Watchmen

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Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the much-loved graphic novel of the same name, was released theatrically on Friday. Having not read the graphic novel, all I knew about the film going in was what I saw in the previews.

The opening credits sequence in Watchmen sucked me into the film, and I was hooked for the first thirty minutes. Through the historical montage, complete with living photographs and revisionist events, I felt like I had a decent grasp of the universe that Watchmen took place in. It’s a rare feat to accomplish this with such a sweeping story. That said, there were times when the multiple narratives felt disjointed and episodic. And while the film is largely about The Watchmen themselves, I would have liked to see more in regards to the societal look on things.

There was also a lot of pop music that was included in the film, ranging from Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The integration of the music with the visuals worked well for a while, but soon became more of a distraction than a complementation of the film.

Watchmen is an ensemble piece at heart, housing a horde of different characters, but the two that interested me the most were Rorschach, played perfectly by Jackie Earle Haley, and Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), who comes across as Clark Kent with Batman’s toys. In some ways I would consider him to be the main character of the film, although there wasn’t much of a resolution for him at the end of the film.

Billy Crudup also made an appearance in the film as Dr. Manhattan, the God-like character in the film. His personal dilemmas and choices were a much-needed intellectual boost in the film, resulting in a cool ending. And while the character of Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) wasn’t in the film nearly enough, what glimpses we saw of him were intriguing to say the least. I would love to read Watchmen if only to learn more about him.

Sadly, however, director Zack Snyder tends to put more emphasis on “graphic” than “novel”. Starting out as a serious, gritty epic, I was surprised at the change in tone partway through the film and Snyder’s self-referential winks and personal fetishes. (At least there weren’t any drugs in the film)

I’m certainly not opposed to violence in film if the story calls for it and is used well. But to quote Alfred Hitchcock, “There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” And on a similar note, Roger Ebert wrote in his review of The Winslow Boy that, “Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing.” Whatever happened to suspense, subtlety, and the imagination? There are better ways to show violence in a film. And in the case of Rorschach’s back-story, some well-placed shadows would have been far more effective, stylistically and emotionally, and would have fit with his film noir presence.

As an extra tidbit, I noticed a similarity between 300 (Also directed by Snyder) and Watchmen. The former ends with Dilios telling the story of the 300 Spartans in the oral tradition of story telling, while Watchmen ends in a similar way, but with the written tradition. Perhaps Snyder’s next film will end with a typewriter…or maybe I’ve just been a communications major too long.

In any case, Watchmen, while having some interesting characters, cool visuals, and a promising story, fails to tell that story well. Instead of getting a developed character-driven epic about humanity, we’re left with an adolescent storyteller infatuated with gratuitous sex and violence. And we’re left wanting more.

2008 Oscar-Bait

Well, it’s been a good year at the movies so far. There are only a few films that I’m interested in seeing this Summer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder)

My Top 5 for 2008 So Far:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Wall-E
3. American Teen
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5. Iron Man

That said, I’m really looking forward to Oscar season this year. I have a feeling that the Academy Awards are going to be insane with competition. Last year was good, but this will probably be better. This afternoon I hunted down the upcoming films for the rest of the year.

My Top 11 Must-Sees:



The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Directed By: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt / Cate Blanchett / Tilda Swinton

Zodiac was royally shafted at the Academy Awards this year. I thought it should have been nominated for picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr) and visual effects. It probably wouldn’t have won any, but it should have had some recognition.

That said, I think Benjamin Button is going to get Fincher back in the game.


(Apple Trailers)

Burn After Reading
Directed By: Ethan Coen / Joel Coen
Starring: Brad Pitt / George Clooney / John Malkovich / Tilda Swinton / Frances McDormand

After the amazing No Country for Old Men last year, it looks like the Coens are back in action with a dark screwball comedy (their forte) with a great ensemble cast. It will be nice to see Frances McDormand in a Coen film again.


(Apple Trailers)

Revolutionary Road
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Starring: Leondardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / Kathy Bates

Looks like a Titanic cast reunion. Add in the director of American Beauty and Road to Perdition and you have an awesome combination.

The Soloist
Directed By: Joe Wright
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. / Jamie Foxx / Catharine Keener

Robert Downey Jr. has been in an insane number of films the last few years. That’s all.

Australia
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Hugh Jackman / Nicole Kidman / David Wenham

Quite simply, this looks epic, and I do not want to miss seeing it on the silver screen. It may end up being the next Lawrence of Arabia for all we know. And you can’t go wrong with Hugh Jacman.


(Apple Trailers)

Appaloosa
Directed By: Ed Harris
Starring: Viggo Mortensen / Renée Zellweger / Jeremy Irons / Ed Harris

As long as it’s better than Hidalgo. Solid cast, and the amazing Ed Harris.

Lakeview Terrace
Directed By: Neil LaBute
Starring: Patrick Wilson / Kerry Washington / Samuel L. Jackson

What can I say? The preview sold me. This looks to be quite the tense film.


(Apple Trailers)

Body of Lies
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio / Russell Crowe

Since 2002, DiCaprio hasn’t disappionted me once as an actor. He just keeps plugging away. With 8 films in the next two years, he’s going to be a busy man. And to top it off, the preview reminded me a little bit of Michael Mann’s Heat, which is never a bad thing.

Doubt
Directed By: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Amy Adams

I’ve heard really good things about the Shanley’s play, which this is based on. And what a great cast.

The Reader
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet / Ralph Fiennes

Defiance
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Starring: Daniel Craig / Liev Schreiber / Jamie Bell

You can’t go wrong with Edward Zwick.

What films are you looking forward to the most?