Some more thoughts on Watchmen

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Watchmen this week, which I think is a good sign, and paying attention to the online response to it. I’ve seen everything from "This movie is evil and you are evil if you want to see it" to "It puts me into a state of homosexual panic because it shows the penis of one of the characters" to "My favorite panel was not dramatized in the way I imagined and therefore Hollywood is evil and should be destroyed."

The people who hate, hate, hate it seem to fall into three groups: those who feel it isn’t enough like the comic, people who feel it’s too much like the comic, and those who cannot abide the very idea of people reading comics under any circumstances. It’s kind of strange to find, fifty or more years after Wertham, so many critics publicly denouncing comics readers. It’s one thing to say "I don’t like Watchmen because it’s long and boring and violent," all of which are defensible, but it’s something else again to say "I don’t like Watchmen because it was made to serve the needs of an audience I cannot stand."

The other movie I keep thinking about with regard to Watchmen is, oddly enough, Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. The novel Lolita was, in its time, also considered "unfilmable," and was also regarded as a modern classic. Kubrick, like the makers of Watchmen, faced a great deal of pressure from many different agencies — people who thought the novel and its audience were evil, people who thought the novel could not be served cinematically, and, of course, people who stood to make money off the final product.

While I think it’s too early to say that Zack Snyder is another Stanley Kubrick, the weird thing is, Zack Snyder’s movie of Watchmen is substantially more loyal to its source material than is Kubrick’s Lolita. Kubrick couldn’t do two-thirds of what he wanted to do with Lolita, and who knows what the movie would have been like if he had. But we now have Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, and we have Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and somehow the world didn’t end and both are still available to experience and both are more or less taken seriously by serious-minded folk. Zack Snyder, through a confluence of unrepeatable phenomena to rival the list that Dr. Manhattan recites to Silk Spectre II, somehow got more freedom to shoot his unfilmable modern classic than Kubrick did in 1962, and at much higher risk to the money folk, and whatever the outcome I think that has to be considered a good thing.

Whatever one thinks of it, Watchmen is a very dense narrative, and a very daring, ambitious piece of moviemaking — difficult, thorny and not easily digested — especially when one considers that it’s intended to be a mainstream smash and not some funky little boutique project.  It is also, for better or worse, more or less the book.  The people who, for whatever reason, were bored or outraged or confused (or thrown into a state of homosexual panic), I think, in the months and years to come, will find themselves arguing with their friends and haunted by the movie’s arresting images. I think they’ll start to see ideas and themes from the movie come up in their daily lives, and they’ll come back to it on DVD or whatever home-viewing options the future brings, and maybe they’ll be directed back to the book (which is #1 at Amazon this week) and maybe they’ll never completely "get" it, but at least it’s out there now to be experienced and to become part of our culture and I can’t see that as bad.

Meanwhile, David Hayter, one of Watchmen‘s screenwriters, has written an open letter to the movie-going audience. I’m going to re-post the entire text of the letter, not necessarily because I would have said it this way, but because it’s rare that I ever see a Hollywood screenwriter excited about the end product of his work:

AN OPEN LETTER FROM A WATCHMEN SCREENWRITER

So it has been five months since I saw my first rough cut of WATCHMEN, and eight days since the premiere of the film I’ve been working on since late in the year 2000.

The reviews are out — Some outstanding, others rankly dismissive, which can be frustrating for the people involved, (though I can only speak for myself,) because I firmly believe that WATCHMEN, the novel, must be read through more than once to even have the faintest grip on it. And I believe the film is the same.


I’ve seen it twice now, and despite having run the movie in my head thousands of times, my two viewings still don’t’ allow me to view the film with the proper distance or objectivity. Is it Apocalypse Now? Is it Blade Runner? Is it Kubrick, or Starship Troopers? I don’t know yet.


All I know is that I had a pretty amazing experience the two times I’ve seen it. And both viewings produced remarkably different experiences. The point is, I have listened for years, to complaints from true comic book fans, that "not enough movies take the source material seriously." "Too many movies puss out," or "They change great stories, just to be commercial." Well, I f***ing dare you to say any one of those things about this movie.


This is a movie made by fans, for fans. Hundreds of people put in years of their lives to make this movie happen, and every one of them was insanely committed to retaining the integrity of this amazing, epic tale. This is a rare success story, bordering on the impossible, and every studio in town is watching to see if it will work. Hell, most of them own a piece of the movie.


So look, this is a note to the fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life.

If the film made you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse.

Please go see the movie again next weekend.


You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or balls, (and this film’s got both, literally), or true adaptations — And if you’re thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it’ll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we’d like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again.


In the interests of full disclosure, let me also point out that I do not profi t one cent from an increase in box office, although an increase in box office can add to the value of the writers’ eventual residual profits from dvd and tv sales.


But I’m not saying it for money. I’m saying it for people like me. I’m saying it for people who love smart, dark entertainment, on a grand, operatic scale. I’m talking to the Snake fans, the Rorschach fans, the people of the Dark Knight.

And hey, if you hated the film, if you think we committed atrocities, or literary mistakes of a massive, cephalopodic nature. If the movie made you a little sick to your stomach, or made you feel bad about your life. If you hated it for whatever reason, that’s cool too. I’m not suggesting you risk gastro-intestinal distress just for the sake of risky filmmaking.

But if you haven’t seen it yet? Well, I’ll just say this…


It may upset you. And it probably will upset you.


And all along, we really meant it to.


Because face it. All this time…You there, with the Smiley-face pin. Admit it.


All this time, you’ve been waiting for a director who was going to hit you in the face with this story. To just crack you in the jaw, and then bend you over the pool table with this story. With its utterly raw view of the darkest sides of human nature, expressed through its masks of action and beauty and twisted good intentions. Like a fry-basket full of hot grease in the face. Like the Comedian on the=2 0Grassy Knoll. I know, I know…


You say you don’t like it. You say you’ve got issues. I get it.


And yet… You’ll be thinking about this film, down the road. It’ll nag at you. How it was rough and beautiful. How it went where it wanted to go, and you just hung on. How it was thoughtful and hateful and bleak and hilarious. And for Jackie Earle Haley.


Trust me. You’ll come back, eventually. Just like Sally.


Might as well make it count for something.

David Hayter
Finally, here’s some Watchmen – inspired art I’ve found at various places around the internet.

 

 

Comments

112 Responses to “Some more thoughts on Watchmen”
  1. schwa242 says:

    Finally saw it. Liked it a lot, and was rather impressed with the ending change, and started wondering about the psychology of humanity thinking that… well, not sure that this is spoiler free space.

    The only thing that sticks in my craw as a nerd for the comic is a shift in Rorshach’s backstory. But again, not sure what the spoiler rules are here.

  2. notthebuddha says:

    It’s kind of strange to find, fifty or more years after Wertheimer, so many critics publicly denouncing comics readers

    Do you mean Wertham?

  3. mr_noy says:

    (SPOILERS)

    Overall, I liked the film very much and plan to see it again. I didn’t care for the extreme violence in the first fight involving Dan and Laurie; not because I’m squeamish but because it seemed out of character for those two. As in the book, the scene helps to bring Dan and Laurie closer together and reawakens their desires (in more than one sense) to fight crime but for Dan to rupture a guy’s elbow or for Laurie to plunge a knife into some guy’s neck seemed a bit much. I expect that level of brutality from Rorschach or The Comedian, but not from Nite Owl and Silk Specter.

    I’ve noticed that all of the people griping about Dr. Manhattan’s penis (A) avoid the word penis in favor of funny or immature words (e.g., wang, schlong, Little Manhattan, “blue balls”, etc.) (B) talk about how much they didn’t need to see it, then go on to describe it in painstaking detail (it’s uncircumcised, it jiggles, it’s too big, it’s not big enough, etc.) and (C) tend to be overwhelmingly male. If you ask me, the dudes doth protest too much, methinks.

    I think the new ending works better than expected. It’s slightly more plausible than Ozymandias’ plan in the comic book and not as preposterously batshit crazy. On the other hand, it’s not as original or as bold. In Massawyrm’s (generally positive) review over at Ain’t It Cool News he brought up an interesting point, one I hadn’t even considered. Ozymandias’ plan works in the comic book precisely because the alien threat is so unknowable and cannot be verified. That common enemy is what brings the world together. Here’s how Massawyrm sees it “Let me get this straight. OUR nuclear deterrent, OUR hero, the very model of American power in the world, goes nuts, kills 15 Million people…and that’s going to bring the world together? Our toy blows up several major cities and the rest of the world won’t hold us accountable?”

    I look forward to your eventual analysis and I’m curious to see how other readers responded to Watchmen, both as an adaptation and as a film in its own right.

    • notthebuddha says:

      Our toy blows up several major cities and the rest of the world won’t hold us accountable?

      The loss of half of New york should go a long way towards mollifying the rest of the world. Henry Fonda blew it up for the same reason in FAIL SAFE.

      • mr_noy says:

        Interesting point and that line of thinking might have influenced the filmmakers to move the attacks to beyond just New York, which was originally the only target. I’m no purist and I’m OK with the film’s ending as it currently stands but most of the complaints I’ve heard about it boil down to “I hate the ending just because that’s not what Alan Moore wrote.” Massawyrm’s review is the only one I’ve read so far that makes a case for why Moore’s original ending works better.

        jdurall also makes a good point about Veidt Industries getting in on the good will/relief efforts. I must say, I do miss Ozymandias’ single moment of doubt when he asks Dr. Manhattan if he did the right thing and Manhattan responds by telling him “Nothing ever ends.”

        • notthebuddha says:

          I do miss Ozymandias’ single moment of doubt when he asks Dr. Manhattan if he did the right thing

          The three of the four going along with deception *and* doing nothing further to Ozzy implies they approve, however reluctantly. They are costumed vigilantes, after all, and there’s nothing to stop them from dealing with a mass murderer. Dr M could even help the deception by doing a quantum whammy on him and his entire base. But they just let him go, which leaves Rorschach looking like the closest thing to a hero among them.

          • cdthomas says:

            I dunno….

            That was my main objection to losing the giant orificial squid (and no, S.Q.U.I.D. is a poor substitute): Dr. Manhattan is so tied into America’s image, as America’s Atomic God, that even in the mutual destruction waged by Ozy, the rest of the world (especially fundamentalist entities independent of state power that would despise the existence of Dr. Manhattan simply because *he mocks God*) would blame America for its hubris in believing it could control him.

            This destruction would spur Al-Qaeda just as easily as our history of that time. Afghanistan would still be a mess; Islamist extremists would be left desolate at the end of the Cold War; Mideast societies would still give their people the shaft, which would be even worse with Veidt’s takeover of the world energy industry. Still leaves a lot of leeway for a few suicide bombers to learn how to drive ANFO-bomb vans and fly planes.

            Remember how soon the sympathy for NYC and America evaporated after 9/11… as soon as America started framing Iraq, and ignoring bin Laden. Same ol’, same ol’…

    • jdurall says:

      I also expect that every major world city destroyed has a big presence from Veidt Industries paying for the reconstruction.

    • nom_de_grr says:

      …tend to be overwhelmingly male.

      Here’s one woman that was pretty fixated on the penis. That review is definitely worth the read for the lulz alone, and especially her rating system at the end.

      • mr_noy says:

        Thanks for pointing that out. Wow. What can I say about Ms. Schlussel’s review?

        (1) Just because a movie features superheroes it doesn’t follow that it is a children’s movie. Clearly the reviewer is ignorant of the source material and is probably unaware that comic books and graphic novels aimed at mature readers is a decades old phenomenon.
        (2) I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you that a movie clearly advertised as Rated R for “Strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language” would contain instances of strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language. How is any sane, non-blind, literate parent to know they shouldn’t take their children to see it?
        (3) As for Ms. Schlussel’s claim that the film is being marketed towards children I haven’t noticed that. On the other hand, I don’t have kids, I don’t hang out in toy stores and I haven’t bought a Happy Meal in almost 30 years so I might have missed that aspect of the marketing campaign.
        (4) Ms. Schlussel was clearly put off by Dr. Manhattan’s frequent full frontal nudity but her distaste seems rooted in her moral convictions as opposed to certain male members of the audience who feel the need to mask their sexual insecurity by repeatedly announcing their displeasure at having to look at a penis; which they can all describe in elaborate detail, no doubt. Furthermore, unlike the aforementioned group, Ms. Schlussel is mature enough that she doesn’t need to resort to silly euphemisms. I give her credit for at least using the word ‘penis’.
        (5) I’m assuming that 4 Marxes+ is equivalent to No Stars or Negative 4 Stars, i.e. it’s a really, really bad rating? If her rating system is defined by a Karl Marx motif, wouldn’t a Red Star motif, an internationally recognized symbol of Communism, suffice? “Party Leader gives it 4 Red Stars. Check it out, Comrade” Or how about “Two Hammers and Sickles – WAY UP!”
        (6) Incidentally, as a euphemism for penis, Schlussel doesn’t sound half bad.

        • nom_de_grr says:

          As far as I’m concerned, four Marxes is a big kitschy thumbs up!

          You should read my review of 300. Snyder is a weird guy; he clearly is intentionally trying to tickle the homophobic funny bone in the American male viewer.

      • antiotter says:

        If I deliberately tried to satirize the idiocy of the right-wing pundit, I don’t I could remotely come up with anything as stupid as that article. Even if I did, I would trash it, thinking, “No, this is way too over the top, even for a parody. Nobody would buy it.”

        She can’t even wrap her feeble brain around the concept of an alternate reality, or a parallel timeline, or the Butterfly Effect. That’s like being too stupid to follow the plot of Back to the Future or The Terminator. Or hell, The Butterfly Effect. That’s right. This woman is PAID to give people her opinions, and is too fucking dumb to follow the plot of a Schwarzenegger flick AND an Ashton Kutcher flick.

        Bonus idiocy: Even her webmaster is too stupid to do HTML. The only way they could figure out how to distinguish moderator comments from guest comments is by putting them ALL IN CAPS.

      • Anonymous says:

        Quite by accident, I found another masterwork from Ms. Schlussel, who argues that if watching fictional characters not actually torture other fictional characters in “Last House on the Left” — a course of action she wholeheartedly endorses, without any ambiguity — it logically follows that it must be OK for real U.S. soldiers to torture real prisoners. Wow. Just … wow.

        http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/dschlussel/2009/03/13/hollywood-pocrisy-waterboarding-okay-for-movie-criminals-not-real-life-terrorists/#more-78902

        – N.A.

  4. robjmiller says:

    It was ok, but…

    *SPOILER ALERT*
    In all honesty, the film was about as good as could be expected. I didn’t expect them to include a full version of all of the supplementary material that was a big part of what made Watchmen great for me. However, I do have one gripe: the ending.

    No, I don’t mean changing out Dr. Manhattan for fake aliens, that didn’t really matter. What I mean is how they seem to have deliberately lightened it up to suck out all of the apocalyptic impact. Dreiberg is supposed to grudgingly accept what happened and basically say: “Fuck it, I’m done. I’ll be off banging the blue guy’s girlfriend.” Instead, they have an idiotic fight scene at what should be a dramatic conclusion.

    Then, to make matters worse, they gave Manhattan’s last line, “Nothing ever ends,” to Laurie, and worse, she says it during a romance scene. This makes it seem like a new beginning with Dreiberg instead of an ominous warning that peace never lasts and man’s self-destruction is inevitable as long as we have the means to bring it about, which is really the message of the book.

    Was this all for the purpose of “lightening it up” a bit? Why the fuck would someone think lightening up the ending of two and a half hours of dark violence is even worthwhile? Shouldn’t the aim at that point be to make as much of an impact as possible? This is like having Hillary Swank get up and start walking around at the end of Million Dollar Baby, it’s what you think people would want but in truth it’s just empty. No one wants a happy ending, heartbreak is what makes a dark film memorable.

    • Todd says:

      Re: It was ok, but…

      And yet, even after the most unimaginable disasters, life does go on.

      Personally, I think Watchmen is a dense, multi-layered, ambiguous work that cannot be reduced to one “real message.” What’s more, I think its ambiguity is what gives it its punch, not its darkness.

    • mr_noy says:

      Re: It was ok, but…

      Then, to make matters worse, they gave Manhattan’s last line, “Nothing ever ends,” to Laurie, and worse, she says it during a romance scene. This makes it seem like a new beginning with Dreiberg instead of an ominous warning that peace never lasts and man’s self-destruction is inevitable as long as we have the means to bring it about, which is really the message of the book.

      I agree. More than any giant psychic squid I miss the final exchange between Ozymandias and Manhattan. It’s the one and only moment where Ozy shows any real doubt about his decision. Still, the film wasn’t watered down nearly as much as it could have been.

    • quitwriting says:

      Re: It was ok, but…

      They left in the “tenuous peace” bit, but the ending does feel stapled together after some Exec said “This ending is too dark! Oh my God! Make it happy, now!” And they did. And then someone said, “Hmm… this fucking blows. Let’s… massage it, at least.”

      Thus you get:

      Dan and Laura talking about how peace will hold… as long as the world thinks Dr. Manhattan is watching…

      Rorschact’s journal going into the wild to a newspaper that clearly hates the current state of affairs.

      This peace is tenuous. It’s probably even less-lasting than the artificial peace brought about in the comic. It’s not a great ending, and it had cringe-inducing moments for me. But all it all it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

      • schwa242 says:

        Re: It was ok, but…

        Dan and Laura talking about how peace will hold… as long as the world thinks Dr. Manhattan is watching…

        I thought that was kind of eerie myself though. Imagine how that might slowly fracture the psychology of the world thinking that the big bad wolf could swoop down at any minute and vaporize you. It’s one thing to say, be religious and fear that on faith alone. It’s another to fear it and be able to point to an actual body count.

        • quitwriting says:

          Re: It was ok, but…

          I personally felt the tone of the ending was indeed befitting the story. But at the same time I walked out grumbling that I missed my giant squid.

        • cdthomas says:

          Re: It was ok, but…

          If millions of people who profess a living faith find cause to work in missile silos and trenches and on borders in tanks for the glory of their conception of God, what would stop them about having a big blue God oppose them?

          It’s just as easy to have fundamentalist Christians model Jon as the Antichrist, and that Armageddon is *on*. Time to stockpile food, bullets and notes to loved ones once the Rapture starts.

          Another view: If Dr. Manhattan were from the UK, or France, would the Bush Administration disarm, or double-down, in the *exact* hopes of the scenario Nixon heard — that sure, you’d lose big parts of America and the world, but there’d finally be a winner and a loser, no matter how many missiles Dr. M stops?

      • Re: It was ok, but…

        This has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I LOVE your icon. He is the Best. Doctor. EVER.

  5. marcochacon says:

    Having seen it for the second time last night–with my mother–I am even more impressed with it. She is certainly not the “target audience” (in demographic terms, being in her 60’s, a woman who has never read the comic, and has a general dislike of violence, fast-forwarding through the fight-scenes in Lord of the Rings).

    She liked it, followed it easily, and was interested in how the comic handled some of the elements (the sex scenes, what was left out, etc.)

    I know people who found Hayter’s letter offensive (“Ooh! Lookit how baaad I am!”)–but, on the whole, I had to agree. This is an age where an R-rating is weighted directly against projected box-office. If anything is clear it is this: the movie did not need Dr. Manhattan’s penis–even all but the most die-hard fans would’ve forgiven it.

    For one thing, while it is surprising in the book to see him naked in the first issue, it is only by paying attention to the multiple flash-backs that one can see how his clothing is a meter of how in-touch with humanity he is. It’s never even really mentioned (exactly). For another thing, it is, to me, utterly clear that the creators of Watchmen realized full well what effect the frontal male nudity would have.

    Jokes about Snyder’s affinity for sculpted man-flesh aside (see 300) he is not some bizarre fetish director. The decision to go with the naked form was not slavish attention to detail. It wasn’t simply reverence for the work: the movie (unlike, for example, the first Harry Potter film) is not so devoted to canon that its highest priority is never to deviate). No, he came to a no-brainer decision (leave out the penis) and took the hard choice.

    He took the brave choice for reasons that, I think, can only have to do with artistic sentiment. I think that’s unusual courage and Hayter is right to call it out.

    There are other elements of the same bravery throughout the movie. He has The Comedian shoot the pregnant woman: it’s gratuitous. It’s ugly. The story does not absolutely require that we hate him–and if it did, the brutal rape-scene (which more or less was necessary) would do that for us. No, this, again, is a scene that gives us the same mule-kick the book did (perhaps even more so since the extended opening fight scene gives us even more sympathy for the Comedian) for no obvious reason I can see other than, again, artistic vision.

    Snyder got the book. And he wanted the audience to get it too.

    Again, that’s uncommon. It’s brave. I wish there were more of it.

    -Marco

    • quitwriting says:

      The Vietnam scene serves dual-purposes. It’s Manhattan’s flash-back of his life as a total government mule, and what he remembers about the war. The flash-back wasn’t about Comedian. It was about Manhattan, and how even then he was already slipping away from humanity. He could have stopped it with no more than a thought. But he didn’t. And that’s more telling than anything else.

      • marcochacon says:

        I know the scene illustrates Manhattan–I know. However, there is plenty of exposition in the movie to show Manhattan slipping away–it’s not only shown elsewhere, it’s given direct attention by the characters in dialog (the Manhattan-looks-at-bra scene, the “You’re my only tie to humanity” scene, and so on).

        The Vietnam could have been changed in any fashion to make it less dramatic and more palatable and still get the “Manhattan-slips-away” in. The fact that Snyder decided to take the stark example directly from the book is ballsy.
        -Marco

        • quitwriting says:

          There is plenty of exposition, but I think that this was supposed to illustrate the beginning of when he felt like he was slipping away. But it is a ballsy move, yes.

  6. mitejen says:

    *Spoiler*

    I’m sure this has been discussed elsewhere, and with more comprehensive viewpoints than mine, but as someone who’s used to seeing a lot of female full-frontal in movies and elsewhere I found Manhatten’s nudity refreshing, especially in the context of a ‘comic book movie.’ I said something to a friend unfamiliar with the book and who hadn’t yet seen the movie (but wanted to) about Laurie and Dan’s sex scene and her eyes widened. ‘You mean people have sex in this movie? I thought it was based on a comic book!’ I resisted the urge to put my head in my hands, and instead just loaned her the book.

    It was a difficult choice on the part of the filmmakers, and it worked; The Jon Osterman of the film wasn’t as clearly defined in his divergence with humanity as in the book, but it was still evocative and I’m glad to say there was no giggling in my theater. Some people squirmed a bit in their seats, but otherwise everyone seemed very eager to prove that yes, they could handle a 2 hr+ movie with that much visible penis.

    • Todd says:

      I have to admit, it feels a little weird to hear so many otherwise lucid people get this excited and outraged by the sight of a penis, the existence of such I would imagine could hardly be a secret to anyone.

      • sboydtaylor says:

        America’s dysfunctional relationship with nudity and sex are symptoms of the repressive Puritanical ideas that still haunt us :) The flesh is impure, all of that. Sadly, it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

        • mitejen says:

          I’d say the ideas that haunt us are more Victorian–a friend of mine is doing her Doctoral thesis on Puritains and apparently they were a much wilder bunch than is commonly believed.

          But yes, the culture of ‘Let’s have naked ladies parade around but OH MY GOD MALE NUDITY MAKES YOU GAY AAAAA!!!’ gets very, very tiresome.

          • sboydtaylor says:

            Well, I lived in England when I was young and there were very few issues with Black Eyes, a mini series where a woman bared her breasts on national television at Prime Time (7pm). Children were expected to watch.

            That would be impossible here.

            • mitejen says:

              Yeah, this is true.

              Still, there were naked boobs in Fantasia sixty years ago. In two different segments! Of course who knows how that’s sold now–probably the box is covered with ‘WARNING! This is not for children’s consumption, as it contains nudity and references to Satanism.’

              There was a time when nudity in a film or television show was more acceptable than violence and gore, but no longer, it seems.

      • mitejen says:

        I can’t speak for all the men who are kicking up a kerfuffle, but for me it was this bizarrely poignant moment in film.

        A few weeks ago I wrote this insane post about how I stare at animals’ balls in nature programs–I can’t help it. I’m not a zoophile or a furry or anything, it’s just that when I was growing up, I noticed that in a lot of the classic art in my children’s books about art, the man’s ‘area’ was always obscured. The women might be topless, or just have a bit of the mons showing, but every man had a discreet fig leaf or something. And when it came to movies, the same thing. I remember watching Sheena: Queen of the Jungle when I was six or seven (it was rated PG) and Sheena got totally naked in a waterfall–including full frontal. I wondered why it was okay for women to be naked in movies and not men, and I asked my mother (who had no answer for me). So when I watched nature programs, I noticed that they don’t wear pants, and tried to solve the mystery of the difference between boys and girls. ‘Surely, that absurd looking thing can’t really be what all the fuss is about,’ I didn’t exactly articulate at the time, but there was a lot of mystery surrounding male genitals that led to an overabundance of curiosity.

        So to clarify, I’m excited that we’ve finally reached a time in American cinema where male nudity happens in a film with a wide theatrical release; yes, there’s a lot of overwrought gay panic surrounding it, but I’m hoping this sort of thing doesn’t go away. It’s nice to know that in the future, if a woman gets naked and gives a thrill to the male (and lesbian) members of the audience, there might be something for me to look at and objectify as well, instead of the filmmakers assuming that women aren’t wondering what some hot man might look like sans pants and are instead content to fantasize about him making a huge paycheck and playing with the kids.

        • cdthomas says:

          And um, yeah. WHAT SHE SAID.

          So to clarify, I’m excited that we’ve finally reached a time in American cinema where male nudity happens in a film with a wide theatrical release; yes, there’s a lot of overwrought gay panic surrounding it, but I’m hoping this sort of thing doesn’t go away.

          If Zach Snyder will be remembered for anything, it’s for forwarding the visual conversation about nudity in deeply confrontational and homophobically-uncomfortable ways. Weird it’s him and not Bryan Singer, but go know.

      • kevinm126 says:

        What was surprising to me upon viewing the film was that I barely even noticed it. You’d think with the way people were carrying on that Dr. Manhattan would occassionally just walk onto a scene and shake his penis at everyone while laughing maniacally. But it was presented in such a subtle manner (shocking considering it was Snyder) that I can’t help but conclude that the outrage says more about the rager’s fixation than anything else.

        • mitejen says:

          I agree–the whole concept was elegantly handled (again, shocking because it’s Zack Snyder).

          I don’t get the people who were deeply offended that it was in the movie, either. I mean I initially had that moment of ‘Hee hee. . .WANG!’ and then moved on and enjoyed the film as a grown-up.

          • cdthomas says:

            The Attack of the Show spoof of Dr. Manhattan’s

            Lower Manhattan was immunizing, in that it got all of my childish responses out of the way. Although I think I would have been more 40s-snappy about a gaggle of Manhattans surrounding me… such as threatening a visit from the archenemy Tur-Mohel and his Minyan, for a mass bris….

            But I *like* the phrase “Lower Manhattan”, because it’s not related to size, but branding. That and I’m pissed I can’t buy Watchmen Condoms at my nearest drugstore.

            (They’re blue! Ma, WB Marketing started it!)

            • mitejen says:

              Re: The Attack of the Show spoof of Dr. Manhattan's

              I know! I saw an ad for them online and was like ‘BRILLIANT! What a great way to underscore the idea that this is FOR ADULTS.’

              I, too, appreciate the phrase ‘Lower Manhatten.’ I have no idea how I’d react to a gaggle of Manhattens–and what IS the proper plural for that? It’s a proper noun, but also. . .not.

              • cdthomas says:

                Re: The Attack of the Show spoof of Dr. Manhattan

                Cluster. A cluster of Dr. Manhattans.

                As is “cluster….”

                Or, shaker will do, although he’ll have to turn himself pink.

      • robolizard says:

        Its such a rare sight in films, but to put in a huge mainstream everyone-has-to-see-this-or-we-will-fail movie, that takes balls. (Literally! Nyuk!) Warner Bros knows that every adult in America HAS TO SEE THIS PENIS. And they probably have. And that’s pretty awesome.

        Hayter hit it on the head. The film made me face palm, but I’m going to see it again. Because now that we got the crappier parts of what every nerd expected to be the perfect movie out of the way, I’m curious to see what else I’ll notice.

      • cdthomas says:

        Horse hockey, Mr. Alcott.

        If you were a woman seeing movies since the 1970s where a woman’s boobies were background, something for extras to do while the men talked, or something for the man to play with, while the woman was ecstatic, then you’d understand just how refreshing it was for a buff man to walk around naked, and having people deal with that — with a proportionate *reduction* in comparable female nudity.

        Silk Spectre I? Still clothed during her rape, as was the Comedian, which was respectful and focused attention on the violence, not the sex. Laurie and Jon? Jon’s prior dorsal nudity trumps the one nipple we see of Laurie’s — and we see neither crotch. In most American pictures with an R, if they have sex, it’s the women who are naked and on display. WATCHMEN was different, even if it were mostly CGI genitalia, but it still should be noted accordingly.

        As for the ‘secret’ aspect, that’s perilously close to the ‘why do women need erotica/porn for their tastes’ argument that started in the 70s. Must I drop some badly-recalled Lacanian theory on your naked, waxen, sculpted and posed ass?

      • Anonymous says:

        And they did address an incongruity in the comic

        If you could reconstruct your own body, atom by atom, why would you still be hung like a popcorn kernel?

      • sheherazahde says:

        “a penis, the existence of such I would imagine could hardly be a secret to anyone.”

        Thanks. That gave me a good laugh.

    • swan_tower says:

      as someone who’s used to seeing a lot of female full-frontal in movies and elsewhere

      This was exactly my thought, too. And not just Dr. Manhattan, but also the (not frontal) shot of Dreiberg standing in front of his costume; up until the sex scene, I don’t believe there was any real female nudity, and even with that weighed in, you saw a lot more guy-flesh than girl-flesh. Which is kind of fantastic, sez my gender-analyzing brain.

      • mitejen says:

        but also the (not frontal) shot of Dreiberg

        I know! And just as an aside, the casting for Dreiberg was perfect. I’ve somehow managed to never hear about Patrick Wilson before he appeared in this but he was dead-on–especially how he really looked shlubby and dumpy in his shut-in ‘Dad’ cardigan, but was fairly cut when in the altogether. I thought that was interesting and also some great costuming.

        I agree re: guy-flesh vs. girl-flesh. It’s an interesting response to modern culture–I can see scantily-clad women in Victoria’s secret underwear ads in banners on Cnn.com, and naked women are so prevalent in our culture it seems like they’re everywhere. They’re boring, in short. But when you find out there’s a naked MAN in something (my friend recommended Eastern Promises primarily because of the naked knife-fight scene, and secondly because it had a great story and was a well-made film) it becomes that much more interesting. ‘Naked men, you say? Ripping!’

        • robjmiller says:

          Typically speaking, penis is only shown in mainstream film in situations beyond the male’s control as a means of showing their degradation. I seem to remember this as the stated justification for allowing nudity in Schindler’s List. Even in movies that are ostensibly about sex, like Boogie Nights there is only female nudity until the very end.

          Also, I can’t think of a single time when a male character has pulled out his penis on camera in an act of seduction, unlike the ubiquitous woman-drops-her-top scene. Now that I think about it, I can barely come up with examples of it in or around a sex scene at all except in particularly explicit films (Brown Bunny, 9 Songs).

          • mitejen says:

            I can’t think of a single time when a male character has pulled out his penis on camera in an act of seduction

            The only example of that I can think of are the situations played for comedic effect: the man shows the female character (but not the audience) ‘what he’s packing,’ her eyes bulge comically, and they leap in the sack.

            I completely agree re: penis only shown in films to indicate degradation–Dr. Manhatten seems to repudiate that, but in a way he’s still in that mold. As a character he’s moved beyond the care for such things as decorum and modesty, because of the events surrounding his transformation. He appears as a muscular speciman because he initially (or so I surmised) felt like a superman, and afterwards retained his appearance because he thought Laurie liked him that way.

          • swan_tower says:

            Yep. Strip a woman, and it’s titillating. Strip a man, and it’s degrading. Because it reduces them to meat, to a body instead of a person.

            That doesn’t have to be the meaning of nudity, but it’s the one our culture promotes. And this is what people mean when they talk about the male gaze: the female body is what you’re supposed to be looking at, for the purpose of arousal. If you show the male body in the same way — if there’s a nice lingering shot of a guy dropping his pants — well, then the audience might start looking at him as an object of arousal, and that risks getting gay germs all over the male viewers.

            • Todd says:

              I’ve always found it to be an economic thing — as more women achieve economic and political power, there will be more of a “female gaze.” So yes, when “Cocktor Wangdoodle” (as Dr. Manhattan is often referred to on one popular internet message board) shows a penis both lovingly photographed and computer-generated, not only does the traditionally male superhero audience feel squirmy, they also have to think about all the man-hours (so to speak) that went into creating that artifact.

              Of course, another aspect of Dr. Manhattan’s nudity is that, well, when one discusses the subject of superheroes, one is, on some level, discussing nudity. The tight-fitting spandex costume on the superhero became a fixture partly because they were faster to draw that way — just draw the nude form, then make it a different color. Dr. Manhattan takes the idea of the superhero design and reduces it to its simplest, and most honest, expression.

              • cdthomas says:

                You know this is a challenge thrown down to the Valley

                to firm up those 24/7 rendering partnerships with South Asian firms and get cracking on their own CGI love gods.

                Snyder did the R&D for the light suit tech, which is a great way to literally illustrate a live actor’s real-time relationship with other actors, and for the replacement rendering of a character who’s so real in this work that we squick when he multiplies around Laurie, and *she* squicks about a sex practice she no longer likes. If the tech were any less brilliant, we wouldn’t feel what she felt, or even feel her opposite — titillation.

        • swan_tower says:

          The funny thing for me was, when I heard there was a naked knife-fight, my first thought was “hawt!”

          And then I saw it, and you could have made a LOLcat picture of me captioned “NOT HAWT!”

          That scene makes me cringe in all the right ways.

          Getting back to Dreiberg — I agree with some friends of mine that I might have preferred him five or ten pounds heavier, to underscore the “retirement” aspect. After all, staying cut is work for most people, and Dreiberg’s been out of the game for a while. But the bit I thought worked very well was his face: seen normally, he pretty much looks like an average Joe, but the cowl transforms him into something much more intimidating (and comic-book-y). Which is, of course, exactly what it’s supposed to do.

          • mitejen says:

            And then I saw it, and you could have made a LOLcat picture of me captioned “NOT HAWT!”

            BWAH HA HA!

            I had that reaction too–and I was conflicted because of my fervent, sweaty love of Viggo Mortensen. On the one hand–package! OMG! And on the other–horrible wounds and violence! NOO!!

            It made me think of those horrible violent exploitation movies of the 70’s (I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left, I’ve only seen the latter and heard about the former), and how sex and violence were so often intertwined– and then taken to the next level in slasher movies, where sex onscreen is immediatley ‘punished’ by the couple’s inevitable murder.

          • Todd says:

            I just want to say that the naked knife fight in Eastern Promises is not only one of the most incredible fight scenes ever shot, it is also the number 1 reason to see the movie.

            • craigjclark says:

              I fully concur.

              And before we leave the subject of male nudity in Watchmen behind, while I was happy they left in the scene of Dreiberg standing naked before his Nite Owl outfit, I missed the subsequent scene of him suiting up, largely because the book makes it clear that he does so without putting on any underclothes, thus confirming the fetishism inherent in the costuming of comic heroes. And I also wish they had put him in his night-vision goggles.

        • Todd says:

          You should totally check out Little Children, with Patrick Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley. You’ll appreciate Wilson’s performance in Watchmen all the more. And there’s lots of nudity.

      • cdthomas says:

        See?

        It’s not our imagination, about the men and frontal nudity and naked women as props and the thing.

        Especially about the thing.

        It wasn’t that big. Proportionally, no, and considering he recreated his body to his own desires, it was damned modest compared to what other men would choose.

        And it wasn’t as if he threatened anyone with it, even though he could have with Adrian.

  7. kevinm126 says:

    I’ve always felt that to call any literature “unfilmable” is a lazy excuse. Anything – and I do mean anything – can be adapted to film, and being paintstakingly faithful to the source material is something that is only important to a very loud minority.

    That being said, I’m in a camp separate from what you described. I thought the movie was good, but was carried by the strength of the source material and Jackie Earle Haley’s performance. My problem is that I think it could’ve been a lot better, and perhaps even brilliant.

    Unfortunately, I just didn’t care for a lot of decisions that Zack Snyder made, to the point where I came to the decision that he’s simply not a great director or storyteller. I know a lot of folks will disagree with me, but I have a feeling that future films will prove me right, particularly when he has to film a project that isn’t already laid out for him.

    The two films for which he receives the most praise – “300” and “Watchmen” – were quite literally all laid out for him and he just reproduced the scenes. That’s all well and good, but I think a filmmaker should aspire to something more than mimicking greatness (which doesn’t always duplicate it – see Gus Van Zant’s shot-for-shot “Psycho” remake). And that’s really what I came away with after viewing the film and felt even more strongly after I had time to reflect on it.

    And, yes, Snyder did make his presence known. However, when he did, I wasn’t too happy with it. I just didn’t care for all the visual puns, particularly when he tried to be cute during or immediately following what would otherwise have been a very poignant and/or emotionally heavy scene. And the slow motion sequences. I beg of Snyder and other directors of his ilk to just stop with that, because it’s starting to drive me crazy.

    In short – good movie, could’ve been a lot better but wasn’t because it had a director whose best efforts can only ensure the movie isn’t bad, rather than meeting or improving on what was already written.

    • quitwriting says:

      I can’t disagree about your assessment of Zack Snyder’s story-telling ability. He’s a technical director that was left in charge of the story because people figured “well it’s just such a technical undertaking, he’s the best for the job”. And he’s not.

    • swan_tower says:

      I’ve always felt that to call any literature “unfilmable” is a lazy excuse.

      It depends on what you mean by “filmability.”

      Can you get the plot and the ideas across? Yes, certainly. Can you do it in a manner that re-creates the effect of the original? Sometimes, but there are devices available to cinema that can’t be done in prose, and vice versa.

      For example, a novel whose quality rests in matters such as its vivid narrative language or interiority of the characters may not translate well at all to the screen. Certain aspects of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash are begging to be done as a film . . . but how much would I enjoy them, without the ridiculously over-the-top narrative voice that is the novel’s defining characteristic? (You can read the first page to see what I mean.) And what may be a profound and transformative moment inside a character’s head gets reduced to a change of expression on an actor’s face — unless you use a voiceover, and those are clunky.

      In the other direction — and this is one I’ve chewed over for years now — film and TV can use juxtaposition brilliantly, running a voiceover from one scene while showing the visuals from another, cutting back and forth between two scenes, etc. My guinea-pig case for this for a while now has been the S5 Buffy episode “Fool for Love,” specifically the sequence that juxtaposes Spike and Buffy in the alley behind the Bronze with the flashback scene of Spike in 1977 New York. If you haven’t seen the episode, that won’t mean much to you — but the sequence cuts from one to the other in a very effective fashion, and then at the end it collapses the two frames together, so that what you see is the 1977 Spike speaking to the present-day Buffy. I desperately wish I could re-create that effect in prose, but I haven’t found a way to do it yet.

      Could I get the information across in another manner? Yes. I might even be able to do it in a way that would be interesting. But it would lose something in the translation, just as Watchmen lost certain things, like the interaction between the main narrative and the “side” bits — the “Under the Hood” and “Black Freighter” material. Moore explicitly wrote Watchmen to play to the functional strengths of comics books, which, despite the resemblance between comic book panels and story-boards, are not identical to the strengths of film.

      A good adaptation will find ways to add something in to counterbalance the stuff that’s lost, but some texts make that easier than others.

      • “Moore explicitly wrote Watchmen to play to the functional strengths of comics books, which, despite the resemblance between comic book panels and story-boards, are not identical to the strengths of film.”

        I’ve read this idea in a couple places, but I’ve never seen anyone (including Moore) thoroughly explain which strengths these are, and how the book made use of them.

        • swan_tower says:

          I don’t know Watchmen in specific or comics in general well enough to feel that I’m the person to make the argument for that. But since I made the statement, I’ll do what I can to support it.

          I know at least some of it has to do with panel placement and juxtaposition (a different kind than you do in movies) — and certainly Moore did things in Promethea that can’t be replicated in film, like a two-page spread that leverages the space-equals-time aspect of comics by showing two characters in several different locations, walking around a giant Mobius strip. Watchmen I don’t know as well, since I’ve only read it once, but it’s supposed to have a lot of interesting interplay between the “Tales of the Black Freighter” comic-within-a-comic, the “Under the Hood” excerpts, and the main narrative, as well as other things friends have brought up that I have unfortunately forgotten now.

          • The Promethea example seems stronger. The juxtaposition of “The Black Freighter” with elements of the main Watchmen narrative doesn’t strike me as a trick that couldn’t be used to similar effect in either film or prose.

    • mimitabu says:

      “I’ve always felt that to call any literature “unfilmable” is a lazy excuse.”

      when i was a freshman in college, i had a conversation with my honors english advisor in which i stated that i felt that film was the ultimate medium because of its incorporation of sight and sound. i went on to make the comment that ulysses, which i hadn’t read yet but had heard was supposed to be the greatest novel ever written, in the hands of a filmmaker whose brilliance equaled that of the brilliance of the books author, would be better as a movie. he basically shook his head at me. a couple years later when i actually read and thoroughly enjoyed ulysses, i realized how ridiculous my comment was.

      to put it baldly, ulysses is a book, through and through. a large part (if not the largest part) of what makes ulysses ulysses (reverse italics there…) is precisely its bookness; its pacing, its different registers, its overall structure and interplay. the only possible way to make a ulysses movie would be to have the whole book perversely read over some visuals, but even then it would be absurd because these words don’t resonate as “movie narration,” they resonate as literature commenting on literature. ulysses is unfilmable. any adaptation of ulysses is only an adaptation in the loosest possible sense of the word.

      comics and manga lend themselves to movies because of the large impact of movies on the style of comics and manga… but music has a large impact on some novels, which does not ipso facto mean that any novel could be adapted into a musical piece. sure, many novels wouldn’t be what they were without the existence of music, but that’s as far as that goes. perhaps so too with some comics and their relation to movies.

      “but all movies-from-books are different than their source material. it sounds like no one can adapt anything into another medium on your view.”

      no… some things can be translated or captured. some things that, say, novelists use the form of prose to accomplish can be accomplished in film. and, some things can’t. there isn’t a clear (and certainly not an objective) line between “adaptation” and “inspired by”… i mean, even when you can tell the difference, there will be penumbral cases. still, sometimes filmmakers can do what the author or comic book artist are trying to do, better, or at least equally well or “faithfully”. and, sometimes not.

      • See, now you’ve put the idea of adapting Ulysses into a musical in my head. And the damn idea won’t go way.

        • cdthomas says:

          I may live long enough to see the Watchmen musical.

          No, I’m not kidding. Watchmen lends itself to serious musical theatre exploration better than Spiderman will. Andrew Lippa or Adam Guettel could knock it out of the park. And it’s not as if we don’t have old Broadway hands committed for at least two of the leads.

          I wonder if Mr. Moore in response to his film adaptations, has jealously guarded his theatrical exploitation rights, or did the WB fold those in too, as movie studio business affairs departments are wont to do these days?

  8. Hayter’s letter makes me kind of ill and makes me kind of laugh (at his lunacy). said it better than I can:

    “While I’m on the subject of batshit Watchmen-related material, screenwriter David Hayter recently wrote an open letter to … well, the haters, I suppose … wherein he suggests that fans of the film are much like rape victims. Rape victims who fall in love with their rapists. And he means it as a compliment.”

    • glumpish says:

      Seriously. That letter is amazing, and not in a good way.

      • When I first read it, all I could think of were the campaigns by fans to buy up an entire night’s tickets to Serenity and give them out to passersby. This push is less a purely cash-driven exercise in guilt-tripping fans into “supporting alternative film”, and more a call by a True Believer to True Believers. In both cases, we’re talking about cult behavior, and the rationale that somehow the rest of us will be converted if they just work a little bit harder to get us.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There’s not much more I can add here, that hasn’t already been said, except that I plan on seeing it again tomorrow on the local IMAX screen (so if I’m seeing it again I obviously must have liked it–unless I’m a masochist)

    Though this got me to think, is Watchmen the first film that will present a sex scene on an IMAX screen? Or for that matter, is Watchmen the first R rated film to be shown on IMAX?

    • creepingcrud says:

      It’s certainly not the first IMAX-shown R; I saw Dark Knight on IMAX just in January. Regarding your first point, though, one of my friends was quite impressed with “a giant blue penis as big as me, right up there on the screen!”

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hmm…my problem with the movie wasn’t that I thought the narrative was too dense, but rather that it was too repetitive. Do we really need to be told information, then experience the exact same information immediately afterward in lengthy flashback, then told the information again? Maybe I’m dense, but that just seems like sloppy screenwriting (or at least something that feels less redundant reading a comic than it does watching it on screen). And I’m not speaking as someone who is all that familiar with the source material.

    Also, and this isn’t a new criticism for this movie or for a Snyder movie or for any action movie, but who do we have to kill to get at least half the actors doing a little more than posing and line reading? They should have gotten Rorschach and the Comedian to make their performances worse just so the rest of the cast didn’t stick out so much by comparison.

    Plus, I feel for the writers, and yet that letter leaves me a little cold. “The movie I wrote is so incredible and unprecedentedly amazing that if you don’t see it twice, you’re the jerk” is the takeaway I’m getting.

    -shekb

    • mitejen says:

      or at least something that feels less redundant reading a comic than it does watching it on screen)

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, there.

      In the book you have a lot more to process, and more blanks to fill in yourself. Sometimes a character’s dialogue doesn’t make sense until you notice a little gesture drawn on the page or an expression that clarifies meaning. Plus the many-threaded story, the ‘Under the Hood’ AND Black Freighter installments made the repeated content more of a welcome and necessary revisitition, especially when viewed through a different perspective or in light of new information. Its interesting how some ideas just can’t be directly translated from one storytelling medium to another.

  11. I liked the film a lot. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and very close to the book. I did not like the changed ending, however.

    SPOILERS

    So several cities around the world were blown up, and in each case, the epicenter of the explosion was one of the Veidt industry Manhattan-based power plants? That’s laughably easy to trace back to Adrian. The reason the squid was so perfect was that it was so far out of left field that nobody would imagine the person really responsible for it. The Manhattan frame-up wouldn’t work. Veidt would get the blame and the ruse would be uncovered.

    END SPOILERS

    I have other minor problems with the film. But only minor complaints, while the film’s very existence is a major accomplishment.

    • mr_noy says:

      If I’m not mistaken Veidt was building the devices in Antarctica and then teleporting them to the target cities. Rorschach and Nite Owl can’t see it from their angle but when they are approaching Karnak the audience can see a blue flash through the windows – the same kind of energy burst that occurs whenever Manhattan teleports. This ties in Veidt’s reveal that he had already triggered his plan 35 minutes ago.

  12. vaklam says:

    I’m definitely going to see it again. Not because Hayter asked me to but I’m glad to know it’ll help. The thing I like about the comic is the same thing I like about the film: It’s dark and funny and multi-layered and brutal and…all the things you said in your post.

    And call me a heretic, but the change to the ending made it a better story. Not just a better story for film but it improved on Moore’s concept.

    • I agree that the ending worked better. I never really bought the original ending anyway… It was my least favorite part of the book. (And I’m an Alan Moore fanboy, too– I have eeeverything. Miracleman, Max the Magic Cat, Lost Girls, all of ‘em.)

      I think this is the best Watchmen movie that could be made. I’m amazed that it even happened.

  13. robolizard says:

    One problem the film has is its the following the insane fury of the Dark Knight.

    The other problem however is slow motion.

  14. gdh says:

    My favourite Dumb Internet Watchmen Argument is the page long debates about the fact that the oft-mentioned blue penis is circumcised. How dare they!

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, but it’s uncircumcised. If you are going to bring it up, get your facts straight pal!

      • gdh says:

        In the book it is. But I thought the controversy was that they changed it for the movie?

        • Anonymous says:

          In the book it’s just a little nubbin, so you can’t really tell what’s going on, however on the said message boards, the consensus is that it is most definitely UN-circumcised.

          • Anonymous says:

            Those people have clearly never seen an uncut penis before. The one in the movie is definitely circumcised.

  15. Let’s cut to the chase. In your opinion is it an “adolescent power fantasy”?

  16. mimitabu says:

    haven’t seen watchmen yet, but will soon… just posting to say

    heyyyyy, it’s david hayter! what up david hayter? he’s the guy who wrote the first x-men movie, played the hero in the hilariously awful guyver 2, and, most importantly, voiced solid snake in all the metal gear solid games! man, that guy is funny. just thinking about his voice makes me want to pop in one of the mgs games right now and laugh. also, i like what he did with x-men, so i want to see watchmen even more. hope it doesn’t suck.

  17. curt_holman says:

    Snyder & Kubrick

    “I think it’s too early to say that Zack Snyder is another Stanley Kubrick”

    Of course. But Snyder, perhaps in imitation of Kubrick, has a similar appreciation of ‘closed composition’ in his frames. (The war room scenes are clear homages to Dr. Strangelove.) He seems to have more faith in the potency of comic book images and their design in the frame than any other adaptor I can think of.

    It’s interesting that you bring up Kubrick’s Lolita. After I saw Watchmen I was puzzling over which film I would compare it to, since it doesn’t really feel like any other superhero movie. I saw several comparisons with Blade Runner, which I think is apt, but it struck me as being very analogous to A Clockwork Orange — they’re both dystopian sci-fi dramas with satiric elements, stylized violence and ironic music. Both have ingeniously invented sci-fi settings, although Watchmen’s narrative is more ‘dense,’ having so many plot-threads and protagonists. (I also find them both to have sluggish pacing issues and weird supporting performances, but maybe that’s just me. Blade Runner, too.)

    A Clockwork Orange strikes me as a film adaptation that has out-shone its source material: the early American editions of Burgess’ novel ended where the movie does, and left out the epilogue that took place some time later. Kubrick’s Lolita, though, didn’t really overtake Nabakov’s novel in the same way.

  18. While I think it’s too early to say that Zack Snyder is another Stanley Kubrick, the weird thing is, Zack Snyder’s movie of Watchmen is substantially more loyal to its source material than is Kubrick’s Lolita.

    And this is why I have no interest in seeing it, and don’t understand the people who find this loyalty a compelling argument for seeing it. It just seems pointless. The book was awesome, yes, but it’s already here.

    • Todd says:

      I will answer this with a parable:

      When I was a young man, a friend of mine was intent on getting me to take LSD. I said to him, “Why? I’ve already heard Doors records.” He got very angry and said “It’s not the same thing!”

      • …But that’s assuming your subconscious isn’t doing its damnedest to make the experience a psychotronic version of “The End.” : P

      • Anonymous says:

        but again still, i’d have to side with mr. moore when he says that spending 150 million dollars on something like this is downright evil. he said it about vendetta, i think, but it probably stands here too, since his attitude hasn’t changed.

  19. Anonymous says:

    the funniest thing about the whole penis debate is- the penis is there in the comic, too. dumbasses.

    in my opinion, reading about the movie is much better than the actual movie. all of the internet is writing about it, everyone has something to say. and i just don’t buy the kubrick comparison. that one’s just too much for my brain. i mean, zack snyder? come on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even Alan Moore himself would have to chuckle…

      …at the idea of enough computing power to run a war being used to render Dr. Manhattan’s cock.

  20. misterseth says:

    Terry Gilliam said it best:
    From my first reading of Watchmen, it felt like a movie. Why does it have to BE a movie?

    With every adaption to date, there is ALWAYS something, for better or worse, taken out. With Watchmen, while a great film, clearly overshadowed or ommited IMHO significant events which made the original graphic novel re readable, in turn, discovering new and significant connections from each reading.
    With certain exceptions, I find that difficult with films.

    • Blade Runner omitted tons, and did a 180 on the entire concept of the Replicants. But it was still an awesome film.

      Taking stuff out is always going to happen; the adaption needs to put something back in, something new or different or just riffing on the old tune in an interesting way. Slavish attention is a recipe for suck.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I saw it again, yeah, for Silhouette and the nurse,

    and for a movie that lets a god-like man walk naked, just because, in front of a worldwide fanboy audience. That can’t be bad, for queers and others who like to gaze.

    Sure, events are ugly, from the tonal palette to the music choices (which I’m now convinced are a deliberate set of choices to reflect what a director in 1986 would have done) to the ultra-violence (the killing in the alley != the prison beatdowns, even though in costume Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II could have been justifiably *more* violent, as excuse), but the film has beauty — mostly when Dr. Manhattan’s on screen. It’s the opposite of LOTR, where Gollum was ugly in the setting of great natural beauty or sublimity; here Dr. M is a glory in the mundane. It almost excuses his passivity, especially during the Vietnam bar scene… but not quite. His flaws remind us not only how connected he still is to humanity, but how human he still is.

    It’s a complex story told with brutal, simple elements. Kinda queasy-making, but still interesting and never, ever clear cut.

  22. noskilz says:

    Reading some of the negative reactions makes me wonder a bit if there isn’t a certain amount of Indie Rock Pete in the mix.

    I’m a little surprised at how much is being made of Manhattan’s nudity – Manhattan doesn’t really seem to act like it’s important and none of the other characters seem to notice, so it kind of faded out for me(since I saw the film in IMAX, if the nudity was going to be hard to overlook in any format, one would have thought that IMAX would have been it.) This normalization of the peculiar reminded me a bit of luchador movies where you have these bizarrely costumed characters doing ostensibly normal things, but it sort of works because the other characters act as if it’s the most normal thing in the world for The Blue Demon to be treating a date to a romantic dinner at a nice restaraunt.

    I suspect a fair amount of the furor over the nudity is that it’s just an easy target that won’t seem to require any particular elaboration (one of my friends was telling me about reviewer that complained the ratio of crotch to breast shots was too lopsided, which seems rather silly.) To me it often seems less about some real clothing-optional outrage and more about needing to punch up a review a bit – and it probably doesn’t help that many reviewers tend toward extreme reactions as a matter of course(more interesting to read, I suppose.)

    Since I didn’t read the comics beforehand, there are probably many allusions I missed, but even with my memory disorder, I didn’t find the film hard to follow at all.

    • mimitabu says:

      people always make a big deal about male nudity because america is an enormously sexist and homophobic country. like it or not, it’s as simple as that.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Finally saw it last weekend. I sat through the running time mostly wondering how baffled anyone who hadn’t read the book would be. On the whole, I liked the film — it was daring and entertaining, and I think Zack Snyder has a certain knack for capturing arresting, beautiful images. I loved the attention to detail, with dozens of tiny bits from the book (and a few worthy new additions, like the chilling folder simply labeled “BOYS” on that Floppy Disc of Secrets) woven into the background.

    I just wish that, at some point in his life, David Hayter had discovered subtlety. Everything, from the music to the emotions to the gore, felt turned up to 11, needlessly so. The alley fight is actually only slightly more violent than it is in the book — re-reading last night, I saw Jon and Laurie breaking bones and unleashing huge gouts of blood in their opponents — and I can even argue in favor of amplifying the gore of Dr. Manhattan exploding his foes. But Rorschach’s treatment of the child killer, and what happens to the goon who gets his arms stuck in Rorschach’s cell door, is just needless and dumb. Keeping the worst of that violence offscreen would have been so much more powerful, something Snyder just doesn’t seem to get.

    Ditto the sex scene, the only part of the movie I truly hated. Stupid, obvious, and maybe the least sexy thing I’ve ever seen.

    I also wish the ending hadn’t been dumbed down, even as slightly as it was. All of a sudden it’s all Big Superhero Fight Scenes! and Preachy Moral Dialogue That Doesn’t Really Make A Lot of Sense! The ending wasn’t ruined, but it was certainly marred. Also, we never really got a sense of the human scale of the disaster in Manhattan; you don’t need streets full of bodies, but maybe finding a single solitary empty shoe might have been moving.

    In short, my opinion of Snyder is like my opinion of Sofia Coppola; heck of a lot of talent, and maybe if he ever grows up one day, he’ll really make something of himself.

    And I really don’t see the big deal about the penis. Like the book, it’s a bit startling the first time you really see it, but eventually you just stop noticing or caring about it. Unless you’re one of those creepily identical right-wing Stepford blondes, apparently.

    – N.A.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, must clarify: When I said “David Hayter” in there, I meant “Zack Snyder.”

      – N.A.

  24. teamwak says:

    Finally saw it on IMAX………and loved it!

    But Im a child of the 80’s and found the Cold War feeling to be very accurate. I thought it was brave and bold filmmaking, and I applaud everyone invloved.

    Rorschach and The Comedian were brilliant characters acted to perfection by 2 new fav actors (if they can do performances like that again).

    Since then Ive immersed myself in the lore, and did enjoy the graphic novel. Even watched the animated version of the GN which was rather interesting. All the cuts, including giant psychic squid (that is really a big vagina) seem fine by me, but Ozy was quite a departure from the book.

    Blue knob was fine by me (because im European), but was still a brave and grown up choice (about bloody time!).

    All in all, very impressed.

  25. Anonymous says:

    A Near Miss: Goode, mega-muscles, and perfect lighting

    I admire the movie for its devotion to the source and for what looks like a really detailed, very honest effort at presenting it in a way that plays to the strengths of movies. But I thought it was held back by some production decisions.

    The major, major one for me is the casting of Matt Goode as Veidt. He was totally ineffectual in his presence, and his manner felt like what I guess he was stuck being, which is a child trying to seem like a grown-up. There was a kind of uncomprehending play-acting to it. Add in ineffective/obvious makeup and what looked like the fakest, cheapest wig I can remember seeing in a movie and it just completely neutralized the gravity and assurance that define the character. For me, it took me way, way out of the movie every time he was on screen. For what it’s worth, I think he’s a perfectly good actor but I think he was set up to fail in this part.

    I liked, a lot, the way Crudup delivered his lines and the performance he put in to one end of the digital pipe. But I thought the way they rendered Manhattan’s physique was silly. Maybe this is too personal a point to complain about, but I interpreted the comic much more in the vein of renaissance sculpture, rather than the MET/RX-EXP5000 UTLRA POWER GAINER PRO-FORMULA!!! that the movie gave us. I mean, his physical presence is supposed to be kind of Osterman’s reductive, idealized sense of his human self, right? Why have anything to prove? So that made me roll my eyes at the movie every time he was on screen too.

    Those two things stuck out to me constantly. My other complaint is even more subjective: I think the stylization of some of it was too flashy, and not gritty enough. Particularly the violence, but also a bunch of the production design, which seemed to be like a perfectly lit and polished version of Gritty™ Realism®. At times it looked more like a Watchmen-themed advertorial in a fashion mag. The fighting I especially thought could have been a little more brutal and unglamorized a la Jason Bourne — not to wish that style on every action movie, but I just think it would have been more appropriate here than the slow-mo sexed-up stylization that it got.

    I guess someone better call me a WHAAAAAAAAMbulance. Oh well.

  26. medeaspes says:

    The penis was never an issue for me; yes, there’s a penis up there… and a lot of other stuff, too! The other stuff also happens to be more important, too!

    After having some time to digest the movie, and think: I’m ready to re-watch it. Now that the initial shock of the first viewing is done, it may be possible to enjoy the movie on its own merits, as opposed to comparing it constantly to the comic. Just from the initial viewing, the movie worked best when it deviated from the comic-capturing the spirit, if not the blow-by-blow.

    And Jackie Earle Haley was amazing!