Monday, March 09, 2009

Movie Review://Watchmen

Ahh yes...

Watchmen. One of the best and most controversial properties around. "The Citizen Kane of Graphic Novels" state by most, "And completely unfilmable" by others.

Short Review://As fine as a adaptation possible.

Long Review://It is filmable, but damn near inaccessible.

Some things are passed down through history. Beowulf survived near a thousand years to bore high school freshman and become a marginal cartoon. Homer's works weren't written down for years and yet here we are perverting his work so Brad Pitt could look good in a toga.

I have to believe that the recipent of these works through the years before mass consumerism felt special, like part of a clique or a club.

In my years as an English Major, James Joyce was sort of this elitist secret handshake. If you got his work you were considered a higher sophisticate than the other lowly students.

My secret club was Watchmen.

I struck up a casual conversation with an acquaintance. I professed my spotty memories of comics books as a kid/teen. I didn't know much. The only comic book I got with any regularity was GI Joe. All that led to was playground beatings.

The guy I with whom I was speaking just slowly nodded his head and left. He came back with a beat to hell copy of Watchmen. Frayed and discolored.

He said, "This is all you need to know about comics."

I thanked him and went back to my dorm room. By page 10 I had left to buy my own copy. By the next morning I had finished the novel for the second time.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is one of the great catalysts of my life. As a work of narrative fiction it thought me the great skill of concise expansion. Of speculative realism. Of perfect catastrophe.

In short, I loved it.

Over the years I've been able to be the great wizard of knowledge and pass my copy on to a few people, all without fail return it to me the next day having already bought copies for themselves.

I have one friend that had an amazing collection of comics who after reading Watchmen told me that he could never read another book. A little dramatic but speaks to the dividing line this book creates.

So they made a movie of it.

Actually this is the third major attempt at making this movie. Terry Gilliam declared Watchmen, "unfilmable" and ran to the hills to fail at making Man of La Mancha for 20 years.

I never understood Christianity's opposition to Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ. But the prospect of some dude destroying Watchmen and perverting, made me sympathetic at least.

I was terrified and excited about this movie for so long that the fact that I've seen it twice already barely registers.

But I did see it. And it was Watchmen. Every single frame of the movie was Dave Gibbons. Rorshach was Rorshach, Nite Owl was Nite Owl, and Dr. Manhattan was in the blue flesh, swinging genatalia and all.

Jackie Earle Haley knocked it out of the park. I haven't been that impressed with a character since Ledger's Joker.

I've written 500 words about how much I love the book before I talked about the movie, just to show that I have a great love for the work. My wife however, never read it.

Correction, she started to read it and I took it back from her. Sort of mean, I know.

So she sat next to me and watched it twice.

She enjoyed the film. She got it. However, I kept feeling the need to explain, to fill in the holes.

One thing we both agreed on was the new ending may have worked better than the original.

So to sum up. The movie did not dissapoint. I loved it. But the movie did not seem to give the impression of a great work. The permanence of the piece, the lasting effect, the legend wasn't there.

I don't see in fifty years in a college dorm somewhere, some kid that smells faintly of hashish passing on the DVD to some other bright eye kid. The book will still remain the legacy.

Check out this comic, man. Oh yeah, they didn't fuck up the movie either.


Lady Glamis said...

Thanks for a great review! I'm going to send this link to my hubby who is a huge Watchmen fan and also liked the movie. Let us hope he comments. :)

Matt said...

IMO - they didn't fuck it up, but it wasn't any good. They gave Ozymandias about as much depth as a kiddie pool, they invented moments that undermined the book's subtlety (was it really necessary to see Rorshach ax that dude's head?), and the guy who played Nixon sucked my salty left nut. Basically, Terry Gilliam was right - in order to get the whole storyline across in a 3 hour movie, you had to remove all of the subtlety and complexity of the original. And I liked the movie.