March 7, 2009

Get the Joke?


Watched the Watchmen last night, all 2 hours and 40 odd minutes of it in IMAX (though it never used the full IMAX screen). Here's my take on the movie: I'm underwhelmed, though not out of reverence to the book, and I can't stop thinking about this movie, so I want to watch it again (but I'm waiting for the extended DVD cut). I believe most people in the audience also left underwhelmed because no one clapped at the end of this, and this theater was FULL of people, so there was bound to be 10 or 15 movie-clapping type people there, including this one guy who wore a "Legendary Pictures" hat (that's like the production company or something like that for this movie) with a Watchmen smiley face button pinned to it. That guy didn't clap at the end...and if that guy's not clapping, he's underwhelmed.

I've had a hard time putting my finger why exactly I'm having this strange reaction to it, because I want to watch it again, and maybe one more time after that, and I really, really want to read the book again. But, I think I'm getting closer to figuring out this bizarre reaction.

Oh, and I'm going to forgo the typical reviewer format here of trying to summarize things that happen in the movie. You'll just have to hang with me.

Part of the whole Watchmen deal is deconstructing superheroes, redefining superherodom and taking a bit of a reverential piss on the whole superhero idea by showing its absurdity, and also showing the absurdity of life (which is why The Comedian is on about that whole joke of life thing.) I think. I've only read the comic once now. So this movie had to do the same thing at times, trying to show the whole absurdity of things.

There are some downright laughably bad music cues in this. Like when 99 Red Balloons was played over the moment when the main heroine shows up for a dinner with one of the heroes of the movie...that was hilarious. Normal movies would play it different music, maybe romantic, but certainly not a bouncy, funny pop song because it's just giggle worthy. And you have to believe that Zach Snyder (the director) has enough sense to know that would be funny and completely counter to the moment. We're supposed to see it as absurd, see this whole notion of romance like that as absurd, like in movie. Same with the sex scene those two have later (which Emily & I laughed heartily at, though we were the only one laughing) which is scored to, of all things, the Leonard Cohen version of Hallejuah. Again, laughably out of place, making it all seem more absurd...and I think that's the point.

Once I figured that out, noticed how this notion of underlying absurdity ties to everything in this movie, that's where I start getting confused about how to react to this movie. Because there are parts of this movie that stink bad, and I don't know if I'm supposed to laugh at them because they are another example of absurdity, or were they just bad. Like the acting of the main heroine, Silk Spectre (2) was terrible. Nite Owl (2) sucked, as well. The "aging" makeup was terrible, the CG of Dr. Manhattan's glass ship on Mars was awful, and the Richard Nixon character looked straight from that Dick Tracy movie. And there's more ridiculous in here, too, like Nite Owl doing his best Darth Vader in Episode 3 (see video...plenty damn silly).

But, are those part of the joke, or not? If so, how much slack are we supposed to give this movie? If it's all a joke, if all the bad parts were intentional, then...well...shit, how are we supposed to know and is it even important if we do know?

I can't help but think of workshopping stories and you have one story where there is something glaringly bad in it. And you circle it and write some snarky/constructive comment about its relative quality, then you find out that bad move was intentional. The writer intentionally made the joke bad or wrote it poorly, so you can't start helping wondering why and how far out should that kind of thinking be extended. Like are the good parts mistakes? Is the point that there are no good parts or bad parts just parts and don't you get it that it's absurd to think of things as good and bad? So aren't aesthetics silly aren't good/evil distinctions silly isn't everything silly? Yeah, sure is, buddy...and?

That's where I start having trouble. If all you want to tell me is that everything is absurd or pointless, well, so? I can't help shake the feeling that I'm wrong, that there more is going on here than it being a 3 hour long wink. But, what if it isn' that part of the joke, too?

I do think you should see it, if for anything else, to straighten me out on this thing.

viva el mustache


Ande said...

I agree with you on Malin Akerman--she's not very good in the Silk Spectre role. I disagree on Nite Owl. I thought he played the paunchy, dorky, desperate ex-superhero well. I took Nixon's look to be extra comic-booky, and I thought that was the point. It's all just a little bit over-the-top.

I think I'm going to have to wait for the extended cut, too, because it's supposed to include the comic-within-a-comic part that got cut from the movie. But, as I saw it, I found the movie successful. Mostly because I went in with the intention of not comparing it to the comic. It's pretty hard, because the movie is taken from a source material that is extremely iconic, but when you're presenting the same material in a different medium, I think you need to allow room for interpretation, and damn the fanboys who just want the panels in the comic book to move.

I actually liked Snyder's ending better than Moore's, because it made more sense and tied the characters together in a little better way. I think the ridiculous song choices were Snyder's way of inserting some of the satire and humor that I think Moore included in other ways in the comic book. The sex scene was damn funny, and I think it's supposed to be that way--two desperate outlaw superheroes getting it on is either going to be sad or funny, and if you go the sad route, that's overdoing it. The goofy-ass music selection was, I think, done consistently, because it was always brought up in key parts of the love story between the two characters, which in itself is meant to be awkward and goofy. I was actually talking to someone here who had a complaint that the movie was funny because the comics weren't, but I thought Moore put humor all over the book. I thought the comic was damn funny in a lot of places, but maybe I'm just reading it wrong.

I think the heart of the story, as Moore wrote it, was present in the movie--with a few minor tweaks for a non-cold war audience. As a fan of the comic, I wouldn't say I was underwhelmed. I was actually pretty pleased with how Snyder handled the material. I know plenty of people will find reason to disagree, whether because they're fanboys or filmsnobs or (like happened with Juno) it just becomes cool to hate the movie, and that's fine. But I unapologetically liked the movie. I appreciate what Snyder did, even the ending that other people hated, mostly because he put his own fingerprint on it.

The only part I think I had trouble with was Akerman's casting, so I don't really understand all the stuff you said about the bad parts. You kind of lost me there, honestly. But, I guess if what you called bad parts were something I saw as fitting and intentional, then I wouldn't understand, would I?

Bryan said...

A lot of the bad assery I think is ridiculous. The little heroic poses. The hair flips by Silk Spectre. Rorshach walking on Antarctica in just a trench coat. Moloch's ears. The smiley face on Mars. That jail fight with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. Rorshach menacing a midget.

Yeah, I know that stuff's in the book, but aren't we supposed to see that stuff as kind of silly? Aren't we?

The more I think about this movie the more I like it to be honest simply because of that I believe that all these silly parts were self-consciously placed, and that I'm still thinking about makes me like it. Especially that Nite Owl yelling "NOOooooOOO!" when Dr. Manhattan blasts Rorshach is so, so, so bad, that I look at the other things, like the music cues and can't help but think that either it's A) incompetent or B)self-conscious.

But, yeah, I like the movie ending more than the squid.

And i can't keep thinking about this other idea...if this movie comes out before The Dark Knight, it's hailed as the best comic book movie ever. Because it's after The Dark Knight, well, it's not a big deal. In fact, the turn placed on Dr. Manhattan is real similar to what happens to Batman at the end of The Dark Knight.

Ande said...

Definitely. If this one comes out before the Dark Knight, the critical reception of Watchmen becomes even better (but it's still good now). But because the Dark Knight was actually taken seriously, it's kind of expected now, almost. Although, I'd go so far as to say that Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach was better than Heath Ledger as the Joker. Or at least as good.