dir. Zack Snyder
While watching Zach Snyder's Watchmen, thought's of Woody Allen's Annie Hall ran through my head. Near the end of Allen's film, Woody, as Alvy Singer, reluctantly visits his sleazy friend Max in tinsel-town. Max boasts that he recently, among other things, visited the Playboy mansion. "And the women, they're like the women of Playboy magazine only they can move their arms and legs." What a novelty. Things that were inanimate on paper have now come to life. Who cares if there's no substance behind the nubile bodies. This, in a nutshell, is what Zach Snyder has achieved in his comic to screen adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.
Using the comic as a storyboard, Snyder astounds with his meticulously faithful recreations of Gibbon's iconic images. Hey, look, it's just like that sequence in the book when Jon Osterman transforms into Dr. Manhattan, only this time it's moving. Being the fan of the comic that I am, I dug the novelty of seeing the static images of the book move around. And yet, this is a surface only adaptation. Snyder took painstaking care emulating the look of the comic, but forewent everything else that made the book great. Indeed, his film proves that such slavish recreations are not always a good thing.
Snyder's emotional and filmic maturity are best represented in the sex scene between Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman), which is set to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". This is a scene that would make the director of a late night Cinemax Shannon Tweed movie bemoan cinema's current lack of artistic integrity. In terms of sheer eroticism, it ranks somewhere between the shots of Tommy Wiseau's thrusting steroid ravaged ass in The Room's sex scenes and Requiem for a Dream's ass to ass scene. I would have been more pissed off at the immaturity and inanity of it, (and of Snyder's low opinion of his comic book nerd audience) if I wasn't too busy gut-laughing. Whether Snyder intended it or not (likely not), his Watchmen as a whole is a piece of high camp.
One of the many novelties of Alan Moore's book was that it de-mythologized the superhero mystique. With the exception of Dr. Manhattan, these are real people with real problems and real personalities [Side note: real.] In Snyder's hands they all become invincible super-beings capable of taking beatings that would kill Mike Tyson and dishing out the sort of beatings that the Man of Steel would solely be capable of. Indeed, most of the battles in Snyder's film resemble those colossal super-beast wars of Superman II. [I know, I know, it is rather silly to complain about a lack of verisimilitude in a film that devotes a hefty portion of screen time to a glowing blue penis.]
Of course, the ludicrous action scenes could be forgiven if Snyder took more care with drawing decent performances from his actors. Watchmen is material that begs for, at the very least, competent acting. One gets the feeling that when Snyder directed his non-action scenes, he was jumping up and down, shaking his hands with all the energy of an ADD-addled twelve year old on a pixie stick binge, and screaming, "Where's the compound fractures? I want breaking bones." In the book, the action took a back seat to the narrative. Snyder, on the other hand, just likes seeing stuff go boom.
It is perhaps unfair to continually compare the movie to its source material. It should stand on its own merits and short-comings. Still, I don't know if I would be much of a fan of Snyder's film even if I never read the book. The film is sporadically entertaining in spite of Snyder's wanky slo-mo shit. [God, when is that cliche gonna end?] Even his action scenes, though, weren't as visceral as he perhaps intended. These were so over the top that I tended to laugh more than get drawn into the action. I felt the same way I did when watching Braveheart the first time. "You guys don't actually think this is a good movie, do you? This is some 'Monty Python' shit, sans the knowing humor, of course."
"Don't say sans, you faggot."
Not only did I get the feeling that Snyder thought of his audience as a bunch of brain dead fan-boy rubes, but I felt dumb while watching his film. It made me re-think not only comic book movies as a whole but also, legitimately intelligent ones like The Dark Knight. Snyder's imitation of comic book hero de-mythologization is merely surface dressing for lots of "dude did you see that fucking bone break, man? Fucking gnar shit" action. Maybe these movies are just for kids.