field, that atomizes him; only to eventually, and miraculously, reconfigure himself into the inhuman, godlike being. Malin Akerman plays Laurie Jupiter, who as in the book is slightly underwritten. Lastly, of the main cast, is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays The Comedian. He captures the apathy and sociopathy of the character pretty nicely, although he does have that slight glimmer of a good person, that kind of keeps his dastardliness to a minimum – which also works, and keeps the character from being one-dimensional. It’s also nice that he’s got kind of the “star role” as I believe Orson Welles called it; where most of the movie people are building you up and talking about you, more than you’re actually on-screen, which tends to do most of the work for you. (a la Welles’ character of Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN.)

FInally, there’s Zack Snyder and his team behind the camera. David Hayter and Alex Tse, who had the task of adapting this book – and Hayter who has been working on the script for almost a decade – do a fine job of hitting all the right notes and maintaining the integrity of a story that reads different just about every-time you read it. My only major quibble, as I’ve stated before is with the ending. All of the other character changes or deletions I’m fine with, but the ending is very much a debated thing – and that’s part of why the book is so powerful. Some say that the ending to the book would look silly on-screen, or that it’s just not realistic; and to that I’d say, “THAT’S THE POINT!!” The reason that the ending works in the book, is because it’s out of left field. The change that was made for the movie, alters that and changes the meaning of what the climax is supposed to stand for. It might just be a geeky nit-pick, but that is one of the only major complaints I have against the movie.

The last nit-pick, and really this is much more forgivable, is the style that Snyder chose to use. There’s the slo-mo fight scenes, exaggerated violence that he used to great effect in 300 – and some in his remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD – but, really it’s that kind of thing that WATCHMEN was originally going against. Showing that while these people dressed up in costume, and fought crime, they were just people. So, being able to punch a person in the chest and making them fly fifteen feet doesn’t work – even though it is exhilarating. But, Snyder does enough right; including the costumes, the set design and especially with this Director’s Cut, including just about every scene that’s in the book.

So, overall, I think that WATCHMEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT is a pretty amazing piece of (pop) art, and well worth the butt-numbing – but never boring – 3+ hours of running time. And while it’s not the masterpiece that we (the comic nerd class) were hoping for, it is a solid action/thriller/super-hero movie!


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