Author Topic: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****  (Read 3216 times)

Najemikon

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Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« on: May 16, 2010, 08:38:02 PM »
Watchmen: Director's Cut
4 out of 5




The year is 1985 and super heroes have banded together to respond to the murder of one of their own. They soon uncover a sinister plot that puts all of humanity in grave danger. The super heroes fight to stop the impending doom, only to find themselves a target for annihilation. But if our super heroes are gone, who will save us?

Unfilmable. That’s what they’ve always said of Alan Moore’s graphic novel masterpiece and Zack Snyder has proved it, despite making an excellent film in its own right which I had expected to not like. It’s an incredible achievement and deserves to be ranked in the top tier of the genre. At its best, it’s the sort of film Scorcese would make if he did comic book movies (and no, that isn’t just because of Travis Bickle-esque Rorschach). At its worst, it’s bloated and unfocused, but it’s hard for me to review, because I know the story so well. Maybe newbies don’t notice the bloating!

It has been adapted very well indeed and as close to the book as possible, although it misses a defining voice. It’s a character piece rather than action so casting was paramount and this is one of the best. Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl, Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan and especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach are superb, but there isn’t a duff note from any of the cast. After the success he had with 300, I’d thought Zack Snyder would have similarly treated this with digital style over substance, so it’s impressive that it feels very solid, old fashioned even at times, and the actors are given room even in the action scenes, which are largely bone-crunching, gravity defying fights. In fact, I should take a step back: this is far superior in all respects to 300, and that was great fun! I loved the soundtrack and the frequent juxtaposition that the film found within the plot. If I was being really picky, I’d have preferred less slow-mo. Heck, Snyder could have shaved 20 minutes off the running time, just by using normal speed!

Slow-mo or “normal-mo”, the effects are fantastic, particularly on the big blue Doctor (plus no cheesy attempts to hide his nudity, which is essential to the character) and again, it’s commendable that the cast are not swallowed up. It’s actually very evocative of the 80s and the emphasis is on quality film composition, not set-pieces, with cool effects taking the background more often than not. The detail is on a massive scale, especially with press cuttings and in the flashback sequences. It is very much a film, designed for cinema, and not just a knock-off rerun of the book.

Snyder obviously loves and respects the source material and treats it with confidence more than reverence, but his film is just too long. Yet, parts still feel rushed and I can’t think what could have been easily lost (maybe the sex, but even that has a point). That’s why it would never have worked perfectly and whatever I say from now on, please be in no doubt that Zack Snyder has done a marvellous job that I doubt others could have even matched. All its problems come from trying to adapt the Citizen Kane of comics and Snyder has done a Peter Jackson level of work to produce as good a film as possible.   

The comic teases out the plot in only the way a comic can and it just doesn’t lend itself to a film narrative. At least it’s demonstrating what a vibrant, progressive and valid medium comic writing can be, because this story is so layered and intelligent. It’s all there, but the pacing is better and the focus sharper in the book; the key difference is “third person” perspective, while the film has to keep switching focus between characters. The Ultimate Cut promises to reinstate the ‘Tales From The Black Freighter’ animation, making it even longer, which actually would help! Those sequences in the book form a parallel metaphor for the main story and would form chapters in the film (I did miss the little kid on the kerb. He only appeared about twice yet could be that “third-person”). Currently the plot comes across as confused and the Rorschach’s Journal device sits awkwardly with the other strands.

Then we have the ending, a brilliantly delivered change from the book and Snyder has kept it feeling organic, not jarring or shoehorned in. But it doesn’t make sense to the overall idea of Watchmen. (See spoiler section below).

Plus you could say the timing can’t work, but film producers are not known for patience! They’ve been trying to make this bloody thing for years. Watchmen the book represented a milestone in the superhero genre, not least for the deep political roots. A violent, almost nihilistic, yet painfully nostalgic fable, it gave comics an almighty kick up the arse and its reputation still towers. Film has inherited the genre from comics and still largely doesn’t know what to do with it. Only a couple of years after The Dark Knight, a retrospective, nostalgic re-write of the formula is not needed. I bet a lot of newcomers to the story found it tough going and the more adult scenes rather awkward. Watchmen should have been to superheroes what Unforgiven was to cowboys, but it just isn’t time yet.

As such, Zack Snyder’s very fine and adult film, which marks him out as a serious talent, is merely an also-ran when put next to Nolan’s Batman films or even Kick-Ass. A real shame, because Watchmen makes Mark Millar’s story look positively naive and juvenile. Still, it does rank very high, certainly above the Spider-Man and X-Men movies.

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« Last Edit: May 16, 2010, 08:43:32 PM by Jon »

Offline Achim

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2010, 06:39:17 AM »
Awesome review! ...although how all that negativity still allows four stars is a mystery to me :stars: :laugh:


I own the Ultimate Cut and after reading the above it has become more urgent to watch it :thumbup:

Najemikon

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2010, 05:45:00 PM »
Awesome review! ...although how all that negativity still allows four stars is a mystery to me :stars: :laugh:

I own the Ultimate Cut and after reading the above it has become more urgent to watch it :thumbup:

Thank you, Sir! Not that negative though; it was tough to review because I really enjoyed it and it was far better than I thought it would be. But compared directly with the book, it pales. So I rated it as a film and rewind potential (which is huge). It's a truly fantastic film and even though I found ways to be picky, I didn't mind while watching, which was odd. I really felt like this was the best it could be.

In the end, I saw it like a gleaming Ferrari that looks gorgeous and feels fantastic, but then you put your foot down and it can only manage 72mph! Still, it is a Ferrari.  :laugh:

Have you seen it before? I'd be very interested to hear what you think of the Uktimate Cut. If it gets paced to keep returning to the kid with the Black Freighter comic, half the problems might be solved. Perhaps it'll reach 95mph... ;)

Offline Achim

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 06:41:06 AM »
In the end, I saw it like a gleaming Ferrari that looks gorgeous and feels fantastic, but then you put your foot down and it can only manage 72mph! Still, it is a Ferrari.  :laugh:
:hysterical:

Great comparison.

Quote
Have you seen it before? I'd be very interested to hear what you think of the Uktimate Cut. If it gets paced to keep returning to the kid with the Black Freighter comic, half the problems might be solved. Perhaps it'll reach 95mph... ;)

I have seen the theatrical release; so I will jump directly from that to Ultimate and won't be able to judge the difference from Director's to Ultimate Cut. Usually making a film this much longer has a lot potential for introducing boring bits due to pacing issues. After all, the Ultimate Cut is close to 4 hours!

Critter

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2010, 09:05:57 AM »
I never really got into the Watchmen film. I read the graphic novel a while before the film and LOVED it, the film for me though just didn't work. I loved the visual style of it, and some of the action scenes were great, I also loved the use of music throughout. I think the flaws came though from trying to stick to close to the graphic novel.

In my opinion I think the narrative became messy when trying to follow the novel within an inch of it's life. I think when adapting a movie from a book or comic it should be changed, a lot of the time something works fantastic in the book, but not so much in the screen translation. Kick-Ass I thought was a great example of this, they adapted it well for the screen (and a lot from the comic). I feel that if they had stuck dead on to the comic then it would have been a poor film.

I must say though, Watchmen did provide me with what is now probably one of my favourites, if not the favourite opening credit sequences I have seen.

Najemikon

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2010, 10:12:45 PM »
I absolutely agree, Sophie, which is why I say Zack proved this to be unfilmable.

Like the superhero movies it sharply parodies, Kick-Ass has a rather straightforward conceit. It can easily work as a film (especially when developed at the same time). Same with any other "standard" hero you care to mention. The Dark Knight works so well because the Batman stories are quite slight and leave a great deal of room for interpretation.

Watchmen was too finely detailed a book to be easily adapted. It's not flexible enough. I mean, what could we have lost, really? Even now, there was no way Snyder was going to get the text based articles in and they work so beautifully in the original. It was a folly from the start, but just bloody well done.

I have seen the theatrical release; so I will jump directly from that to Ultimate and won't be able to judge the difference from Director's to Ultimate Cut. Usually making a film this much longer has a lot potential for introducing boring bits due to pacing issues. After all, the Ultimate Cut is close to 4 hours!

It doesn't look like it's coming to the UK, so I've invested in the US Blu-Ray. Multi-region apparently. I hear the news stand sequences might be in, which might just be enough to round out that epic feel.

Actually, Achim, have you read the book?

karmesinrot

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2010, 11:01:32 PM »
i don't have anything constructive to say about The Watchmen but I hated it :\ several hours of my life I will never get back :P

Critter

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2010, 12:15:56 AM »

Watchmen was too finely detailed a book to be easily adapted. It's not flexible enough. I mean, what could we have lost, really? Even now, there was no way Snyder was going to get the text based articles in and they work so beautifully in the original. It was a folly from the start, but just bloody well done.


I can see what you are saying here Jon, and I thought a lot of aspects where very well done. I saw it at the cinema with my sister who hadn't read the books, and really didn't like the film. But I remember thinking to myself while I was watching it 'there is too much here, but what could be left out?' and I couldn't never come up with anything. In the end I think it was probably best left untouched, the film thought does have it's merits. As I said the visual side of it was marvelous... even thinking about the entire look of that film now leaves me a bit  :drooling:

Najemikon

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2010, 12:23:19 AM »
These visuals that make you :drooling:? They don't happen to feature a big blue fella, do they?  :tease:

I can definitely say Silk Spectre II was well realised and didn't need any CGi, bless her. Ahem,  :drooling: indeed!

Critter

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2010, 12:28:03 AM »
Haha not so much the big blue fella as much as Silk Spectre herself if you know what I mean. But I mean overall visuals, Zack Snyder has a way to make slow-mo cuts awesome. And he just really puts a lot of effort in to add visual interest to every single shot in his films. It's one of the reason I am so excited for his new Australian-animated film coming up, 'The Legend of the Gaurdians'. The animation in the trailer for that along was astonishingly beautiful, especially when viewed in HD.

Offline Achim

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2010, 06:15:18 AM »
It doesn't look like it's coming to the UK, so I've invested in the US Blu-Ray. Multi-region apparently. I hear the news stand sequences might be in, which might just be enough to round out that epic feel.
IIRC the only thing added beyond the Director's Cut us The Black Freighter; which had previously been released on DVD separately.


Quote
Actually, Achim, have you read the book?
I own it, yes. :-[

I got myself stuck at the first text passage, which is several pages, and I just couldn't get myself to read it yet :bag:

Najemikon

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2010, 01:51:45 PM »
Haha not so much the big blue fella as much as Silk Spectre herself if you know what I mean. But I mean overall visuals, Zack Snyder has a way to make slow-mo cuts awesome. And he just really puts a lot of effort in to add visual interest to every single shot in his films. It's one of the reason I am so excited for his new Australian-animated film coming up, 'The Legend of the Gaurdians'. The animation in the trailer for that along was astonishingly beautiful, especially when viewed in HD.

 :laugh:

I was impressed by the balance of the visuals in Watchmen. Dawn of the Dead was fairly straightforward and 300 was overly digital, but definitely had a style, and I'd really expected this to be rather lazy, but in fact, he has an excellent sense of identity for each film. Really good. Can't agree on the slo-mo though, he really needs to tone it down. Fine for the credit sequence, great when used occasionally, but it was really over done.

Mind you, everyone raves about how great John Woo is at that and I think he overdoes it, so maybe it's just me. :shrug: For me, only Peckinpah and Kurosawa got it absolutely right.

Offline goodguy

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2010, 05:48:10 AM »
Having no first-hand knowledge of the comic, I was half-expecting another disaster a la The Dark Knight, but this was a thoroughly pleasant surprise. A brooding and grown-up take on the superhero genre, but also with a strong visual style. Not without flaws, as pointed out by Jon, but overall maybe the best superhero movie I have seen, including Ang Lee's Hulk.
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: Watchmen: Director's Cut ****
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2010, 10:12:22 AM »
Glad you liked it, especially considering you don't know the book. If you're at all interested, you should check it out. Alan Moore has a caustic tongue, that gives the story more bite.

But strictly with the film itself, I was so pleased to see how Snyder has real, dependable skill in building a proper dramatic scene. Makes me very interested in what he comes up with next.