I had this moment last night during my second viewing of Watchmen where it suddenly dawned on me - I really do love this movie.
The first time I saw it, I felt more of a struggle to love it. Like, I knew the love was there, but I was having a hard time feeling it in my gut and I felt like I needed a disclaimer when discussing how I felt about it.
It's a different story now. Sure, I still get why people are complaining, I just...don't agree. I think reviewers like Anthony Lane & A.O. Scott are being uptight, snooty little bitches (said it) and need to promptly remove the pretentious sticks from up their asses. According to A.O. Scott, here's the type of person who would love Watchmen,
Indeed, the ideal viewer — or reviewer, as the case may be — of the “Watchmen” movie would probably be a mid-’80s college sophomore with a smattering of Nietzsche, an extensive record collection and a comic-book nerd for a roommate. The film’s carefully preserved themes of apocalypse and decay might have proved powerfully unsettling to that anxious undergraduate sitting in his dorm room, listening to “99 Luftballons” and waiting for the world to end or the Berlin Wall to come down.
Um. Not me. In any conceivable way, shape or form. And funny...I loved the movie! Weird. Scott also didn't get the love scene, AT ALL, a scene I found to be one of the most inspired, well played scenes in the film, and COMPLETELY missed the self-referential, satirical elements in the movie. The girls wear those tiny costumes with the heels as a comment on how female superheros always wear tiny costumes with heels! How do you not get that?! And they even refer to how absurd it is in the film! And how does Scott end his review?
Perhaps there is some pleasure to be found in regressing into this belligerent, adolescent state of mind. But maybe it’s better to grow up.
I'm sorry, did you even SEE this movie? Do you realize your final thought is more or less an exchange from the film between Dan & Adrian, Adrian commenting on Dan's belligerent, adolescent state of mind, telling him to grow up? LITERALLY. The film takes care of insulting every aspect you are choosing to insult, Mr. Scott. Your review therefore holds no salt and honestly reads as if instead of seeing the film, you just wrote down your pre-conceived notions and called it a day.
But I'm not gonna spend this whole post bitching about those critics. Though let's all realize that blanket panning this movie in such a small-minded, pretentious way is just as much of a crime (if not more so) as blanket omgeezperfct praising it. And listen. I know this movie isn't perfect. I just don't care.
My final thoughts after the jump. Be warned. Spoilers exist.
So yes. I love this movie. I, unlike a lot of people I suppose, felt a huge connection to the characters, especially Rorschach. I cried when he died both times I saw it and felt an intense panic when he realized he had been set up as Moloch's murderer. When critics say Zach Snyder doesn't get human connections? I just disagree. I absolutely love the Dan/Laurie love story. These two LIT UP in every scene together. True, Malin Ackerman seemed weak in comparison to the great actors up against her, but in every one of her scenes with Patrick Wilson, she suddenly came alive, had truthful moments, and had almost a tangible connection to her scene partner. I thought they were absolutely lovely together. Their love scenes, both the failed attempt and the porn star success, were highlights for me.
The Achievement that is Watchmen
Now for me, the second time is where the film came together. I wasn't nervous about seeing it for the first time or how the people I was seeing it with would react. I noticed new things and just really realized what an achievement this film is. That this truly is the best it could have been. For me, accomplishing that with the kind of love for the material that Snyder has? It's a big deal.
The film was exactly what I wanted. I saw the characters come to life, portrayed brilliantly for the most part and saw scenes that I absolutely love played out right in front of my eyes - everything with Rorschach (especially without his mask), everything between Dan and Laurie, every word the Comedian spoke, Adrian giving his typical super villain speech only to turn it around and say a. duh I wouldn't tell you if you could stop it and b. I'm actually a good guy, you just don't get it. I mean, I loved it. All the right changes were made (mostly) and all the great stuff, the stuff that mattered, that I wanted to see, that fans wanted to see, that should have been there - it was all there.
Snyder chose to direct this movie because he couldn't stand to think about how someone else would bastardize it and he was right. Any other version that was gonna be made would have stripped what was great about the graphic novel and turned it more into something like this with some Eagle Eye (I have a thing against DJ Caruso right now) thrown in. Something that's a fun ride, but not remotely a good movie. Not an ACHIEVEMENT but cut down and chopped up so it would appeal commercially. Watchmen is NOT commercial. It's not an entertain-fest. It's epic. And I love that it works better if you've read the graphic novel cause everyone should read the damn graphic novel.
We should also take a moment to acknowledge the OUTSTANDING feat of casting this thing 90% perfectly in the first place. This can rarely be said of any adaptation. The only adaptations that are cast that well are the new Batman series (BB, TDK) and the Harry Potter series.
At the end of the day, if Watchmen was gonna be a movie, this is the movie it had to be. It HAD to be faithful, it HAD to have the acting talent, it HAD to have someone behind the camera who loves & appreciates the source material. Speaking of which...
Being Faithful to the Source Material
With something like say, Scott Pilgrim, you have an awesome book, but nothing SACRED, so the film won't need to follow the book EXACTLY. In fact, the Pilgrim books leave a lot of room for experimentation. As for The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Hulk, etc. those films weren't based on one particular, specific, scripted arc. They were using these characters to tell a combination of a bunch of stories in the cannon or to tell a totally new one. You can't do that with Watchmen. Few works are as iconic and as sacred as this one is, especially when talking comics. The only way to have done this movie was to stay faithful. I honestly think Watchmen is an anomaly in that respect. Most other works give more room for adaptation and playing around. Watchmen just...isn't that. I mean, even Y: The Last Man and Fables leave room for new and different aspects as long as the important ones are kept in. If the filmed versions are still true to what the books are, what they stand for, the stories they are trying to tell and the themes they focus on, then great. But Watchmen is one that had to be as faithful as possible. And you know, I think Zach pulled it off. Coming away this second time, I LOVED it. And while I think the "fidelity kills a movie" argument actually IS correct a lot of the time, I think it's just irrelevant in this case.
Ultimately, my take on the film will be the minority, I realize. I only hope that you readers can take in my thoughts without being offended or thinking I'm a dumbass and that I can do the same for you. I mean, maybe one day I will think to myself, damn, I wish Watchmen had been done differently, I can see that. I'm sure the emotions I felt during the film (which obviously not everyone felt!) could have gone deeper. But I will admit, I mean, I am that group of people who is just thrilled to see it come alive. I just don't care to criticize it as a film and separate myself from the source material and analyze it as an objective moviegoer. I just don't care to. I got to see Rorschach. In the flesh. And I got to see my husband, otherwise known as Nite Owl, be his sexy, paunchy self and have sex all over the place (or maybe that was my dream last night, HI-O!). And I got to see what life must be like for the Tralfalmadorians* through Dr. Manhattan's white non-existant eyes! I GOT TO SEE THAT HAPPEN. So you know what? I'm happy.
I'll end on this, from Mr. Beaks,
WATCHMEN is far from a perfect film, but it has so much greatness in it that I'm unwilling to issue a definitive judgment until I've seen the director's definitive version. True, some of the flaws will remain (e.g. Malin Ackerman's miscasting, the unconvincing old-age makeup, and the often declamatory dialogue copied straight from the comic), but these are minor infractions when compared to the majesty of the KOYAANISQATSI-scored origin of Dr. Manhattan, Haley's Rorschach, Morgan's Comedian, and those incredible opening credits. This is a stunning achievement. I didn't know if Snyder had an artistic identity of his own after 300, but there is a voice ringing out in his WATCHMEN that doesn't belong to Moore or Gibbons. Hayter and Tse certainly deserve credit for wrangling what was believed to be an unruly text, but the soul of this piece must belong to Snyder.
It's just goddamn amazing that this movie exists at all.
*Please tell me you know what I'm talking about
For a bunch of well done reviews that say what I'm trying to say,
Film School Rejects
Roger Ebert's Second Piece (See, I'm not the only one who needed to write more after a second viewing!)
Update: From Time's Lev Grossman,
Bottom line: this is about knowing what you're getting into. The mistake for newcomers would be to confuse Watchmen the film with Watchmen the graphic novel--to think of the film as a substitute for the book. The two are neither identical nor symmetrical. The film is an homage to the original or perhaps an advertisement for it, but nothing more. It is not it.
Should the fans see Watchmen? The comic has something to say on this question. Are you an idealist like Rorschach, who insists on absolutes, black and white? Or a pragmatist like Ozymandias, who deals in shades of gray? Ozymandias would go. Rorschach wouldn't. The point of the comic is that neither position is perfect or even tenable. But a choice must be made. To quote the master's final words: "I leave it entirely in your hands."
Full piece: Lev Grossman