Part I(No spoilers here)
“Watchmen only needs to be NOT disappointing. That’s all it has to be,” said Matt last week while we counted down to the midnight showing we’d been planning to attend since ComicCon. We were both getting nervous as early reviews began to come in saying things like, “Where the comic is a glossy face on pain and terror, the movie is just a pretty picture.” (Film.com). I tweeted earlier yesterday that it felt like getting ready for a blind date.
When we got to the theater we serendipitously ended up sitting next to a threesome, two young men and a young women. One of the men had read the novel long before the rumors of a movie, the other had read it because of the movie, and the girl knew nothing about Watchmen at all. I listened carefully to their conversation secretly waiting for them to answer questions I had for them in my head. “What are you expecting?” I wanted to ask the unacquainted girl, “What are you worried about?” I would ask the more seasoned Watchman fan, “Did you really read the book, or just the forums on it…” I wanted to ask the novice.
But to my dismay they had a very typical dialogue that was made up of a familiar conversational structure: the most informed shared with the others, the band-wagon guy tried to relate, and the girl just blinked obtusely, trying her best to join the conversation when a familiar social theme was obviously brought up.
Forgive me! My nerdy elitism is leading to a review of the movie-goers and not the movie! But this probably what I was most curious about - I found myself more anxious to hear about their individual reactions to what is, at least to me, a very sentimental piece that demands a certain amount of veneration of which I was not sure Zach Snyder (with all his love for Watchman) would be able to provide in Silver Screen format.
At the stroke of midnight, two hours and forty-one minutes of none-stop, titillating, eye-candy began! No one will contend with this. I found myself more engaged with Watchman that any movie I had ever seen – but I’m not sure if this was a good thing. As the film progressed, I was forced to absorb far more information and narrative than I was used to; but lucky for me, I knew what was coming (and internally plugged in the hours of comic book back story that surely lay on the cutting room floor).
One of the most frustrating experiences I had during the film (aside from the predictable cueing of 80’s hits) was the sex scene between Nite Owl & Silk Spectre II. I’m not really one for gratuitous sex scenes in the first place, but this was borderline funny. Borderline funny = obnoxious. All I could think about after my initial chuckle was, what two minutes of important story were cut to make room for this awkward, totally libido-less grope session? Some of Dr. Manhattan’s pauses created a similar reaction (but he’s pretty much God… so he can have his long ponderous moments).
After the movie, two groups of friends in the same theater met up with Matt & I. One group was comprised of serious fans of the piece and the other had yet to read it. After the wide-eyed, slow nods of approval, the first thing uttered from one of the first-timers was, “What was with that giant cat?” Without pausing I explained that it was a new species of large cat that Ozymandius (who was also known as Adrian Veidt) had created on his own called “bubastis” and that it was an example of his self-importance and geniu—
I realized that I had given too much information regarding her simple question and that it was only one question of several which she had lined up for us, the Watchman-savvy group. She nodded, trying to take in yet more information on top of what she had already been forced to watch, and responded, “Yea… did they say that? They didn’t explain that, right? I thought maybe it was symbolic since it showed up when people started dying… but that didn’t make sense…” I felt my heart sink a little and I wondered if this beautiful, horrible story had actually lost it’s power altogether by being an overwhelming film narrative. Would these friends ever go back and read the novel?
“What did you think happened in the movie?” I asked another friend from that group.
“It was pretty much the R-rated version of the Incredibles. Superheroes get unpopular, they cope, and then they try to redeem their roles as masked vigilantes. I guess Watchman came first, so The Incredibles is really the G-version of Watchman, but I think I just need to watch Watchman again. And maybe a third time…”
Kenneth Duran, a film critic for the LA Times, said on NPR this morning what we long-time fans of the novel have had on our mind since hear Zach Snyder’s half-hearted acceptance to the film project, “It’s not anyone’s fault – this book should have never been made into a movie.” Duran went briefly into the reasons that were confirmed by movie-goers’ groans in my theater at the Krikorian last night – it can be summed up with a unanimous grievance, “Too much.” Too much information, too much time, too many lapses in the plot, and way too much back story.