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Posts Tagged ‘Watchmen’

Taking Woodstock

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on June 12, 2010

TAKING WOODSTOCK (2009)

It’s so hard to watch films about music during this time period and not wish I had been around for it. True story: My father is so impatient that he turned around on his way to Woodstock due to traffic. I will never forgive him for that. The film Taking Woodstock isn’t so much about the music as it is about the man who ‘saved’ it. That man is Elliot Tiber in reality, and this film is based off his book (co-written with Tom Monte) about how Woodstock came to be in his home town. It’s a film that is much more about a young man’s struggle with his family and his own identity; it’s a story of self-discovery, of independence, Read the rest of this entry »

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Watchmen

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on March 29, 2009

First of all, allow me to apologize for my absence. Some things got in the way of my movie-watching and review-writing binges, but I am trying to get back into the swing of things. Sadly, I haven’t watched the last three Netflix films I rented, and I have had them sitting here for a couple of weeks. However, I did get out to the theatre to see a couple of movies, and I have watched some other films on the side, so I do have plenty to write about. OK, ON WITH IT.

WATCHMEN (2009)

Crucials

Director: Zack Snyder

Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse

Original graphic novel by: David Gibbons, Alan Moore (uncredited)

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Malin Akerman

Recommended? Yes, if only to see what all the talk is about.

Allow me to preface my review by saying the following: I did not read the graphic novel. I am aware that it is largely considered to be one of the best, if not the best, graphic novels of all time. I understand there were changes made to the story when it was made into a film. I also recognize that regardless whatever insight into the graphic novel I have gleaned from those who have actually read it, I might not fully comprehend the true meanings/intents of a number of things in this story. I will try to keep this JUST about the film, though I might throw in a few tidbits that I have learned about the graphic novel. So, I apologize if I get anything wrong. Also, if you don’t want to be spoiled, you might want to skip this one. I can’t really talk about it without spoiling things.

Now that I am done with that disclaimer, let me give my overall impression of the film when I was walking out of the theatre: It was OK. Not great, not terrible. It was enjoyable enough to warrant sitting through it all at least once, but not so enjoyable that I am dying to see it again in theatres (or even wanting to in the slightest). I felt that the film had a number of problems, and suffered a bit from severe hamminess. I do know that significant chunks of dialogue were taken from the graphic novel, so perhaps some of the corniness was the result of the actors’ delivery. Overall, I feel like Watchmen was an interesting counter to the typical superhero/comic book/graphic novel films, but still felt a bit hollow.

Director Zack Snyder has made it clear that he tried to stay as true to the graphic novel as he could, though the exclusion of The Squid is something that many people have already discussed (and a number of fans have apparently felt was an acceptable omission). I think that perhaps something gets lost in the translation, though. One thing is that I think it was pushed in terms of the time of the film. I recall there being a line about how “nothing ever ends,” and I thought to myself “kind of like this film?” Don’t get me wrong– I can handle long films– but I feel like pushing watchmen beyond the 2 hour mark with the content they included put the film into this kind of limbo between being too short with a lack of information and needing to be longer with more information. At that point, I think I would have preferred seeing this as a two-parter, instead. Before people erupt at me for mentioning a “sequel”, please be careful: I am saying a two-parter, and not a sequel. Think Kill Bill. Tarantino split the film into two parts because he didn’t want to edit the entire project down to make it “more consumable”. That is what I mean. I feel like I had all these questions that my two Watchmen-literate movie mates were able to answer after the film that could have been easily answered with a couple of minutes of screen time. But I do appreciate Snyder’s attempt to be true to the graphic novel. I just don’t know if making a literal jump from the graphic novel to a film worked well for the story (from what I have gathered).

Now onto the acting and casting choices. By far the title of “worst performance” in the film belongs to Malin Akerman. Part of it is not entirely her fault. It seems that Alan Moore’s character was meant to be a sort of mockery of typical female superheroines, but I fail to see the irony. She’s wearing a skintight spandex suit and heels, and yet she can run through rubble and kick ass. How is that atypical? I mean, if she were falling all over the place and such, perhaps I would get that argument, but she does exactly what Wonder Woman and all the others do. So, Alan Moore fails there. But back to Akerman. The look of the character did not work well for her at all, so watching her was already a bit difficult since I wanted to get rid of her hair every time I saw her on screen. And then her acting. There was nothing to her at all. She had the emotional depth of a pet rock. I mean, even when she gets upset with the man she loves and leaves him, we got nothing. And when she collapses after remembering the emotionally traumatic events of her past, I noticed a minor blip on my “overacting” radar, and yet she still managed to be completely devoid of anything even remotely genuine. Soon after I watched this film, I caught some of the movie 27 Dresses on TV. And you know, Akerman was GREAT in that. I bought her portrayal as a bitchy, self-centered, shallow wench of a sister, and during the emotional confrontation with her sister, it felt genuine. Perhaps Akerman just belongs in chick flicks, because there was not one moment of her performance in Watchmen that did not bother me. A close second was Patrick Wilson, who felt much more like a creepy fetishist than a dorky former-hero. It is entirely possible that I just have trouble watching Patrick Wilson after seeing Hard Candy, in which he did a great job at thoroughly disturbing me. But he just made me uncomfortable the entire time, and I also didn’t consider him to be a convincing superhero. I know he was meant to be all “out of shape” and whatnot (exactly how did he fit into his old costume, anyway?) but that’s not what bothered me. It was more about his attitude and his personality. Perhaps that was exactly how Moore portrayed him, so, again, this might just be my issue with Wilson. And thirdly, I was unimpressed by Matthew Goode. Well, that’s not entirely fair to say. He did a great job at being “evil” (and yes, I know that whether or not he was evil can be up for discussion), but I think perhaps that’s what made his performance so disappointing. Did anyone who didn’t know the story take one look at this guy and NOT realize there was something wrong about him? The reveal of him playing a part in The Comedian’s death and the whole bizarre plot was in no way shocking. He was CLEARLY up to no good. Even when he was shot at, it didn’t make him seem less evil. Way to ruin the surprise, guys.

As for the “best performance” title, that goes to The Big Blue Penis, courtesy of Dr. Manhattan. OK, just kidding, though the The Big Blue Penis did leave a lasting impression. The best performance was given by Jackie Earle Haley, who played the lovably psychotic Rorschach. He was out of his mind, sure, and definitely paranoid, but his ideology is what most people identify with at the end of it all. And Haley WAS the role, in every way. You could say it’s easy enough to convincingly play a role when you’re wearing a mask the entire time, but you forget that he’s wearing one throughout the film because his voice and his movements more than make up for the lack of facial expressions (and he even calls it “his face”). And when he was unmasked, he didn’t lose one ounce of his mystique. We were reminded that he was only human, after all, but his cold stares and blank expressions were, in some ways, more chilling than his every-shifting mask. I never saw Little Children (also with Patrick Wilson, which might be part of the reason why) but I am not surprised that he was nominated for an Oscar. I expect to see more greatness from Haley. Second place for me was Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played Robert Downey, Jr. playing the Comedian. Again, I joke, but the scene they used in the trailer with the Comedian smoking a cigar in front of a field of fire confused me the first five times I saw it because he looked SO MUCH like Robert Downey, Jr. Anyway, I was already a fan of Morgan’s from this great low-budget spoof horror called Dead And Breakfast (which is a must-see). The problem for me during this film is that I wanted to love him, but he was so despicable that I really couldn’t. I enjoyed some of his banter and some of his cavalier attitude, sure, but he was atrocious as a human being, which is exactly how he wanted to be. Morgan definitely pulled it off, and played the role with more depth than I thought one could when playing a total sociopath. Perhaps it was because he did have an emotional scene, which he nailed, but there was something about the way he played this sociopath to be likable while also despicable… it was just a good performance.

The action sequences were enjoyable, and I didn’t mind that it was “slow”, as some people have described it. I found the action and effects elements of the film to be very satisfying, though I do have to ask what the deal was with the water tower on top of the building. A gigantic water tower is knocked down, sending TONS of water crashing onto the top of the roof of a burning building (a roof, I believe, they said was about to collapse). The water manages to put out some of the flames and all, but the roof stays intact. However, dropping Akerman from their “eaglecraft” onto the roof leads her to go crashing through it as if it had been made of tissue paper. Sorry, I really don’t buy that. ANYWAY, other than that scene, I mostly enjoyed the action sequences. I didn’t really appreciate the soundtrack, though. I loved many of the songs they used, but they were almost comical in the context of the film. Maybe it was because a lot of the songs were so iconic and well-known, but it just struck me as odd for the film. The worst choice in the soundtrack was definitely the use of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. It was during the ACTUAL lovemaking scene (the one after the false-start) that showed how Night Owl couldn’t get it up when he wasn’t in his costume. The scene was, first of all, WAY too long, and secondly, HILARIOUS with this song playing. It really took all meaning out of the coupling and made it basically into an unintentional mockery of softcore pornography. And I have seen the panels of this scene in the graphic novel. There was barely anything to see. All of the panels that showed any part of them together were pretty much little glimpses and hints at the final culmination of their mutual want. The scene in the film was 100% tacky. And then I am to expect that right after having hot, sweaty sex that Akerman can squeeze back into her supertight costume? I don’t think so.

All in all, I was fairly “meh’d” by the film. I enjoyed some aspects of it, and it’s definitely better than some of the other superhero movies out there, but it’s not this mind-blowing, groundbreaking piece of cinema that everyone built it up to be. Making the leads antiheroes instead of superheroes is a really interesting twist for a superhero movie, but that was an original construct of Moore’s story, so I can’t really give the film credit for it. Perhaps if the film had been done in two parts, more of the story could have been explored and it would have felt more complete. It also might have felt more substantial and satisfying. I thought this was a reasonably enjoyable film with a lot of potential and a number of well-meaning shortcomings. I would recommend that people see this film, especially if they enjoy superhero movies, just to have the experience of seeing it. However, I doubt this will be a film I will ever own, let alone watch repeatedly. Perhaps Alan Moore was right; Watchmen doesn’t quite work as a film.


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