Friday, March 27, 2009

Watchmen Easter Eggs

I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the Easter eggs crammed into the Watchmen movie...heck, I try and do that for all the comic book movies I watched!

While I got some of the more obvious ones like references to The Black Freighter comic book that is an integral part of the graphic novel, the Village People appearing at the front of Studio 54, just behind Ozymandias, and the Comedian being responsible for Kennedy's assassination, there was quite a lot of stuff that I missed.

Here are two sites that highlight some of the Easter eggs from the Watchmen movie that you might have missed.

The first one is absolutely brilliant, with stills from the movie and picture comparisons!

Easter Eggs (And Missing Parts) In Watchmen's Titles

The second one is more of just a regular article, but it's still pretty good:

'Watchmen' Easter Eggs: Our Favorite Blink-And-You'll-Miss-'Em Moments


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: Watchmen: The Movie

So we ended up watching the big screen adaptation of Watchmen yesterday at the cinema. As stated in the previous blog entry, I was extremely excited to see Alan Moore’s seminal and memorable characters make the jump from the four-colour medium of comics to the big screen.

Expectations, not just from me, but from the comic book community, were undoubtedly huge. Alan Moore once called Watchmen “unfilmable”. Could Zack Snyder, the director who made Frank Miller’s “300” a critical and commercial success, defy the odds once again by making Watchmen THE most acclaimed comic book movie of all-time, just like the graphic novel was heralded as the “Citizen Kane” of comic books?

Spoiler warning: From this point on, I will be reviewing the movie and will be examining major plot points, discussing minute details of the comic and the movie as well as revealing the twists. If you haven’t yet read the Watchmen graphic novel or watched the movie and don’t want it spoiled for you, STOP READING THIS BLOG ENTRY NOW.

Still reading? Good. Let’s talk about the Watchmen movie then.

I came out of the cinema feeling pretty shallow and empty. Watchmen was a good 160 minutes including the credits, making it probably the longest comic book movie, in terms of movie screening length, ever made.

Of course, it is naïve to begin to think that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ magnum opus could be squeezed into a 2 hour movie, the average length of modern comic book movies. But the Watchmen movie seemed to go on an extra 30 minutes too long, even though I acknowledge that any shorter and you’d lose major plot points from the graphic novel.

It’s not that I didn’t like the movie. I did, for most parts. But the last third of the movie was a let-down, and it seemed to be dragging on needlessly. Was this because the end of the movie was poorly scripted? Was it because they had rushed the big reveal, the big ending, which was significantly changed from the graphic novel?

Or was it because the build-up towards the climax of the movie was extremely fantastic that when it was revealed that Adrian Veidt was the villain, the way the reveals came about just utterly destroyed what had come before?

I’m not quite sure. As I said, I was excited for most of the movie, especially the first half, but the final third of the movie just spoiled it for me, and since the last part of the movie is usually the one that you remember a movie for, it kind of soured the entire movie for me.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but as I said, by and large, my expectations were met for most of the movie. I think it was very true to the graphic novel for most parts, up until perhaps the scene where Rorschach was freed from Sing Sing and then it all went downhill from there.

But I’m being too general. Let’s examine parts of the movie that I liked and parts that I didn’t like.

The opening sequence was breathtaking. This was where it was obvious that a movie could do so much to portray the Comedian’s death than the graphic novel could. The graphic novel starts with the Comedian having already been killed by being beaten up and thrown out of his room of a very very tall building.

In the movie, we see the Comedian settling down to watch a TV program, which describes the escalation of potential nuclear war between America and the USSR. All of a sudden, someone breaks into his room and for the next three minutes, we see the vicious one-sided fight between the Comedian, an aging 67 year old man, and his assailant who not only brutally assaults the Comedian, but makes it look oh so easy.

While the Comedian is being beaten to a pulp, we’re being treated to Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” playing on the TV in the background, from the advertisement of Adrian Veidt’s Nostalgia perfume. A sign of foreshadowing perhaps? Of course, the Nostalgia ad being part of Veidt Enterprises is never really mentioned, though that’s a neat Easter egg for those who had read the novel. Perhaps a bit camp, fighting to that background music but I’m sure it was deliberately filmed that way.

This fight sequence is never shown in great detail in the graphic novel, being just a simple flashback sequence of the Comedian getting his butt kicked, so it’s refreshing to see the fight in all its gory detail. The Comedian gets thrown through the plate glass windows of his apartment and plunges to his death…cue the opening title credits sequence!

This opening credits sequence was also brilliant, with a fantastic song playing in the background. We are introduced to the Minutemen of the 30s/40s, showing how they got together as a superteam and nearly each members’ fall from grace. Alan Moore fleshes out almost all of the Minutemen’s backstory in the graphic novel via “extra features” outside the main story, such as Hollis Mason’s (the original Nite Owl) biography, Under the Hood, and of course, it’s impossible to go through each individual character’s backstory in the movie, so the opening sequence does a great job of quickly showing, in 10 second segments, what happened to each character.

After the introduction of the original Nite Owl beating up a bank robber, we see the Silk Spectre being introduced to the press, with the policemen standing on either side of her trying to glance down to catch a glimpse of her boobs. We then see the formation of the Minutemen and the reveal that Silhouette is a lesbian by snogging a nurse after Japan surrenders at the close of World War 2.

We then see the death of Dollar Bill when he gets shot after getting his cape caught in a revolving door. We also see Mothman being committed to an asylum. Silhouette and her lover have been murdered in a hotel room with the words “Lesbian whores” scrawled on the wall. The Minutemen’s fall from grace lead to the formation of the second generation of heroes including the main protagonists in the movie. In the graphic novel, this second generation of heroes was known as the Crimebusters, though we learn later on during the movie that they called themselves “Watchmen”.

The next few segments in the opening credits sequence show how each Watchman is ensconced in real life events happening in America in the 60s and 70s. John F Kennedy shakes hands with Dr Manhattan on the lawn for the White House. In the next segment, we see John F Kennedy’s head snap back and then forwards in that famous assassination. The camera pans to the right where we see the Comedian was the assassin! Neil Armstrong lands on the moon and turns around, only for us to see the reflection of the Dr Manhattan already standing on the moon.

Andy Warhol is in an art gallery, unveiling his latest art of Nite Owl II, while Ozymandias is posing for photographs outside Studio 54; just standing behind Ozymandias is the Village People! We are also introduced to Rorschach who doesn’t appear on-screen, but has left behind his calling card after tying two criminals to a lightpost.

The 70s sequence shows the hippie movement where a hippie girl puts a flower in the barrel of a gun that’s pointed directly at her; soon, all of the hippies get shot. President Nixon gets re-elected for a third term, changing the course of history in the Watchmen world, and we also see the amassing of nuclear arsenals by Fidel Castro and his Russian counterpart.

It is a superb credit sequence that sets the tone for what has passed before in the Watchmen world. It does a great job considering there is so much happening in the graphic novel and to be able to distil the main plot points and cram it into a brilliant and stunning visual opening sequence is just magnificent.

The main story starts off exactly the same way the comic book does, focusing in on the smiley face pin that the Comedian wears. The camera pulls back upwards towards the window of the Comedian’s apartment where Detective Fine and his partner wonder who would want to kill a 67 year old man.

What I really love about the first half of the movie is that scenes are filmed and duplicated almost exactly the way they were illustrated in the comics. From Rorschach’s breaking into Nite Owl’s apartment and then storming out; to the flashback sequences showing each individual character’s involvement with the Comedian; to the retelling of Dr Manhattan’s past; to Rorschach’s capture and his subsequent rescue by Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II…the scenes from the graphic novel are lovingly and carefully reproduced in the movie. Way too many scenes to go through individually.

Which leads directly into the dialogue. While it’s impossible to expect all the dialogue from the graphic novel to be replicated in the movie, the script does take the most memorable lines from the graphic novel and either transposes them directly, or are largely intact, just changing a few words here and there. The most memorable quotes are:

“Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire thread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me, I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their wasists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’, and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No’.” – Rorschach’s first line of dialogue from both the movie and graphic novel

“Hurm.” – Rorschach

“You were a better Nite Owl than I ever was.”
“Hollis, we both know that’s bullshit.”
“Hey, watch with the language! This is the left hook that floored Captain Axis, remember?”
- exchange between the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, and his successor, Daniel Dreiberg

“An ordinary burglar? Kill the Comedian? Ridiculous.” – Rorschach

“Um. Don’t you think that’s maybe a little paranoid?”
“That’s what they’re saying about me now? That I’m paranoid”
- exchange between Nite Owl and Rorschach

“Yes. I remember. Used to come here often. Back when we were partners.”
“Yeah, those were great times, Rorschach. Whatever happened to them?”
“You quit.”
- exchange between Rorschach and Nite Owl

“Meeting with Dreiberg left bad taste in mouth. A flabby failure who sits whimpering in his basement. Why are so few of us left active, health, and without personality disorders? Only two names remaining on my list. Both share private quarters at Rockefeller Military Research Centre. I shall go to them. I shall go and tell the indestructible man that someone plans to murder him.” – Rorschach

And all that is just from the first issue! Rorschach does have all the best and most quotable lines. I can just see the entire movie having heaps of quotable lines, just like in Army of Darkness.

There are too many memorable lines of dialogue in the movie that are taken straight out from the graphic novel, but others include the Pagliacci joke (which no one seemed to get in the movie, I was the only one laughing!), Rorschach’s exchange with Big Figure in Sing Sing prison, Rorschach’s memorable “I’m not locked up in here with you, you’re locked up in here with me!” line, the “The superman exists, and he’s American” line, Dr Manhattan’s the miracle of turning oxygen into gold line, and Rorschach’s “Never compromise, not even in the face or Armageddon” line.

There are plenty of Easter eggs throughout the movie that probably get lost on all those who haven’t read the novel before. When meeting Adrian Veidt for the first time, we see the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the background, leaving no doubt that while this is an alternate reality from the one we know, the characters are all in New York. We see Mason’s auto repair shop, the Gunga Diner, the offices of the New Frontiersman, a right wing publication that Rorschach picks up daily.

Part of the fun of the movie, for me at least, was trying to spot as many Easter eggs as possible, things that were strictly in the background of the movie, but made up the big picture in the graphic novel. Graffiti of “Who Watches the Watchmen?” on walls, cameos of the newsvendor, the kid who sits at the newsstand reading the comic book, “The Black Freighter”, the lesbian taxi driver Joey, and a poster of “The Black Freighter” on the newsstand. They even reproduce the “War?” headline on the front page of a newspaper! I think I’m going to have to get a copy of the DVD when it’s released and play each scene back slowly to see if I can catch all the Easter eggs!

We even hear Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”, which is referenced in Hollis Mason’s Under the Hood, when there is this flashback sequence of Dr Manhattan intervening in the Vietnam War. When you hear “Ride of the Valkyries” blaring over the speakers and see the imposing 40 foot tall half naked body of Dr Manhattan walking over the fields of Saigon, incinerating the Viet Cong soldiers, one gets a chill of excitement running through one’s body.

Which leads directly to the music; it is an absolutely brilliant and breathtaking soundtrack. The licensed songs fit the scenes perfectly: when Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk meet for dinner, Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” play in the background. When the Comedian gets buried in the cemetery, we hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. We even hear the extremely cheesy “Hallelujah” when Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II make love for the first time in Nite Owl’s ship, Archie (short for “Archimedes”, Merlin’s pet owl, as Nite Owl tells us himself in a later scene).

I can’t wait for the soundtrack to get released because I’m sure I’ll be getting it!

There’s quite a bit of deliberate campy humour in the movie as well, which fits with the deliberate humour from the graphic novel. When Nite Owl and Rorschach ask when Ozymandias plans to execute his evil “mad scientist” plans, Ozymandias remarks that he’s not some “comic book villain” and he did it 35 minutes ago (in the novel Ozzy remarks that he’s not a “republic serial villain” instead). When Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II spring Rorschach from prison, Rorschach remarks that he needs to first use the men’s bathroom before they can leave (though of course, Rorschach is trying to get his hands on Little Figure).

We also see the awkwardness when Dan and Laurie try having sex for the first time, with Dan not being able to…uhm…perform. Actually, that is probably a negative of the movie because Dan and Laurie have this really weird relationship in the graphic novel where it’s a balance between Dan’s impotence and Laurie’s fetishes. It’s never really dealt with in the movie at all, making very scant reference to Dan’s impotence.

When Dan and Laurie finally do have sex in Archie, when close to…uh…finishing…Laurie accidentally hits the flamethrower button and a large burst of flames shoot out from Archie’s…uh…mouth. A sexual innuendo if there ever was one! These moments of campness make it a bit hard to interpret the movie. From the graphic novel, we know that it’s deliberate, but it doesn’t really translate well onto screen. For such a dark movie, there sure must have been a few movie-goers thinking to themselves, “What the hell? Why is there an attempt of humour here?”

There are many cameos in the movie from famous figures in history to show the era which the movie takes place in. The aforementioned cameos in the opening credits title sequence of John F Kennedy, Neil Armstrong (though one doesn’t see his face behind his spacesuit helmet), Andy Warhol, the Village People, Fidel Castro, and I believe even Mick Jagger, who I didn’t catch but who’s name is in the final credits!

There are also cameos in the movie itself to show that it’s 1985, with people such as Lee Iacocca and Ted Koppel making an appearance. Of course, Richard Nixon plays an important role in the movie as the President of the United States. “Tricky Dick” as Rorschach calls him, has the unenviable task of deciding whether to empty out America’s nuclear arsenal in a pre-emptive strike against the Russians. While the actor playing Richard Nixon in the movie does look and sound like the real Nixon, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t get Frank Langella, who played the disgraced President in the Oscar nominated “Frost/Nixon” to reprise his role! That would have been icing on the cake.

I’ve been avoiding this topic for a while, but let’s get to the casting of the actors. While there are no real big-name or A-level celebrities among the actors chosen to play the roles of the various Watchmen, the casting was absolutely spot on…whoever did the casting needs a huge pay rise for choosing the best actors to reprise their respective roles in the movie!

Billy Crudup is probably the most well known actor out of the main cast of actors and he does a fine job of playing the emotionless Dr Manhattan. One does wonder whether it is Crudup’s “member” we see in those scenes where Dr Manhattan is completely nude. Crudup’s Dr Manhattan is unnervingly devoid of any sentiment and plays the part perfectly…you will believe that a god can walk this earth!

The casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is a masterpiece. It will be an utter shock to me if I ever hear that anyone who’s watched the movie isn’t convinced or blown away by Haley’s performance. Rorschach is a misfit, an outcast and a sociopath and Haley delivers Rorschach’s psychotic lines as if he believes every single word that he says.

While Haley is brilliant with the mask on, his performance is out of this world when the mask comes off. From the little changes of facial expression to his snarling voice when he threatens his fellow inmates, this is one character you never EVER want to get on the wrong side of.

While on the topic of psychopaths, I was a bit disappointed when I found out Bruce Campbell wasn’t chosen as the Comedian (even though he was never in the running! I’m just a big Bruce Campbell fan), Jeffrey Dean Morgan played the part with all guns a-blazing. Morgan is utterly believable as a grade A asshole who has no sympathy for his fellow man and takes great pleasure in causing as much wanton destruction as humanly possible. He shows a disdain for women and loves the fact that he can cause as much carnage as he wants…and no one can lift a finger to do anything about it because he’s being paid by the government to do so! It’s just a shame that the Comedian has limited screen time, just like in the graphic novel.

Patrick Wilson, when wearing those goofy plastic spectacles, is a dead ringer for Dan Dreiberg. He is every bit as insecure as the character he plays and always second guesses himself, not knowing whether what he’s doing is the right thing to do. All of Wilson’s best scenes are when he’s playing Dreiberg and out of the costume; when he’s playing the part of this bumbling fool who doesn’t know how to reveal his feelings for Laurie Juspeczyk.

Matthew Goode is sparkling as villain Ozymandias, who is cocky, self assured is completely convinced that everything he does, all his acts of evil, is for the good of mankind. There is an evilness lurking behind the façade of his good looks and you truly believe that the smartest man on the earth could kill you with little effort if he put his mind to it.

Not quite sure what to think of Malin Akerman, who does a great job of playing Silk Spectre II, but seems to be relegated to a minor role behind all the testosterone-laden male protagonists. While she does play a major role in the graphic novel, she seems to play a bit part in the movie, with her greatest contribution (other than the gratuitous sex scenes with Dan and Dr Manhattan) convincing Dr Manhattan to save the world…by simply crying. She fits her spandex/latex costume really well though; it must be hard to move around in that costume, let alone do all those fighting scenes in it!

My favourite characters in the movie are, in this order, Rorschach, Dan Dreiberg (not Nite Owl, but his alter ego) and the Comedian. Pretty much exactly like the graphic novel!

Those are the good bits out of the way, unfortunately, like I said at the start of this review, a long long time ago, the good bits aren’t enough to save the movie, just the last third of the movie made it such that this movie will NOT be the most acclaimed comic book movie of all time.

The worst part of the movie in my opinion is the different ending from the graphic novel. In Watchmen, Ozymandias engineers the death of millions of people to save billions from nuclear holocaust. While this is the same in the movie, there is one single, major difference.

In the comic book, Ozymandias gets a team of people to DNA-engineer a lifeform, designed to look like an alien, which is teleported to the heart of New York City. The alien self destructs and kills millions, with the psychic resonations killing millions more, forcing the Americans and Russians, already on the brink of engaging in nuclear war, to declare an alliance against the would-be alien invaders, resulting in world peace.

In the movie, Ozymandias and Dr Manhattan work on solving the world’s energy crisis where Dr Manhattan inadvertently creates energy “modules” that are based on his own powers and sends them to Ozymandias’ Antartica base, Karnak, so that Ozzy’s scientists can research and explore these modules in greater detail.

Ozymandias teleports these modules to major cities across the world like Los Angeles, London, Beijing and of course, New York City, and triggers a self-destruct mechanism which kills millions caught up in the blast. As these modules were based on Dr Manhattan’s powers, it is made to look that Dr Manhattan has declared war on the world.

If you take the movie ending and dissect it, it is a sound and plausible alternative from the graphic novel ending. After all, it achieves the same ends where something catastrophic happens that forces the Americans and Russians to call for a ceasefire resulting in world peace. I’m not convinced though.

To have pretty much the entire movie follow the events in the graphic novel and then change the ending completely is just…sacrilege. Perhaps I’m just an ornery comic book fan who wants stuff to be EXACTLY the way it is in the graphic novel.

I acknowledge that Alan Moore’s original idea of having that alien lifeform ending is a bit kitsch and would be really difficult to incorporate into the movie. After all, there was this whole backstory in the graphic novel of a whole team of people (psychics, artists, writers, etc) being relocated to a deserted island who had a hand in the creation of the alien lifeform. This involved writer Max Shea’s pirate comic “The Black Freighter” and there were many panels in the comic devoted to that…of course, that had to be abandoned from the movie, so it made more sense to have a completely different ending since one couldn’t explore that same backstory in the movie without adding minutes to the movie.

But I would still have loved to see it so that it remained true to the graphic novel. Why stay 90% true to the graphic novel but have 10% completely different? I wonder what Alan Moore would say when he finds out that his most seminal work has been altered. He already hates Hollywood but this would cause him to hate it even more I’m sure.

That last third of the movie was a real let down as well, after the first part was so true and faithful and built everything up. But like a house of cards, all it takes is for one badly placed card and everything falls apart.

The movie sort of went downhill after Rorschach was freed from Sing Sing. The next few scenes all went by very quickly and it seemed as if the movie was “forced” to end quickly. Laurie’s time with Dr Manhattan on Mars was fairly short, though I suppose I don’t think the audience could have sat around for TOO long while Dr Manhattan marvelled at Olympus Mons or Valles Marineris. Even the big reveal by Ozymandias seemed…campy.

The reveal of Ozymandias’ plot just went on too quickly…I only know what was going on because I had read the graphic novel! I can just imagine how head-spinning it would be for anyone who hadn’t read the source material, because it just went very quickly from Ozzy’s killing of the Comedian, to his plot to remove Dr Manhattan from the playing field, to the framing of Rorschach and to the attack on his persona which was faked to throw Rorschach off his real scheme.

There’s nothing really specific, other than the changed ending, that I would attest to the last third of the movie spoiling it for me. I just can’t put a finger on what went wrong…it’s just a combination of different things that happened that sort of soured the movie for me. I will fondly remember the movie for the first two-thirds, but not the last.

Though I’m sure a lot of people, especially those who had never read the source material, would disagree with me, I found there was too many unnecessary things that were “highlighted” in the movie. There was too much unnecessary violence, too much unnecessary nudity and the sex scenes went on too long!

I full expected to see nudity in the movie, especially full frontal nudity of Dr Manhattan since it was certainly brought to the forefront in the graphic novel. In fact, when we first see Dr Manhattan’s “member” in the movie, there was a loud gasp among viewers in the audience. For shock value, that was unbelievable. But then they showed it over and over and over again to the point where there was no real reason why they were exposing Dr Manhattan’s member, it just seemed extremely unnecessary and gratuitous.

Speaking of gratuitous, did we really need to see an extended sex scene between Dan and Laurie with “Hallelujah” playing in the background? Sure, Malin Akerman has a nice body and I suppose they wanted that whole sexual innuendo thing of Archie spewing out fire, but I personally feel like there was no necessity to drag it out that long.

These guys are superheroes, yes, but apart from Rorschach, who is a sociopath who breaks people’s fingers and throw them down elevator shafts, and the Comedian, who kills for fun, none of the other characters in the graphic novel I would classify as vigilantes who go around hurting people unnecessarily.

And yet we see Dr Manhattan disintegrate a whole bunch of crooks in a bar (we sort of see that same scene in the graphic novel, but nowhere close to being as violent or gruesome!) and their entrails hang off from off the ceiling. We also see Dr Manhattan obliterating the Viet Cong with “Ride of the Valkyries” playing in the background, but I guess that’s war…plus it added some campy humour to that scene!

In the very first scene we see Dan and Laurie take on a bunch of muggers, Dan breaks a mugger’s arm…with the bone piercing the skin and blood spurting forth. Laurie then kicks a mugger in the shin, breaking it too with his lower leg sticking out the wrong way! Really, is there any necessity to show this at all? Yes, some people find it cool, but what is the purpose of showing those ultra violent scenes? Dan and Laurie aren’t vigilantes! They aren’t sociopaths!

We also see Rorschach use a chopper to cleave a child murderer’s head in half…you could sense that the audience was cringing every time Rorschach pulled the chopper from out of the murderer’s head and “threw” it back in again. And the scene where Larry is blocking the entrance to Rorschach’s cell; Big Figure orders his other goon, Michael, to cut off Larry’s arms. Michael does so…and we literally see Larry’s arms being cut off with an electric saw. Campy and funny, yes, but once again, unnecessary violence we don’t really need to see.

The reveal of the Comedian as Laurie’s father was an almost non-entity as well! In the comic, the reveal is built up slowly and gradually with all the clues being there for us to put everything together on our own. When it came to the final reveal, readers were left to work it out themselves and they would know exactly that the Comedian sired Laurie even before it was actually put in print. But in the movie, this was relegated to perhaps two or three scenes where Laurie’s mother, the original Silk Spectre, was arguing with her husband, Laurence Schexnayder, about the Comedian.

The audience doesn’t get a chance to put the clues together as there is a mention of the Comedian raping Silk Spectre I and about them having sex just the one time…and then Dr Manhattan reveals that the Comedian is Laurie’s real father. But the reveal has no impact whatsoever…it’s as if they’ve just decided to lampoon the reveal of Darth Vader’s fatherhood of Luke Skywalker in the Empire Strikes Back!

Of course, in the graphic novel, this reveal has much more significance. We’re shown very early on that Laurie hates the Comedian for his attempted rape on her mother. There is mention of this on one occasion in the movie but it was never brought up again. While the graphic novel showed how much Laurie hated pretty much everything in the superhero community, movie Laurie didn’t have that anger or pathos. So when it’s revealed that the Comedian is Laurie’s father, it just feels flat. I’m sure there would be audience members going: “Really? Who cares? What’s this got to do with the movie?”

Hollis Mason doesn’t die in the movie…in fact, he’s not featured at all apart from the first act of the movie when he’s catching up with Dan for drinks. He dies in the graphic novel, adding that extra level of angst in Dan, going into the final few chapters. Once again, I understand that to cram all this extra detail in the movie would just make it drag on for an extra few hours, so it’s probably good that they didn’t add this in.

I really disliked the fact that the movie script made Janey Slater out to be a villain. She confronts Dr Manhattan at the TV studio in the movie, pulling off a wig to show that she has acquired cancer from him. No sign of her doing this in the graphic novel though. It is also revealed in the movie that it was Janey Slater who hired Victor Chess, the man who made the attempt on the life of Adrian Veidt. Even though Adrian was the ultimate orchestrator, it painted Janey in the light of a villain, when she is anything but. Yes, Janey Slater was bitter in the graphic novel, but not to the point where she wanted to take revenge on Dr Manhattan, as portrayed in the movie.

There are some issues in the graphic novel that either don’t feature in the movie or just can’t be replicated on the big screen…remember Alan Moore saying that the comic was inherently “unfilmable”? There were some scenes of the “Fearful Symmetry” chapter where we see the neon lights of a seedy motel reflected in a puddle, but that’s about all we got in the movie, referencing the aforementioned famous chapter in Watchmen.

There are political nuances in the graphic novel as well as the examination of the super hero genre that wasn’t featured in the movie. The examination/commentary about homosexuality doesn’t make it to the movie either. What was most disappointing though, is there was scant reference to Dan Dreiberg’s impotence and Laurie Juspeczyk’s fetishes and trying to live up to her mother’s expectations.

Ozymandias’ costume is terrible. It looks as if it were taken out of one of Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies! His genetically altered sabertooth tiger, Bubastis, makes a brief appearance in the movie as well, though probably just to appease fans, but it had absolutely no bearing or consequence in the movie at all…they might as well have done without Bubastis!

No Max Shea’s “The Black Freighter” and we because there was only a cameo for the newsvendor, we don’t get to see the funny exchange between him and Rorschach’s doomsayer-with-a-the-world-is-ending picket sign; in the comics, Rorschach tells the newsvendor that the world would definitely be ending that day but also asks the newsvendor to make sure he keeps his regular copy of The New Frontiersman tomorrow.

Speaking of the doomsayer picket sign character, we see him in certain sequences during the movie, but it’s just not obvious that it’s Rorschach at all. Plus, we never really get to see a proper close-up of doomsayer-guy’s face, so when Rorschach’s mask is pulled off in the movie, if you haven’t read the graphic novel, it’s unlikely you’d recognise who that was. We see doomsayer guy’s face often in the graphic novel so when the mask finally comes off Rorschach’s face, we instantly go: “I can’t believe Rorschach is that hobo going around proclaiming that Armageddon is at hand!”

Just a nitpick: when Ozymandias, the Comedian, Dr Manhattan, Nite Owl and Rorschach come together to form their supergroup in the movie (no Captain Metropolis either!), they actually call their group “Watchmen”. The group was never formed in the graphic novel and even when they were discussing the formation of the group, Captain Metropolis suggested that they be called “Crimebusters”.

I guess the movie script went with the group being called “Watchmen” so as to add some continuity in why the movie was called “Watchmen”.

Of course, that isn’t the reason why Alan Moore named the series “Watchmen”.

But I’ll stop here as this has been one unbelievably lengthy review of the movie compared to the source material. It has taken me over three hours to craft this review and if you’ve read the entire review and got to the end, I congratulate you.

I do like the Watchmen movie. I think it has gravitas; it’s not as good as it could have been, but it is faithful to the graphic novel, up to a certain point at least.

I just can’t take away the glaring differences between the graphic novel and the movie’s ending and the omission of some of the material from the graphic novel and plot points that added to the overall story. The movie is good, but it’s not great.

Watchmen is truly the most acclaimed graphic novel in the history of comics and still remains one of my favourite comics of all time. The number of times I’ve read the series from cover to cover! The movie though? Not quite the most acclaimed comic book movie of all time.

However, it did take a few readings of the graphic novel to get most of the nuances and appreciate what a masterpiece it was. Perhaps it’s the same with the movie where you need repeated viewings? Only time will tell on that one.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen: The greatest graphic novel of all time!

I re-read the Absolute Watchmen HC graphic novel on Wednesday evening in two sittings; wanted to make sure I remembered even the most minute detail before actually catching the Watchmen movie on the big screen, which was released in cinemas Australia-wide on Thursday.

There's a reason why Watchmen has been called, and is by and large recognised as the greatest and most acclaimed graphic novel in the history of comics: it is just absolutely brilliant. It was a tale certainly way ahead of its time...every single time I read it, I keep discovering something new!

To be honest, the first time I read Watchmen, probably some time in the early 00s, I wasn't that impressed. Sure, it was a good read and it had some fascinating characters and character interactions and a wonderful twist ending (which was already spoiled for me since I'm an avid reader of Wizard magazine and they've referenced Watchmen so many times in the past), but I didn't think it was THAT special.

It took a second read for me to grasp how special and truly brilliant it was. And then a third read. And a fourth...this graphic novel wasn't just exceptional, it wasn't just brilliant; it was simple out of this world and nothing could come close to a story of this magnitude, nothing was even COMPARABLE to this!

All the little nuances and the stuff that Alan Moore crammed into the all somehow added extra layers to the overall story but at the same time contributed to the overall story. You could read each individual chapter and it would mean something. You could take different parts of the story like Max Shea's pirate tale and read it on its own as well and still get something out of it.

And Dave Gibbons' wonderful art. Each panel, so meticulously and beautifully constructed. And all those little hidden Easter eggs in the background, just teasing readers to see if they can catch everything that's happening in the scene, things that would add up to a larger Easter egg that's part of the overall story!

Most stories are straightforward and you get everything in the one read. Not Watchmen. Watchmen was special; it takes multiple reads to grasp and understand the majority of the concepts that Moore has included in this 12 issue maxi-series. The political commentary, the black humour, the sexual innuendos, the environmental commentary; it was all there in those pages, one just needed to see if one could, to coin a Pokemon phrase, "catch 'em all"!

Alas, many have also called Watchmen as the comic that is inherently unfilmable. I certainly can understand that; how can one possibly reproduce a chapter like "Fearful Symmetry" on the big screen? How do you do that without losing the story's essence? A chapter like "Fearful Symmetry" just can't be reproduced on the big screen! Other scenes transferred from the comic medium to the big screen would also lose its what would the movie look like then?

From the few trailers I've watched on TV so far, the Watchmen movie looks like it's "glamourising" the action parts of the graphic novel. The characters are larger than life and they all look fantastic on the big screen; I couldn't imagine how stupid the Minutemen would look on screen with their campy costumes, but they don't look half bad at all from the movie stills!

I definitely cannot wait to watch the movie. Expectations are unbelievably high, as one might expect, which could lead to a lot of disappointment if Zack Snyder hasn't done the right thing by the graphic novel. But hey, then again, I guess he could be forgiven; fans expectations are unreasonably high for the movie adaption of the greatest and most acclaimed graphic novel of all-time, the one that they've all said is unfilmable.