Ambidextrous #289 - I Watched the Watchmen
The Making of Dr. Manhattan
Didn’t have time to re-read the book before seeing the movie, and thought I’d stop by and explain how that actually turned into a great thing…
Like I mentioned last week, my personal attachment to Watchmen is fairly weak, and in my eyes it’s just another fantastic work on the fantastic résumé of the greatest living comics writer. Combine that with a very basic recall of what happened in the book, and I got to enjoy my Saturday matinee free of the excess emotional baggage that often comes along with me to comics-based films. The result was an experience that I think puts the movie right up there next to Iron Man, X2, Spider-Man 2, and The Dark Knight as one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. While not absolutely perfect, which is a condition that afflicts most movies, superhero or otherwise, Watchmen was a bold and complex addition to a rapidly growing number of comics movies that shows just how intelligent and nuanced the genre can be. There was just so much it did right, and whatever little aspects of it that didn’t completely work out, it didn’t seem to be from lack of effort.
Thought the opening sequence was pretty brilliant, and really succeeded in both setting the tone and providing a complete history of the characters and the world around them. Visually, the whole thing was spectacular, and I thought the fight sequences were exciting and appropriately violent. Speaking of which, there was a ton of that too, which definitely separates it from most comics adaptations locked into that occasionally restrictive PG-13 window. Seriously, wouldn’t this movie has suffered somewhat without the inclusion of Dr. Manhattan’s swinging blue dick…? Okay, moving right along then---Rorschach was awesome, the musical selections were great, the flashbacks were well integrated, and though the movie carried a hefty runtime, it wasn’t just killing time between explosions or fights. This movie was packed with stuff, and I can’t wait to check out the more extended cut of the movie on the inevitable DVD release.
And because of how faithful Zach Snyder and company were to the original source material, there’s this whole list of things that the movie version of Watchmen helped remind me about the graphic novel version of Watchmen. Let’s run through a few of them as I put my unfortunate ignorance on permanent display. Right, right---“too late for that” a bunch of you just said…
Rorschach is just awesome.
An obvious high point of the work is the character of Rorschach, who feels like a glorious mash-up of Batman and the Punisher---the kind of broken soul that could say to his friends, “Never compromise…not even in the face of Armageddon,” and make it feel like it’d be completely insane to disagree with him. He probably has the coolest moments in the entire story, and I’d completely forgotten about that great line in the prison, or how he’d started to consider his mask (cool as hell on-screen by the way) his true face, or his journal entries, or his final bloody end in the snow. Think this was one of the best casting decisions in the movie as well, and every scene that had him in it was just a little more engaging than everything else.
The density of the storytelling is really amazing.
Almost three hours and it used every minute of it. Even at that long it still felt very dense and that there was information flying past your head a little faster than you could absorb it. Really dug the transitioning of the flashbacks and such, and cool to hear LOST co-creator Damon Lindelof say that the show’s extensive use of them was partially inspired by Watchmen, as that’s what it reminded me of here. Most of the characters have their own little stories and moments wrapped up in the main plot, and juggling all of those concerns simultaneously could’ve easily turned into a narrative train-wreck. Instead, it all builds on each other and seamlessly feeds into the larger issues that the characters are a product of, or in many cases, a direct response to. Even when the characters seemed to be standing still, the story kept moving around them, and this is definitely a story that people will get more out of on a second (or third) viewing. Coincidentally, its length is probably one thing that will make it harder for some people to sit through a few times. In any case, bring on the extended cut, please.
This book was violent as all hell.
No way any of this works with a PG-13 rating. The amount (and severity) of the violence is another thing that sets this one truly apart from its worthy competitors. And probably makes it less likely it will achieve the same level of overpowering financial success. But the narrative simply demands a certain level of gruesome violence, sex, and overall bad vibes. Dark Knight felt very oppressive at times, but Batman never took a cleaver to a guy’s skull…even if that guy so deserved it. The level of political and societal commentary would’ve likely been difficult as well, or things like Doc Manhattan casually disintegrating the Viet Cong, the ever-ticking Doomsday clock, and the Comedian shooting a pregnant woman dead, Hell, between that character, Rorschach, and the aforementioned swinging blue penis, this was easily the most “adult” superhero movie one could find. With any luck, it’ll go a ways to suggest there’s a true audience for such a thing, giving creators another viable outlet for storytelling.
If There Exists a God of Comics Writing…His Name is Alan Moore.
There Nate, I just said it in public…an entire column devoted to this very fact coming soon…maybe.
Okay, flashback to the college version of me whose reading habits (and history) left much to be desired, as unfortunately I was still obsessed with pretty much the same comics everyone else was obsessed with. Stuff from Image and Dark Horse was about as “independent” as my pull list got, until I was introduced to Nate, because one of my roommates found out we were both into comics. Only difference was that Nate was into much better comics than I was, which quickly became apparent when he started loaning me stacks of books to get my mind right. Can’t even remember all the books he got me into (yes, that seems to be the theme of the week) but he was convinced back then and now that Alan Moore was God. I needed little convincing, but he’s always been on me about never actually saying that in my column, given how obsessively I’ve chattered about Warren Ellis, Bendis, BKV, Millar, Morrison, etc. over the years.
But obviously, no one else could have conceived and executed something like Watchmen. Most of his writing is frightening in its complexity, and he’ll continue to set a bar that is virtually impossible for anyone else to match. It’s a testament to his abilities that over two decades after its publication, this book remains a wildly successful and highly debated work, which extends to this film adaptation that everyone and their momma has weighed in on. For me, it really just made me re-acknowledge and further appreciate his genius…even though I still think I like V For Vendetta a little more. Going to hold off on the re-read until right before the extended cut comes out, so it’s possible this’ll come up again. Until then, Watchmen is well worth seeing and discussing in my ever so humble opinion. Wish IMAX didn’t cost so damn much or I’d go check it out in that format too…
In other news, sorry about the lateness---been addressing some big developments over the weekend in regards to Miranda Mercury. A couple negatives, a potential positive, and a couple purely neutrals. Things will all work out in the end, and soon I’ll be able to talk more openly about all of this as the saga continues…and continues. Did just finish another script though, and have started making final decisions about what stories we should do in the second arc. Fortune favors the bold, right?
Back soon, and thanks.Ambidextrous 288: On Deck, or, What to Do With Free Time