Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Yeah, We Watched Them

Penned upon the 22nd of March, 2009

I’ve long been a Watchmen fan, as certain examples of verbose nerdery will attest. Reports suggested that the translation to feature film might have avoided the pitfalls felt by previous Alan Moore film adaptations League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. And V for Vendetta. And Hellblazer. So, it was only right and fitting that I put on my Burly-Man! tea shirt* and, with Miss Merah, potter along and check it out.

Now, the film’s characterisation of Ozymandias created a few, as they say, Unfortunate Implications, which my chum Cargo has summed up here more ably than I could. I’ll pass over those for now, then, and mention what other factors occurred to me, trying not to restate too much for those who have seen the film nor give away too much for those who haven’t. Overall, I thought they did a good job fitting the most important elements of the story in, and nodding to those they had to skip over. The characters were extremely well-cast and -performed. Visually, it was excellent – the theme of nostalgia and conservatism picked up by using bullet-time mechanics to turn scenes into photographs, for instance. And also, little details, like the suspender belts of Silk Spectre I’s costume being reflected in the patterns on her daughter’s. A few plot weaknesses from the source material were smoothed over; some new ones added in turn. Yes, overall, I enjoyed it!

I thought they dropped the ball on a few elements – particularly Rorschach’s and Nite Owl II’s backstories. The story of Rorschach’s father and his politics may look unimportant, but I think those primal memories and associations are the key to his character; his morality, his understanding of right and wrong (and of women and men), and his decision to commit suicide-by-superhero (after tearing off his own mask, too) in the conclusion. Movie-Nite-Owl, too, was too much the thrillseeker, and his new dialogue was, well, a bit too hurried and wangsty.

Actually, that brings me to my next point too – the fight scenes. Too many fight scenes. Too gory. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre start breakin’ legs and stabbin’ dudes all over – I don’t want to see that, especially from sympathetic, humane characters. Not only is it just plain unappealing, it’s a waste of some of their cleverest elements of their superheroic identities. Again, referring the chapter in the book which contains Dan’s ornithological essay; sure, you can’t put a whole scholarly article in a film, but it could easily have been quoted, and not only does it reveal something of his philosophy (and thus his motivations) but it also reveals his study of owl’s screeches being used to terrify and thus stun their prey – the method he replicates with his gadgets when raiding the prison. In the film, they just walk right in and start kickin’ and flippin’. He got his best lines from the book, but not their context – a shame when, for instance, Dr Manhattan’s story was treated so faithfully and completely, from childhood to transcendence.

The film’s wrapup really was messy – it looked rushed, frankly. For instance, instead of Dr Manhattan delivering his final warning to Ozymandias, proving the significance of his name, it’s delivered by Laurie to Dan as what Manhattan “might have said”. What the hell? That’s sloppy writing. Thus, Laurie’s, Jon’s, Dan’s and Adrian’s relationships are all warped and confused, and even a twisted sort of justification is created for Silk Spectre I’s affection for the Comedian – as if we’re supposed to admire it. So much of the book’s dialogue is used that these oiginal segments are all the more glaringly bad. It’s a shame, but then, these segments get very little screentime, so they don’t ruin the effect too much.

I could go on and on, so I’ll just hit one more note of criticism – why the hell was Manhattan’s cock so dangly? Penes are not that dangly. It would be impractical.

Oh, and for fellow Melbornians, especially Northside Strutters – after the film, we had some tostadas and enchiladas and Pacificas at the Coyote Cafe, on Nicholson St, Carlton – absolutely delicious. Fresh and nourishing with just enough spice. Yummo.

* I did a bit of a test order of tea shirts, and have tweaked the designs – so if you order any now, they’ll be, quite literally, top notch. I made several notches – they are at the top one. That’s how literal I’m speaking here.

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Commentary upon “Yeah, We Watched Them”

  1. Melanthios was heard to remark,

    Upon the 26th of March, 2009 at 7:57 pm,

    You know, I’m constantly in a quandary about seeing this film/reading this comic. On the one hand, I really, really detest Alan Moore. On the other hand, I really loved The Incredibles, and I love superhero stories like that, that deal with superheroes in a realistic way. And then there’s the eternal argument of film vs. book.

    I loved LXG the novelesation of the film + the film. I hated the comics. They were awful. I even read the first TWO, and tried REALLY hard to like them. I read V for Vendetta, and while it was entertaining–it still didn’t stick with me. It felt like so much pretentious fluff that was funny while reading, but fails to have much substance afterward. I read Lost Girls, and felt the same way, though without any of the funny. Moore, to me, has the same power that Meyer does–I keep reading and trying to like it, but I never really do.

    It’s doubly frustrating that this seems to happen with all the popular creators that are considered too good to criticise, like Moore, Whedon, Gaiman and Burton.

    I’m wondering if the film is worth seeing on its own, as a separate entity from the comic. No one seems to have that kind of opinion of it. :(

  2. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 26th of March, 2009 at 8:13 pm,

    That’s completely fair enough. I really like Moore, and I like a lot of Whedon but equally dislike a lot of it (love some seasons of Buffy and can’t stand others, for instance). Gaiman I actually find kind of creepily misogynistic. I can name two close friends who will eagerly defend both of the above and really like those works. So I get where you’re coming from.

    As for Watchmen, well, there’s a lot in there that’s a sly nod to the book, or makes the most sense if you’re familiar with it… but Ms Merah had never read the book and still enjoyed the film. I daresay it’s worth a try!

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