Wednesday, August 05, 2009

the watchmen [2009]

this is a film that i'd wanted to see in the theater when it was in wide-release but it seems the only movies i see in the theater nowadays are kid flicks with nicholas. took me a while to get to see this movie. by the time i did watch it, which was last night, i was frankly indifferent to the experience. i've never read the source book and really had no idea, and still don't have any idea, of the depths of the story. the teaser trailer released last summer declared the watchmen to be the citizen kane of superhero movies. i don't agree.

director zack snyder is one lucky sonofabitch. his remake of george a. romero's dawn of the dead is a thrill-ride of a revisionist zombie flick. snyder's timing and compositional skills seem to lend itself to the comic book form. when i saw 300, an adaptation of frank miller's graphic novel reworking of the spartan hold out at the battle of thermopylae, i became less enthused by the talents of snyder. the movie looked pretty and pretty weird too. snyder's fidelity to the art of the graphic novel and his own lyric sensibilities can bring a motion picture only so far. 300 is an entertaining bit of fluff, a piece of eye-candy packed to the frames with beautiful men and bloody action. but by the last reel the story runs out of steam and the narration is irritating as fuck. a classic it ain't

when i placed the dvd of the watchmen in the tray i figured with the long running time, 162 minutes, and a very convoluted story i'd maybe turn it off if my attention flagged. why waste two hours of precious life enduring a movie when i could be doing anything else, staring out the window, surfing the net, listening to music, beating off, reading poetry, or even watching a different movie, if the movie sucked. having declared my innocence of the source material i had no emotional investment in the finished product.

snyder still has yet to make a masterpiece. but the boy's got talent. when dylan's song, 'the times are a'changing', plays over the flashback sequences that are photographed and staged like pages from the novel, heavily voilent images sorted into various grotesqueries and high artifice, mr snyder got my attention. tho the movie is flabby in certain sections, i could do without the love-making sequences which fall flat, the narration, this time, provided by jackie earle haley as rorschach, a real sociopath, delivered in a gutteral growl and sprinkled with hatred and bile, is mesmerising. haley's character is the pulse of the movie.

now, i've no idea how a movie about a parallel u.s.a. in 1985 with nixon as the perpetual president in the midst of the cold war and mano-a-mano with the soviet union with nukes plays with an audience born after the fall of the soviet union. the references, from lee iacocco to the nagels hanging on the walls, were obscure even to me who came of age during that era. yet the film didn't seem dated, at least for me, as i became absorbed in that alien and familiar world.

it would be instructive to compare and contrast this movie with the dark knight. eras often reflect themselves in their movies. value systems are questioned and strengthened in the cinema, turmoils enacted in the streets are portrayed on the screen. comparing and contrasting both superhero flicks is not the scope of this little rant. but i think perhaps snyder created a better film than did christopher nolan as it reflects our time in the early 21st century. moral relativism always needs to be guarded against and heroes that are as psychotic as the villains they combat becomes a metaphysical issue as well as a moral temper.

we look to the cinema because often it shows the times that become us. snyder et al. made a mess of a movie. a very watchable one at that. many set pieces are utterly mind-blowing even if much of the dialogue and acting are rather stiff. what saves this flick is the presence of rorschach and even, yes, even a vision to try to pull this film together. on the strength of this movie i look forward to snyder's next effort.


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