Friday, March 6, 2009

The Watchmen: Can you ever just be whelmed?

So I saw the midnight IMAX premiere of The Watchmen and wanted to know what others thought. I don't have a fully fleshes out review of the film at the moment and considering how it's still opening weekend I don't want to come down definitively on the film just yet until weighed in with some more friends. Then again, I saw the film with my brother, Alan, whose opinion I heartily respect and we were both somewhat disappointed.

Unlike The Dark Night, the IMAX experience wasn't much here. There are moments especially in the opening sequence where I was excited to experience the thrust and feel of altitude that the IMAX scope can provide but instead no such gasping feeling was elicited. My brother and I also had some of the best seats in the house as we were in the back and right smack in the center. So I don't think it's worth paying the extra money for IMAX just to see it projected larger than on a normal sized screen.

Also unlike The Dark Knight, I felt there was a certain amount of vision lacking in the execution of the film. Zach Snyder in visuals and script is as faithful to the graphic novel as he can be, but being a "visionary" does not just mean having the ability to see, or having the ability to represent or in this case to re-represent the visual. What was missing for me from the film was a lack of insight and and inability to set a tone or perspective to the material it was presenting. Alan Moore's Watchmen is a rich text that is definitely difficult to condense to the already long 2 hours and 43 minutes that the theatrical release was. Still in the almost 3 hours we were in the theater, I felt that some depth to the story and characters was missing. The film started out amazingly, faithfully recreating an opening action sequence and then having one of the best title credit sequences I've seen awhile. The film began knowing the epic nature of the novel it was trying to capture, and in turn that novel's desire to insert masked crime fighters into US history, mythology, and iconography. But somehow by the end of the film that epic nature is lost, what is left is something that doesn't take itself quite too seriously, but ironically relishes the violence it depicts by adding more bloodshed, though Moore's vision is already pretty grim. I think the film struggles with the tension to faithfully represent the novel and to be a Hollywood superhero movie. Though, it is definitely not a typical Hollywood superhero film, the ending left me feeling well, can you just be whelmed?

Ok, but I've got on long enough, and I really want to know what other people think. Also please let me know when people laugh during the movie, is it a "Joker effect" where people constantly laugh at grim violence, including the killing of Vietnamese people, because that was awkward and inappropriate and also My Lai and the war actually happened folks.

Finally, what did you think of the pop music use? I thought it was an interesting way to "audiolize"/"ensound" history and the period, but at times bordered on cliche.

I firmly recommend the book and I'm honestly looking forward to the DVD release, which will have accompanying comic inserts of Tales of the Black Freighter, which is featured in the novel, in addition to almost 2 more hours of footage.