Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen? (spoilers)

Well, me for a start. Along with many other people.

Har Har.

Lame ass joke I know. The boyfriend wanted me to title this post Who Watchted the Watchmen, but I thought that was wanky. Unlike my idea.

Anyway. So yes, I did see this movie, and it was after a long weekend boozing in honour of my sister getting married. Dear god did I feel ill on Monday when it was all over. But that’s another story, not really suitable for here.

Not that precious young eyes can read this blog; my teacher friend tells me how his school’s servers block access to here! It must be all the swearing and references to sex and porn.

Onto the movie. Please bear in mind that I haven’t read the book and until I saw the movie I knew 3 things about the plotline:
  • Who Watches the Watchmen? is the tagline
  • The smiley face with blood
  • Alan Moore wrote it
Other than that, nada. So I have no idea how it compares with the book and anything written in this post, unless stated directly will not be a criticism of Alan Moore.

My initial thoughts on seeing the movie posters were that those costumes look bloody ridiculous. Unlike say, Hawkman’s, Captain Marvel’s or Terra’s (ha!).
About 30 minutes into it I thought the costumes were wonderful, with the exception of 1 (take a guess as to whose I didn’t like).

Also bear in mind I may get some character’s names wrong, I’ve never been good at keeping track of them.

Overall, I was only half impressed. It’s definitely not a superhero film though is it? They are more like hired mercenaries, what with the gleeful murder and all (this isn’t a complaint against the film).

The good things about the film:
  • The 1940s style sequences at the start were glorious.
  • All the costumes were really well done and looked very slick.
  • Owlman in civilian clothes as a bespeckled 40 something? Great.
  • Dr Manhattan. Wow. I thought in the movie poster he looked really stupid, but when watching it, wow. Really well done. Really good examination of his separateness from humanity, very well portrayed
And naked! In the first shot of naked him we saw down to the top of the pubic bone, I assumed that was all we’d see. But no, he’s naked for 3/4s of the movie and we get to see his knob and everything! It’s not an exciting knob, and from my vantage point he appeared to be nutless, although I admit I’m half blind, but still, naked knob!
  • The cinematography – I hasten to add looking pretty does not make a good film.
  • Rorschach. And his mask, the moving mask. The actual actor when not in the mask was very arresting. He reminded me of a young Johnny Rotten – he had a similar intenseness in the eyes. Not what I expected from the masked Rorschach.
  • The unmasked Watchman with the lazy accent. He was goooood.
  • Mars. Mars was fabulous.
  • The Comedian. Skanky horrible man. Good acting.
  • They had a lesbian in the original team. And she was out, and brave and in control.

The bad things about the film:
  • It was very violent and it revelled in it’s violence. This could just be a sign of me getting older – as a teenager I would have loved this and wouldn’t have been remotely squeamish. Now, at the ripe old age of 28, I wonder if it’s really necessary.
  • The culmination of the unmasked guy’s plotting and machinations. I think that destroying millions of people in order to save the world from it’s own divisions/politics is a tired, contrived and overly simplistic idea. As one of my friends commented, it won’t work – the world is now living in fear that Dr Manhattan will strike again, how will that permanently make the Commies and the Capitalist pigs work together?
  • It clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes. That’s too long.
The obligatory feminist criticisms:
Not very diverse is it? OK, so yay they had a lesbian! About 10 minutes into the film she was killed, for being a ‘lesbian whore’. Not so yay. This left one woman on the team – the Silk Spectre, real name Laurie.

One woman whose role boiled down to being the obligatory love interest. I know she was also a superhero, but she did fuck all. She starts off as Dr Manhattan’s love interest, later when Manhattan unwittingly spurns her she ends up with Owlman. During this brief fling with Owlman she did indulge in some ass kicking but this turned out to make him hot for her and so they shagged.
Even her relationship with her mum (the original Silk Spectre) was shown through the lens of the menz – it was all about her father (the Comedian) and his attempted rape of her mother (oh joy, yet another rape scene where the woman is saved by men, gee I don’t get tired of those, ever) and then how the original Silk Spectre later slept with the Comedian and conceived Laurie.
And oh yes, Laurie found this out b/c Dr Manhattan did his crazy hand/thought thing.

So, everything is seen through the lens of men, every interaction/discovery of her life seems to be related to men.

I’m not really stating that it’s bad that a man showed how she was conceived, that was just a convenient way to move the plot along.
Maybe if there were more women in the movie Laurie may have been more interesting, maybe she would have been allowed a life outside of her love interests. As it stands, the men were all allowed to display interests, desires and goals outside of their personal relationships, but the women weren’t. There really was no point in Silk Spectre 2 being on the team.

They could have further explored why she became a superhero – there was one throwaway line about how she donned the costume because of her mum. It could have been really interesting to look at that more in depth, and it’s a shame they didn’t.

And the costume is fucking stupid – she’s in bloody fetish gear for gods sake, for no apparent reason. Latex and suspenders. Interestingly enough, I believe that the promo posters don’t show the suspenders.

The other significant woman in the film was Dr Manhattan’s first girlfriend, and all we saw of her was her status as girlfriend.

This film fails the Bechdel test. Yes so there is more than 1 women in the film, but only 2 of them talk to each other and I’m fairly certain it’s not about anything other than a man. Is it too much to ask for fair 3 dimensional representations? Because 2D shit like this seriously impairs my enjoyment of the movie.

There were fuck all ethnic minorities as well. In this alternate universe did they shoot all the Blacks and Asians? Possibly.

I will read the book, and I hope that it is somewhat better than the movie.

Currently listening to: The Pillows


notintheface said...

You'll have mixed views of the book. Many of the things (the rape attempt, the fate of the lesbian heroine) you hated about the movie were the same in the book, although maybe the points of some of those scenes may be more obvious). Others (the violence being more graphic onscreen, the lack of exploration of Laurie's relationship with her mom and her motivations for becoming a superhero) were things that the movie added or subtracted. The black psychiatrist who questioned Rorschach shared a chapter with Rorschach and had his own subplot running throughout the book, and Laurie got a chapter of her own, but both of those developments got mostly cut out.

Oh, and by the way, the unmasked Watchman with the lazy accent actually was Goode... actor Matthew Goode, who played him.

notintheface said...

That said, the book is one of my favorite comics ever.

Sea_of_Green said...

I haven't seen the movie yet (I plan to), but I have to admit that I read Watchmen when it was first released, and I wasn't overly impressed with it at the time. It's easy now to look back over the last 20 years and see how Watchmen influenced super-hero comics, though -- and I think (mostly) for the better, as super-heroes are treated much more realistically in the comics now. So, I respect Watchmen for its influence -- but I'm still not crazy about it. I think part of the problem is that I also, really didn't like the way women were treated -- though the characters were products of their eras to a large degree. Maybe at the time, Moore was still struggling with how to portray strong female characters. The character of Mina Harker in his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books is certainly no pushover.

Saranga said...

Thanks for the feedback guys.

@ notintheface: I figured the book would look at certain things more in depth, thanks for confirming.
I forgot about the black psychiatrist. Doh. Weren't there some black guys in the prison too? I still maintain that it's shockingly white.

One of the problems with converting books to movies is that stuff always has to be cut out. One of my friends who I went with thinks it was too faithful to the comic, and that if they'd played around with the core material more then we would have got a better movie. Think of the third Harry Potter movie was sooo much better than the first 2, despite the fact they fucked around with the basic material.

Sea: I have read some League of Extraordinary gentlemen stuff, but I wasn't bowled over by it.

Back to Watchmen, I figured that the costumes etc of the women were very much of their time, which makes it a lot easier to digest.

Overall, I do rate Alan Moore - Promethea is wonderful and I have the DCU stories of Alan Moore trade, which I love.

Jack Norris said...

"Many of the things (the rape attempt, the fate of the lesbian heroine) you hated about the movie were the same in the book"
Well, I'd have to say that they were significantly different in the book.
Particularly the death of Silhouette. The comic does not show her bloody corpse in bed with that of her girlfriend; it's referred to in the Hollis Mason book excerpt and I think in the Sally Jupiter interview snippet, not shown.
Part of the point of the reference to her fate is to point out that the supposed "good old days" of the "golden age" weren't all that good or golden, especially in terms of social attitudes that we take for granted now.
Another is (yet another in the book) to the fact that the "heroes" were much less than perfect, as when Silhouette was outed by an enemy, the other masks, on the advice of their manager/publicist, cut her loose, leaving her even more exposed & culminating in her murder by a homophobic mob.