WATCHMEN directed by Zack Snyder

Any dickhead with a turtleneck can slurp some government funding from a country where they are too busy not fighting wars and have enough spare coin that they can cough up some funds for the arts, and said dickhead can go make a subversive movie that you can only see by renting it on DVD in the type of snooty joints where only people that give money at NPR pledge drives shop. But through director Zack Snyder's tenacity and diplomacy, he managed to rake in funding upwards of a hundred million dollars from ground central of the lowest common denominator, swing for the fences and make a subversive, violent, intelligent, kaleidoscopic adaptation of a source that is pretty much about EVERYTHING, and then manage to cram nearly all of it in to the mainstream USA mall/all-you-can-eat buffet/down-with-literacy/church-on-Sundays/ill-fitting shorts/stem-cells?-ain't-that-dead-baby? crowd.

I dug Snyder's remake of Dawn Of The Dead, and thought the juvenile 300 stank like dead mackerel but Watchmen—warts and all—is a postmodern populist cinematic achievement, and there isn't going to be something it can even be compared to for a long, long time.

After a shadowy character beats and throws a guy in bad makeup out the window of his high rise pad, Watchmen hits the ground running with a borderline genius credit sequence, shit-canning dialog and deftly setting the tone and character through pure crackerjack visual filmmaking... Once the flimsy narrative gets off the ground, the movies crams in dozens of set pieces and back-story, much of it seamlessly, and some where you can almost see the scotch tape, but the whole shebang moves along at a healthy clip and you're so busy from the sheer visual overload of it all that it's nearly overwhelming. From the bad art in the Comedian's bedroom to the specs on the Gila Flat's physicists, the costume and art teams did a spot-on job of replicating the different eras, and while the meat cleaver going into the head doesn't look too hot, I couldn't spot a blemish in the effects team's rendering of Dr. Manhattan's glass clockwork palace, and I saw the movie in Imax.

The performances are impressive: Patrick Wilson (Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II) is a convincing rumpled sad-sack incapable of getting an erection; Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias) actually seems like an arrogant prick; Malin Akerman (Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II) is both cat-like and shrill; hat's off to Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman) and the 5,000 people behind him, all hunched up at their computer terminals; and Jackie Earl Haley (Rorschach/Walter Kovacs) can talk in a scratchy voice way better then Christian Bale. (Speaking of Rorschach, why do filmmakers/writers/silly English guys that wear too many rings, make up uncompromising vigilante bad-ass type characters, and then wonder why the audience likes them so much? When Alan Moore jives outta his beard-hole that Rorschach is a psychotic, fascistic monster while giving him all the best lines, strikes me as a textbook case of having yer cake and eating it, too. When some unstoppable tough-guy guts a child molester or strangles evil gangster in artfully composed frames in the name of vengeance and justice, for the creator to decry their actions seems a touch disingenuous. What, they didn't think that getting the audience to vicariously let the part of the brain that wants to throw the parent that brought their crying baby to the movie house off the balcony, or jab their car keys into the eye of the slowpoke in line at the coffee shop out of the house and into the yard to chase some squirrels would result in some moral tsk tsk? My ass.)

The movie is not perfect—there's a big airball of a sex scene, with a tone deaf visual nyuck-nyuck that falls like it forgot its parachute, some of the music cues sound like they were plucked from a baby boomer's greatest hits compilation the filmmakers found at a gas station, the score has some silly techno cues (the prison break, where the prisoners are curiously multiethnic and incapable of creating a convincing fist-fight) or the horrible blues guitar lick that plops out when Nite Owl II is sitting in his basement feeling sorry for himself... Hey, it's all based on the funny pages, and it's so ambitious that I can't help but give 'em a break, and besides, all that pales in comparison to the ending—not the jiggery-pokery that Snyder pulled yanking the squid from the graphic novel (an outta nowhere head-scratcher the story can easily live without)—but Snyder pulls down his track pants and Moore pulls down his leather kilt and they both take a giant shit  on the negative with a where's-my-box-of-rotten-veggies? of a soliloquy wherein Dr. Manhattan gets sentimental and is gonna help the world because his is the 'miracle' that his ex-girlfriend exists and blah blah blah. And that sound you hear, movie-fans is the goodwill the movie built up taking off over to the other side of the horizon. But man, between you and me, there is some good shit before that, like the Comedian shooting a bystander in the chest with a gas canister, Dr. Manhattan in a calming tone letting the audience know that there isn't a God, Kennedy's brains getting splattered like ground beef... How often do you get to see a movie that has Henry Kissinger, the Enola Gay, a character murdering a midget, Lee Iacocca, Annie Leibovitz, and a giant naked bald man that causes Vietnamese people to explode? Not nearly enough.

-Monty Buckles


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