Saturday, March 7, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos gladii caeruli?

"Who watches the blue penises?"
Me, that's who. I did. And they were beautiful. Gods bless you, Billy Crudup.

"Hey guys, guess who's not dea-- oh shits is it Taco Tuesday?!"

More importantly, Gods bless Zack Snyder. See, there's a message that I need to impart to all comics nerds everywhere-- no, that doesn't even quite cover it. I have something to say to every person who's ever read Watchmen, whether you liked the book or not, whether you plan to see the movie or not, and whether you like it or not.

You need to thank Zack Snyder. You need to give him a big standing O followed by a bro grab. Why? Because he saved us. Hell, he saved Alan Moore, in a way.
Whatever flaws this movie has, whatever nitpicky things I have to say about it, however little or however much you perceive it to deviate from the graphic novel, you have to admit that (to borrow something my friend Gen said) it looks the part. Veidt's still a crazy prick. Rorschach's still a crazier prick. You can still see Manhattan's blue prick. Nixon's still there. The goddamn Gunga Diner and Sally Jupiter's Tijuana Bible and Rorschach eating a cold can of beans, they're all still left standing. I don't care if you don't like the movie, you need to thank Zack Snyder.

Because it could have been so much worse.
Darren Aronofsky wanted to update it for the 9/11 era with Manhattan in Iraq and such-like. When Snyder landed the project, Paul Greengrass's people had a script where Nite Owl kills Adrian at the end and all this other crap... I can't find the review where I read that now, and even if someone else made that up it sounds in line with the kind of crap they tried to pull with Superman Returns back when Nicholas Cage was attached to it. Yeesh.

So rage and rant against the lack of the squid alien, piss and moan about the occasionally goofy soundtrack, bitch and whine about the acting or the slo-mo action or the gratuitous violence.
Because some son of a bitch in Hollywood could've given this to Brett Ratner or McG or Joel Schumacher or Paul Verhoeven. Or hell, Martin Scorsese or Mel Gibson or Paul Thomas Anderson. Or even Kevin Smith (although I know that if someone had given Watchmen to Kevin Smith he'd have had the foresight and decency to just walk away). See? It runs either way. The big shots would have fucked it up just as bad as the hacks in this case. Because the big shots and the hacks both have a Vision, capital V, of what their movie is supposed to be. With Brett Ratner it's terrible vision unless you're directing Chris Tucker to talk real fast. With Scorsese or Gibson you're usually in good hands. But their movie, to them, is their movie. Zack Snyder doesn't have a vision, he has source material. The movie isn't his movie, it's the audience's. For all its add-ins and cut-outs, Snyder and his adaptation basically jumped on a landmine for all of nerdkind. Imagine some other director fucking up the adaptation so bad that, five or ten years later, someone decided to try it again. To put us through all of this anxiety and aggravation again. Can you imagine? I saw X3. I can.

I've seen some shit, man...

So, bottom line, the Watchmen we all watched this weekend was good enough that Hollywood will leave it the fuck alone until the superhero movie boom is over. I hope.

Now, did I actually like the movie? Hell yes. I've read some of the dialogue I heard last night ten times over since I was in the tenth grade, but to actually hear Rorschach or Manhattan deliver some of my favorite lines, and to believe it when I heard them say it, was a greater thrill than seeing Hugh Jackman pop his claws or even hearing Christian Bale scream, "Swear to ME!"
I don't really need to say anything about attention to detail. Snyder basically created the world that Gibbons drew and made it move. I don't think that's one of the things that's up for debate. The blood and gore felt a little unnecessary and untrue to the book, but I think the Comics Code and 1986 printing technology are responsible for the lack of that in the book more than Dave Gibbons. And besides, again, with the guy who directed 300? I should've seen it coming.

Speaking of things that are up for debate, the ending is. Okay, yeah, the space-squid didn't make the cut. And it hurts a little bit, sure. But I'm okay with it. I understand that "extra-dimensional, psychic cloned special-effect squid" wouldn't play in Peoria. I think I'd have dealt with it a teensy bit better if every scene with Ozymandias hadn't beaten us over the head with the "my research with Dr. Manhattan to solve the energy crisis could alleviate U.S./Soviet tensions" lines. I GET IT! GLOBAL WARMING! OIL IS BAD! I'm on Al Gore's "We" mailing list, my heat is cranked down to 64 degrees, I walk to work when it's not too cold out. Leave me alone, Veidt.
The new ending did provide me with one kind of enjoyment, though: as Manhattan says himself, "the delights of uncertainty... I could almost thank him..." For the first time in the movie, I wasn't sure what exactly was about to go down. As a friend of mine said, with Watchmen, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't with regards to the script. Make too many changes and fans will hate you. Stick too close to the book and you could have ended up with an unwatchable, loooong, ponderous movie. Snyder stuck to it as close as he could, I think, but a dissatisfaction I couldn't quite place came over me during the last third of the movie. Later, I realized that I was watching something about which I already knew damn near everything. There were no real surprises in store for me. In my head I keep likening it to a Christmas pageant-- no matter how great it looks, no matter how well-choreographed and well-paced and well-lit it is, etc., I've seen it all before somewhere else. Angels warn the shepherds, no room at the inn, enter the three wisemen, yadda yadda yadda. Yawn.
Of course, I wasn't yawning during Watchmen, though I did have to pee pretty bad through most of it. But if you're a dedicated comics dork who's owned the book forever and who's read it over and over, you're going to feel left a little bit cold after awhile, because you know the story, and it looks awesome and the acting is Primetime-Emmy-worthy if in some cases not Oscar-worthy, but it's pretty easy to see where all this is headed.

Enough with being a downer. How fucking awesome were the opening credits?

So fucking awesome.

The first third of the movie was close to perfect, for me. It felt like some of the scenes in the middle dragged, but by the time Rorschach and Nite Owl were cracking heads and digging through Veidt's stuff, I felt like everything picked up a bit, and then we were at the new ending. Maybe it's just because I hang with some Pitchfork Media readers, but I've heard a lot of kvetching about the soundtrack. Meh. It was a little heavyhanded, but I wouldn't have expected different from the guy who set all the fighting in 300 to the sound of some weird pseudo-metal riffs. Playing "The Sounds of Silence" during the Comedian's funeral felt a little silly (especially since the last movie I saw with that in the soundtrack was Old School), and the Jimi Hendrix version of "All Along the Watchtower" felt a little forced and unnecessary right before the final throwdown. Additionally, I hold that the soundtrack contained the exactly correct amount of Leonard Cohen. As for the... shit, I nearly called the band the Umbrella Academy... as for My Chemical Romance's version of "Desolation Row" at the end credits... I'll feel like a cynical old fuck if I say I didn't like it, and I'll feel like a traitor to Bob Dylan if I say I enjoyed it... so I honestly don't know how I feel there.

So, to sum up, we are all lucky as hell that Zack Snyder, the idiot savant of adapted screenplays, fell into this gig rather than anyone else on Earth except maybe Terry Gilliam. We as a subculture are blessed to have received a movie that is really, really hard to hate, a movie that is easy on the eyes and is in most ways a passable facsimile for the "unfilmable" book. I rate it Four Whiskey Sours.

I hereby demand that Zack Snyder direct a cheesy, melodramatic epic trilogy based on the Old Testament. Can you imagine Gerard Butler as Moses, slamming his staff into the ground screaming "LET MY PEOPLE... GO!" and then the Egyptians are all covered in boils and frogs are falling from the sky and exploding on impact and everyone's firstborn son pops open like a zit with limbs and there are Great White Sharks hiding inside the walls of the Red Sea and the Pharaoh's like ten feet tall and then the sharks dogpile him when the sea falls in on itself again and... yeah. You know. I'm not even Christian or Jewish. I just think it would look fucking amazing.

1 comment:

Chris said...

shouted you out over at my thingamabob.