A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Friday, March 06, 2009


I've just got back from seeing Watchmen, and I feel like I let Zack Snyder gave me a facial for three hours. And not the good kind that leaves my skin feeling fresh and where I end up looking prettier when it's done, but the porno kind.

Don't listen to the apologists. I understand how badly fans want to like things like this, but if you have been waiting more than twenty years for this movie, then you should really be more demanding, you deserve better than one man indulging his personal fetish for latex and corn syrup. Just because Snyder got a few things exactly right, that doesn't make up for the fact that he got it wrong in every way that matters. It's like listening to a full CD for a couple of really wicked drum solos. There are a lot of bad lyrics, false melodies, and cheesy guitar riffs to get through to hear some lummox bang on the cans.

Actually, there is a lesson to be learned from the music. Snyder commissioned My Chemical Romance to cover Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." Be it good or bad (and I kinda like it), the band did in three minutes what Zack Snyder could not do in 186: they made what they were adapting into their own thing, made it work in the context of what they were doing. It's clear to me that Snyder never stopped and asked, "Is there a better way to do this that makes more sense for motion pictures?" Comics are not the same thing as movies, I am not sure how he didn't get the memo, and so sticking to the panel-by-panel didn't work. Scenes were too long, and some of the visuals came off as way too heavy handed. I mean, really? You think keeping the smiley face on the surface of Mars was a good idea? A slavish attention to detail is laudable in its way, but a dogmatic blindness to what makes the storytelling is not.

So much of the movie could have been cut down. The extensive histories of the various characters, including the Comedian, could have been chucked to make the story move faster. Removing the subplot between Laurie and Sally Jupiter would have also trimmed out the unnecessary, but even more important, those scenes play to Snyder's weaknesses. The guy has no ability to direct human emotions. Whenever he tried, it was just bad melodrama. Then again, this is the director whose music cues include playing "The Sounds of Silence" over a funeral scene and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the flick's lone sex scene. These are not just lazy choices from a filmmaker with a limited vocabulary, but the latter also inspired laughs throughout the audience.

Seriously, just because Rorshach's mask looked cool doesn't make up for the fact that the motion-capture version of Dr. Manhattan didn't. Just because some of the prison riot was exciting doesn't excuse that the other action sequences are overly choreographed and devoid of life. Just who was it that decided that something exciting should have a pause in the middle? Would you want to be watching a basketball game and when the star player goes up for a big dunk, he hangs in mid-air for a second? He might as well stop and eat a sandwich before putting the ball in, he's already destroyed the adrenaline rush.

There maybe wasn't a good movie lurking in Watchmen, but there could have at least been a passable one. Get rid of the extraneous side stories, cut down the long chats, and stick to the mystery that is at the heart of the plot, and at least you'd have a decent capes-and-tights whodunit. Instead, we've got a boring whendoesitend.


Exclusive to my Criterion blog this week:

* Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder's early '70s tribute to Sirk.

* Dodes'ka-den, a DVD release of one of Akira Kurosawa's quirkiest films.


* Far from the Madding Crowd, John Schlesinger reteams with Julie Christie in an epic, romantic adaptation of Thomas Hardy.

* In the Electric Mist, Bertrand Tavernier tackles a James Lee Burke novel with mixed but mostly good results. Tommy Lee Jones stars as Burke's Detective Dave Robicheaux.

* Murnau, a collection of six of F.W. Murnau's silent films from Germany, including Nosferatu, Faust, and The Last Laugh.

* Paul Newman X 2: The Helen Morgan Story, a fairly average biopic about a doomed singer, and The Outrage, Martin Ritt's perplexing remake of Rashomon.

* The Romance of Astrea & Celadon, an Eric Rohmer period piece that gets stuck up its own class.

* The Starter Wife - Season 1, Debra Messing is charming in some wholly forgettable but time-killing television fluff.

* Yentl, the Babra Streisand musical is a real eye-opener.

Current Soundtrack: Keane, Perfect Symmetry

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich


mark said...

"A slavish attention to detail is laudable in its way, but a dogmatic blindness to what makes the storytelling is not."

I thought, among other problems, that was also true with the Daredevil movie.

There should be a happy medium between this, found in Watchmen, and what Frank Miller did with (to?) the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Noticed that MySpace "disabled" the link to your review in you Bulletin. It suggested that the link might be spam, or that you might be a phisher or spreading viruses.

I haven't noticed this with any of your other reviews. Makes me wonder if it has anything to do with the Watchmen advertising all over the site (and the fact that Fox, a sister company to MySpace under the News Corp umbrella, has a financial stake in the movie after that lawsuit). Gross.

Jamie S. Rich said...

MySpace did that to my recent post about YOU HAVE KILLED ME, too. It's just that they are a piece of shit site, really, and barely worth logging into anymore. They don't have their shit together enough to actually censor properly or based on any real reason.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It felt like a prose adaptation of a Shakespeare play; it lost almost everything that made it special in the translation. There were so many scenes where I kept thinking 'If they only took a few more seconds and included what they cut from this conversation, they could have had something really special' (right now, thinking of how the conversation on Mars ended). And thoses fight scenes? Too spastic and pose-y, and suddenly, everyone has super-human strength? Rorschach can jump around like a certain Italian plumber after taking a magic mushroom? Whuh?

adriano said...

I personally feel the answer is pretty simple:
No matter the director Watchmen was not made to be a movie. It is not a 2 and 40 hours story, period.
I don't read the whole book in this amount of time and I don't need a simplified version of it.

Never get this obsession of making movies out of comics.
Watchmen is a graphic novel made to be read as a graphic novel.
There is no need for this kind of by-product.

Jamie S. Rich said...

I think the obsession with adaptations in general is out of control, and it's not just comics. I've never understood the "I'd love to see this as a movie" mentality. If it's so good as it is, what can Hollywood do for it that isn't already going on in your head?

I enjoy adaptations, don't get me wrong, but I'd love to see more original scripts getting made.

Jamie S. Rich said...

Brendan -

Typically, contacting MySpace was a waste of time. They sent back a response telling me how to fix my account when I get locked out due to suspected phishing. I think it's their policy to stupify us into silence when there is a problem.

Abby said...

Damn, I was almost going to see this movie too, although I probably wouldn't be as disappointed not being a comic buff. You know, The Batman and all....but now I think I can skip it. If I want to see characters make love to that kind of music, I can watch Scrubs or Gossip Girl.

MattGrigsby said...

Meh. I liked it well enough. I see everyones points but I feel like the Watchmen affects everyone differently in their reading it. I don't think it was a bad movie, but it definatley wasn't great. I'm at a stalemate with this film. Much like my preference of Moore's work. One minute I'm blown away, the next minute the reading becomes drier than chalk...

The hype is what kills stuff... Just all around too much of it.

Jamie S. Rich said...

>but I feel like the Watchmen affects everyone differently in their reading it.

All art does. Otherwise it wouldn't endure, there would be no personal connection and nothing to discuss. Watchmen is not special in that regard.

>The hype is what kills stuff... Just all around too much of it.

Totally. Like how we all hated The Dark Knight last summer. Or the reason it took so long for comics fans to recognize Watchmen, because nobody talked about it 20 years ago when it came out. ;)