The Set of 400: #239 – My Favorite Mars Sojourn

Today! Because none of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me!

Watchmen (2009)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Jackie Earle Haley (x2), Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode (x2), Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Laura Mennell, Robert Wisden, John Shaw, Danny Woodburn, Rob LaBelle

This movie did not work for everybody. Hell, if it had, they wouldn’t have remade it for TV within a decade (Has that come out yet? Is it any good? It can’t be, right?). But it did have a lot of built-in problems right from the get-go. Sure, the graphic novel is an unquestioned masterpiece, but when reading it, how exactly it could play out in under three hours doesn’t present itself. So massive edits were necessary, some good some bad, plus a wholesale revision to the story’s climax. The ending remains more or less the same, but for some reason people really like that giant goddamn squid. Also – and this cannot be stressed enough – this movie had to overcome the whims and instincts of director Snyder, who at the time had only made Dawn of the Dead in 2004 (which I’m sure is great, but haven’t seen) and 300 (which should’ve probably tipped us off that this wasn’t our guy to handle this or any comic book story).

Seriously, how was this movie a hit?

But okay, not to savage Snyder too much for this movie, the directing here isn’t patently bad. It’s too much, to be sure, and leaps to some poor choices, but it doesn’t distract too often. Snyder, of course, has gone on to direct three of the most heartbreakingly awful superhero films in history – Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Justice League – so it’s a little tough to retroactively be okay with Watchmen from a directing standpoint. But again, it’s not bad. Hell, Sucker Punch isn’t the worst movie in the world either (The worst movie in the world, by the way, is probably Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice).

So how does Watchmen work at all? Well, if you can put some space between yourself and the graphic novel beforehand, that sure helps. Pretty rarely does any movie improve on the source book, never mind a book full of storyboards burned into fanboy minds over decades. So a little distance from the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece is for the best. The casting is across the board magnificent – Jackie Earle Haley fully embodied Rorschach in ways I don’t think anyone thought possible. Not because of any concern with Haley’s prodigious abilities – Rorschach had just become this larger than life comic figure in the years since Watchmen’s publication. He’s almost like Wolverine – you can’t really imagine anyone being able to play that part from the comics, but they adapted it just right, modifying it for performance just enough that it totally works. This also doesn’t lessen the great, understated work of Patrick Wilson as the Nite Owl or Matthew Goode’s otherworldly genius Ozymandias. And as far as the dazzling effects are concerned, Dr. Manhattan is a complete triumph of CGI, right down to his impressive blue schvantz, and Billy Crudup’s steady character work.

Eyemuffs!

But this is the rare two-hour-forty-two minute film that needed to be at least an hour longer. There’s simply too much interesting story to condense down this far. Sure, they give you a full-on rager of a finale, and the initial Comedian sequence is lifted pretty direct from the pages, but there is a rush in areas sacrificing a lot of good character stuff. Has the hyper-extended HBO version remedied this? Does it even cover this story? Is it really a Minutemen TV show? Does it extend all the way into the Doomsday Clock stuff? I’ve got questions, and you may already have the answers.

There weren’t really any major awards for this March release of a superhero film, but again, it did directly convince a bunch of buffoons that Snyder should be the man at the helm of the DC film universe, to the detriment of us all. Yes, we finally got a Wonder Woman movie (which Snyder obviously didn’t direct) out of all this, but what other good has come down the road from Watchmen? As much as I enjoy this movie, knowing the way it would affect comic films for the next decade, maybe it wasn’t the best idea.

Rorschach and Ozymandias join the Two-Timers club, following Jackie Earle Haley’s seminal work as Kelly Leak in #284 The Bad News Bears and Matthew Goode’s breakout role in Woody Allen’s #320 Match Point. 

They frequently don’t get along

Coming Monday! Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not Every Man for Himself, and the London Underground is not a political movement –

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