Thursday, April 2, 2009

Man on Film: Who Does Watch The Watchmen?

While I wouldn't go so far as to say, "It sucked," I cannot say that The Watchmen was a film without some fairly major shortcomings. In the interest of full disclosure, my feelings on the source material fall somewhere in the very-good-but-not-great camp. I like the concept of the very flawed hero, generally. The parallel universe created is certainly interesting, as well. But its dystopic vision centered on Nixon having remaining in power seems a little gimmicky to me (and Nixon is a little too easy, in my mind), and not all of the characters struck me as being particularly interesting*.

*We all know I'm not talking about Rorschach, here.

Having gotten that out of the way, my issues with the film go past those qualms. For starters, what was the fucking music budget for this film? Honestly, the soundtrack was a distraction. "The Sound of Silence" playing over The Comedian's funeral was a little over the top. "99 Luftballoons" playing over the Dan Dreiberg/ Laurie Jupiter dinner scene was completely distracting and, despite the apropos lyrical content, completely clashing from a tonal standpoint. The bastardization of Leonard Cohen's* "Hallelujah" over the awkwardly sytlized love scene was egregious. Honestly, I think the only time I didn't take issue with the soundtrack was with "The Times They Are A-Changin'" over the opening montage, which is one of the few things I thought was done very well. With that sequence, Snyder managed to knock out much of the exposition without dialogue and took about three minutes to set the stage for the entire film in a visually engaging manner. It saved so much screen time and seemed to catch everyone up well enough to follow what was going on. The task of adapting this work was no small undertaking, but this was an encouraging sign early on.

*Seeing him in about an hour...

Past the absolutely off the mark soundtrack (and odd primary complaint, I know), my primary concerns were not the relatively static camera work (I didn't take too much issue with Zack Snyder trying to capture the spirit of the comic book by trying to keep all the action in one frame without lots of cutting) as it was with many reviewers in the mainstream media. It was perhaps an odd choice but not one that made me feel as though the film was stagnant. My issue was with some horrible miscasting. For starters, I thought Adrian Veidt should have been played by someone less effete than Matthew Goode. Veidt in the comic felt like a slightly more square-jawed man. Goode was simply too boyish to pull off a character who despite being insanely smart was a very strong athlete (yes, I know he was a gymnast, but male gymnasts also fit a slightly more square-jawed, manly profile than Goode). Then there's the fact that he's not an especially good actor.

But Goode's casting was not what I took umbrage with most. That lies squarely on the shoulders of Malin Akerman, whose portrayal of Laurie Jupiter was so far off where it needed to be it was painful. The problem with that is much of the film hinges upon her pulling that character off. You need to believe that Dr. Manhattan would come back just for her. You need to believe that Dan Dreiberg would have carried a torch for her. As the film was coming to an end, there was a twinkle in her eye that made me realize what was going on. She seemed to be channeling Cynthia Geary as Shelly in "Northern Exposure", which is not a performance I would be looking to emulate for this role. She simply does not have the dramatic chops to pull this role off.

One last note, Zack Snyder's insistence upon using slo-mo in absolutely every action scene borders on ridiculous. Show something in real time, please.

Oddly, those are my main complaints. I thought the rest of the film, especially the modified ending (which worked much better for the film), worked for the most part, but these issues I had definitely detracted from the enjoyment I took from the film.

At the very least, it was not life-changing, which many Watchmen fans certainly would have wanted. I guess that would be a tall order for any director to fill.


KRD said...

Actually, the "Hallelujah" sex scene is the ONLY thing that I've heard from anyone about this film.

The only reason I would have seen it would be M. Goode. You've ruined that. You probably did me a favor.

How was Leonard Cohen? (I assume that you'll be writing about it . . . )

Old Man Duggan said...

I will be writing about it tonight.

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