March 09, 2009


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While I'm Thinking About It

Warning! There be Watchmen spoilers within!

So, I did something over the weekend that I don't usually do. That I don't ever do, in fact. Something so far outside the bounds of what passes for "normality" around here that I can't help but talk about it.

I went to see Watchmen opening night.

I am very easygoing when it comes to adapted works. Not everything that works well on the printed page manages to continue to work on screen. Plot points may not age that well. Give me a good enough reason for the change, and I'll go along with it. I even cut the Fantastic Four movies a lot of slack because they came up with a reason for Sue and Johnny to be in space in the first place. And since I don't have any particular strong attachment to these characters and this story (despite having read it), I'm probably the perfect audience member.

I did not enjoy Watchmen. I can appreciate it, as a technical achievement. I can say Jackie Earle Haley did a terrific job as Rorshach. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was great as Comedian. Getting rid of the stupid pirate story was a very good idea, and the altered ending makes more sense to me. The less brutal, more stylized fight scenes (Comedian's apartment, Adrian vs. the assassin, and the battle royale at Karnak) were thrilling.

The other fight scenes went a long way toward ruining it for me.

Back-breaking, neck-snapping, murderous rampages are one thing when they're being performed by a sociopathic anti-hero, and quite another when they're coming from a guy who, in the original comics and the flashbacks, was fairly useless even in costume and a woman who only ever dressed up in tights to satisfy her mother.

And the gore . . . .

Look, I don't mind some gore. CSI, for example, is often fairly gross, but that doesn't bother me because it's usually in some sort of pseudo-educational context (this is how fast the human body bleeds out when a major artery is severed). Meat cleaver to the head, radial saw to the arms, and what gets left behind when Dr. Manhattan blows people up (okay, it's symbolic and appropriate when he does it at the very end, but the significance is diminished somewhat by the entrails we saw dangling from the ceiling during the big flashback).

And then there's Dr. Manhattan's nakedness. Yes, I understand it's meant to underscore just how far removed from humanity the former Jon Osterman has become, but did we have to see so much of it?

I won't even get into the sex scene that goes on so long it becomes some sort of bad joke, except to say that this is an R-rated movie and such things probably shouldn't surprise me.

Now, I promised a spoiler up there, didn't I? In the theatrical cut, Hollis Mason survives, in as much as we don't see him get beaten to death. I liked that.

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