I remember the day when I saw Adaptation. It’s one of those movies that will remain fresh in my mind for ever because of the sheer absurdism of it. The premise? Two people each write one half of a movie script – the script of the very movie they are in – which makes for one crazily distorted story and two halves that when put together, make little to no sense.
It was okay for Adaptation – that was the movie’s concept. It was not okay for Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s return after 300 and Sin City. Snyder’s known for his stylistic approach and roller-coaster kind of movies where plot is not really important. This movie – even though once again he technically didn’t invent the story himself – is no different from the two others. Oh wait, technically fifty percent of it is.
The times, they are changing
As soon as the movie starts, it becomes apparent to you that you are watching a Snyder movie. The camera is stylish (but on a better level than this movie’s older brothers) and the violence… well, it’s very gratuitous. A little spoiler of useless violence you will be seeing during this movie (not exhaustive): a bullet being shot through a leg, a man being chopped in the head repeatedly with an axe, a man who gets boiling oil tossed over him, a man whose arms get sawn off, a running guy on fire, an arm being ripped out of its socket… Even though I usually don’t quote other reviewers, the New Yorker’s Quote on Metacritic kind of says it all on the violence for me:
The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon.
Now I have nothing against a good bit of violence in a movie. I also think some of the fight scenes were really well done – the opener of the movie truly blew me off my chair – but this sort of graphism? Not really needed, kind of like gratuitous sex (which this movie had aswell, complete with a fl
amethrower as metaphor for the orgasm – even if it was ironic)… it usually pulls me out of the movie more than anything.
The Last Laugh
That is to be said, not all of the movie is popcorn-and-violence-based pictures. The first half of the film – which takes a lot of time setting up our “heroes” – is actually really, really deep. The backstory for every vilain is a tragic story of its own, a story filled with rape, prostitution, lost loves… This part of the movie was simply amazing and stunning, and I wished it would never end.
But it did. About 60 percent into the movie (a point at which it could have already ended – the thing is a whopping 160 minutes in length) the whole thing suddenly turns into a very generic… comic book hero movie. And with that, the whole magic of the movie is gone: the alternate 1985 (not the one from Back to the Future) suddenly felt shallow and shoddy, the overly dramatic dialogue suddenly became tacky and silly… It felt to me that as soon as the Silk Spectre put on her latex outfit, the whole crowd re-hit puberty.
Watchmen is a true mixed bag. For one, the first half is awesome – the best cinema experience of the year so far. Secondly, the second half is anything but awesome. Thirdly, and most importantly, though: this movie has no reason whatsoever to be 160 minutes in length. Kill your babies – it would’ve made this thing a lot stronger.
The whole back-to-spandex thing this movie pulls on you would have been far stronger had it only lasted for fifteen to twenty minutes. No chatting on Mars, no tacky sex scene, no endless Deus-ex-Machina pulling with Dr. Manhattan…
However, I still can’t think of a reason to truly tell people not to go see this. Because ultimately, you should. The setting and the first 60 percent of the movie are fresh and unique and pull unseens stunts on you. The introduction sequence showing the rise and fall of superheroes is amazing. Dr. Manhattan’s backstory, where Koyaanisqatsi music suddenly creeps up on you, is breathtaking. Rorschach’s tragic youth, fittingly told through ink blot tests, was unbelievable.
So why did they have to turn it into just another pop corn movie? Oh, right, the comic.
Dan: What happened to us? What happened to the American Dream?
Edward: “What happened to the American Dream?” It came true! You’re lookin’ at it.