Liveblogging the Watchmen Movie

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OK, I’m not actually liveblogging the Watchmen movie. I saw it like three weeks ago. But I’ve held off writing about it till now, ensuring that by the time I did there would be so many reviews already out there that the whole idea of reviewing Watchmen is totally passé. (Time‘s review is here. My official musings on the adaptation, from the mag, are here.)

But I took a lot of notes during the screening — in my special I-can’t-see-what-I’m-writing handwriting — and I’m going to use them to reconstruct what went through my head while I was watching the movie, in chronological sequence. I guess you could call it deadblogging. Oh, and spoiler alert.

— Opening/death of the Comedian: Oh man oh man oh man. This is pretty much the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Boom: right through the countertop. There should be a law that all fight scenes must be filmed like this.

— Opening credits. No, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I wish I were in on the phone call when Snyder pitched Dylan to get the rights to this song. (Snyder: “And then there’s this awesome thing where Ozymandias is talking to Bowie outside Studio 54 … ” Dylan: “Pay me.” )

— You can see how Snyder is trying to recreate the pastiche-y feel of the original comic in film. Where Moore wrote in different prose genres — memoir, police files, newspaper clippings, comic-within-a-comic, etc. — Snyder seems to be jumping between video genres — talk show, newsreel, etc. Hope he can keep it up. Tall order.

— Rhorschach. That ever-shifting mask is cool, but kinda distracting at the same time. And I never did understand how Rhorschach made it. He’s a low-tech dude, and that thing looks high-tech. Maybe Nite Owl whipped it up for him.

— Dr. Manhattan. His skin is all shimmery. From the comic I always pictured him as almost translucent — like he was blown from blue glass. I wonder if he’s meant as Moore’s critique of Superman: if there ever was a being powerful enough to solve all our problems, such a being probably wouldn’t care enough to do it.

— 99 Luftballoons! It’s like he’s raiding the iPod I didn’t have in 1985. Also “Ride of the Valkyries.” I forgot how good Snyder is with music. Remember Johnny Cash singing about Revelations over the opening credits of Dawn of the Dead?

— Why do all political protests look the same in every single movie ever made ever? That dude climbing up on the car looks like he’s worried he’s gonna muss his hair. First thing I’ve seen so far in Watchmen that looks fake.

— “What happened to the American dream?” Poor Nite Owl, always the straight man. Still, it’s awesome to hear Alan Moore’s language spoken.

— There’s one thing that’s working here better than in the comic, and that’s the Comedian. That dude is great, whoever he is. He looks like your mildly sexually abusive uncle. I get that character more now than I ever did.

— Lee Iacocca and Ozymandias — together at last! Hard to say who has the weirder name. I just wish Ozymandias weren’t so skinny. I kind of pictured the optimal human as having more meat on him. And that crown looks hella uncomfortable. Still, the sheer physicality of it when he takes out that would-be assassin with … is it an ashtray? You can practically feel the crunch. Awesome. Basically people in this movie should never stop fighting.

— Nite Owl. I wish they weren’t trying so hard to make him The Relatable One. I get it, he’s nerdy and paunchy. So am I. We are one.

— If they were looking for something to cut — and they were — I wish they’d cut Rhorschach’s origin sequence. Jackie Earle Haley’s performance is good enough that we get the character already, we don’t need to see him cleaver open some dude’s head. And that bit with the dogs eating the little girl — that was too much to take even in the comic.

— 80’s music moment #2: “Everybody wants to rule the world … ” Awesome. I think the last time I heard that was over the closing credits of Real Genius!

— [I wrote the words “goggles — ugh” in my notes. I must not have liked that scene with Silk Specter and Nite Owl, in his basement, but now I forget why. This is followed by an indecipherable note about somebody’s hair, which I evidently had a problem with too. This may have been about Silk Specter’s hair, which would be way too long to take into a fight.]

— 80’s music moment #3: Leonard Cohen! They really spared no expense.

— I’m convinced that the fat guy whose arms get sawed off in the prison sequence was the same guy who had blades for arms in 300. Sort of a self-homage Easter Egg dealio. [But IMDB disagrees. Damn.]

— Nice use of the old-school floppy disks in Ozymandias’s office. At first I railed against the password business as typical bad movie tech, but nope, it’s actually in the book. You’d think the world’s smartest man could come up with a stronger password than RAMSES II.

— 80’s music moment #4: Jimmy Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower.” Or that was probably the 1960s. Guess there was no getting around that one.

— Nope, no squid. It doesn’t bother me, especially. Though the disaster isn’t nearly as lurid as it was in the comic. Everything is very neat and tidy. Doesn’t feel as disastrous as it should, somehow.

— I have in my notes that they changed the name of Bubastis, Ozymandias’s pet lynx. But I can’t find confirmation online, and I can’t remember what they changed it to. Maybe “Boob-ass-tis” just sounds too funny when you say it out loud.

— Dr. Manhattan: “I can change anything — but I can’t change human nature.” That doesn’t sound like Moore to me. I sort of wish Snyder was working with writers who are as brilliant with words as he is with all the rest of it.

— 80’s music moment #5: what’s that song over the closing credits? PIL? Sounds like Johnny Rotten, anyway.

Postscript: As somebody who makes his living as a critic, I usually have a rock-solid sense when I leave a movie whether I liked it or not. Three weeks down the line, I still don’t know how I feel about Watchmen. There were moments of perfect unalloyed genius in it — absolute genius. And there were bits that kinda curled my toes. I don’t know how to knit all that into a coherent opinion. But I do want to see it again.