Friday, March 20, 2009

Who's Watching the Watchmen?

According to second-week box office sales, not many people apparently. What a dip...I'm about to make myself sound like an enormous nerd by admitting that I saw Watchmen twice. Once in IMAX and once in regular-max (I'm here all night people). I must say that part of the experience, at least the first time, was convincing myself that I liked it a lot better than I did. It has receded very much in my memory as a totally forgettable film. Maybe I was initially just pleasantly surprised that it wasn't the total embarrassment that 300 was. Whatever the case, one thing is clear. In the wake of The Dark Knight, every comic book movie released from here on out is going to try to reinvent the wheel and few will succeed. It's debatable whether The Dark Knight itself succeeded. Watchmen does not on most levels. My initial review as a B. Now it's lingering in C/C+ territory after a second viewing.

I have never read the graphic novel and I saw it with three other people who had never read the graphic novel. But from what I gather from my brother (who read the comic and disliked the film), the Republican undertones of the graphic novel were much more tongue-in-cheek and subtle than in the film. I obviously can't judge that aspect, but I have a hard time imagining it NOT to be true. The whole "clever" playing with history thing seemed almost childishly obtuse on one end and frighteningly earnest on the other (if that makes sense).

To call Zak Snyder a visionary (which many people are) is kind of ridiculous. He's VISUAL, certainly. But a VISIONARY? I totally understand why he's the go-to director for stuff like this, but I would have liked to see how someone like say Ang Lee, who has actually proven himself a visionary AND an actor-driven director, would have handled the same material. Of course, that would never happen because the reaction to the first Hulk movie was so ridiculous and unmeasured, so much so that we're forced to pretend it doesn't exist at the behest of the new one, which wasn't even as financially successful.

Expect to see more comic book films attempting similar feats. Trying to appear daring and edgy, all the while saying "See! We can be dark like that Batman movie was!" It's already happening. The Superman movies are going to have a re-imagining in that vain, which I don't get. Superman was never a dark comic book in the way that Batman was, so that doesn't even make sense. I'm not entirely sure what they'd even do there. Even Fantastic Four is going to have a tear down, starting with the firing of Jessica Alba. I think this is funny for several reasons. It assumes that Jessica Alba was the biggest problem with those films. I personally don't want to give her that much power. And in the blandness department (we're talking about talent here) Alba's got it in spades...but she's got nothing on Malin Ackerman who is pretty much the first candidate out the gate for a Worst Actress Razzie. Not that it's entirely her fault (like I said before, Snyder is NOT a director of actors). That fact considered, Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl do the best considering the bad material they're railing against. It's nowhere in the same ballpark of greatness as the last project that Wilson and Haley did together, but Patrick Wilson is always watchable...always. After the great year he had in 2006, it'd be nice to see him in a project that's worthy of him.There's nothing else really to say about Watchmen except to point out a nice bit of irony. Billy Crudup plays a man who leaves his more mature companion for a younger, but less interesting and blander woman. Anyone who knows about his personal life will find this little bit of life imitating art very amusing.

Grade: C+

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