Thursday, July 23, 2009

10 Things I Love About Zack Snyder's "Watchmen"

**(Note: You should see the film before you read this!)**

**Note #2: I thought this was obvious but evidently not - these things are credited to Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and Zack Snyder. Despite Moore not being directly involved, the movie still uses concepts, dialogue, and images directly from the book. This list is referring to my love of all those things in the movie. I am not, repeat, NOT implying this is all Snyder's doing**

In honor of Watchmen coming to DVD this week - and since I never wrote an actual review on here - I decided to post these ten things I love about the film. Some are minor, most are major, but all had an impact upon me personally. Comment below and tell me your thoughts :)

1) The opening credits montage

I think everyone can agree, the opening credits are amazing. The montage, created by Yu+Co, is comprised of a series of living tableaus summarizing the 1940s through early 1980s in this alternate world where superheroes live among us. It shows recognizable events, people, and places (ie, the assassination of JFK, Andy Warhol, Studio 54), each with a twist - a new version of history thanks to the presence of superheroes. We also see how these heroes have changed with the times, from being clean do-gooders to dark, troubled vigilantes. The montage is set to Bob Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changin" which is an absolutely perfect song choice for obvious reasons.

2) Rorschach in prison

Just when you think masked viligante Rorschach can't get any cooler, he gets his mask taken off and thrown in prison. And he is a total badass! "None of you seem to understand..." After that scene, the theatre audience cheered and applauded. Jackie Earle Haley does a fantastic job throughout the film. As good as he is acting behind a mask - which is damn hard - my favorite scenes take place without his "face" in the prison. The psychiatrist meeting, the cafeteria, in the jail cell throwing puns at the angry dwarf...I love it all. "Tall order." Rorschach is the man.

3) The soundtrack

A lot of people cite the film's soundtrack as a downfall and I just don't get that. I immediately loved the quirky song choices. Not only are they right from the book and fitting with the time periods portrayed on-screen, but they are all aptly suited to their corresponding scene, if not deeply ironic. I already mentioned the expertly-chosen Bob Dylan song during the opening montage. There are fantastic 60s tunes like "All Along the Watchtower" (Jimi Hendrix) and "Sound of Silence" (Simon and Garfunkel). If you listen carefully when Ozymandias is talking with the oil tycoons, the radio is playing Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Dontcha just love the irony?

Most people probably dislike choices such as "I'm Your Boogeyman" (KC and the Sunshine Band) and "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen) but I especially like these two! I'll discuss the former a little later on (see #6 below)."Hallelujah" was perfect for the sex scene because A) it's Leonard fucking Cohen, he rules; B) it's a sexy song, and he is singing about a strong woman like Laurie; C) it's a joke on Dan's impotence. I don't think any of these songs distract from the movie or cheapen it. The music is a big part of why I loved this movie.

4) The origin of Dr. Manhattan

John's whole backstory is pretty fascinating, and deeply tragic. Not only did he lose the love of his life, but he lost his ability to care, in general. His "accident" made him the living √úbermensch, and ultimately disconnected him from humanity. I love Crupud's performance when he becomes trapped inside the instrinsic field subtractor. He has a look of complete helplessness and terror. And then his girlfriend runs away and his friend can only look on in horror. The scene is absolutely gripping. "I felt fear...for the last time." Amazing. But my absolute favorite part of Manhattan's backstory is when his body begins to re-appear. "A circulatory system was spotted near the perimeter fance". Wow. Just wow. Visually, it looks amazing, and the sheer concept of this ghostly, floathing circulatory system is fucking CREEPY AWESOME. Then the half-muscled skeleton screaming in the hallway. It's so damn scary and awe-inspiring at the same time.

5) Dr. Manhattan's voice

Speaking of Dr. Manhattan and the brilliance of Billy Crupud, I have to mention the voice. He has such a soft, calming voice that completely belies his towering image. Fans of the graphic novel often say they never imagined John sounding that way, but it fits so well. I concur. It fits because he is devoid of caring and so invincible that he has no reason to worry or stress. His calm voice reflects that complacency. Notice he didn't talk that way before the accident. I could not be more impressed with Mr. Crudup if he cured cancer right now.

6) The Comedian's "Boogieman" scene

This scene is the ultimate reflection of The Comedian's attitude toward society and life in general. Firstly, I can't help but love seeing a woman get punched square in the face. Maybe I hate my own gender, but that's pretty freakin funny. Secondly, it's so disturbing the way he starts blowing civilians away. Especially that guy spraypainting the wall. Ouch. But one aspect that makes this scene awesome for me is the song - "I'm Your Boogieman." Maybe it's the bias of having heard Rob Zombie's cover, but I find this song to be kinda dark and sexy. Weird, I know. But I just love that slow-motion shot of Comedian coming toward the fleeing teenagers with a shotgun in hand, while "Boogieman" plays. It's the perfect song for a comedic monster.

7) Dan's reaction to Rorschach's death

I know this is a very specific, short scene but I felt the need to mention it. It is no easy task to act as if your old friend was just violently killed in front of you, especially when he died for a reason you have not come to agree with. And it is even harder to convincingly scream "NO!" - just ask Mark Hamill. Patrick Wilson (aka Dan, aka Nite Owl) pulled it off stunningly. So much so that I got chills that lasted the entire length of the scream (a good 5 seconds at least). And the shot itself is beautifully framed and looks fantastic. Kudos, Wilson, and kudos, Snyder.

8) Rorschach's love of incomplete sentences

"Dead dog in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach." "Fine like this." A silly little detail, but his incomplete sentences are one of many things I love about Rorschach. Why does he talk this way? Most likely, he prefers to get the point and not waste breath on words like "a" and "the". Whatever the reason, it is an amusing quirk and I can't help but talk like him sometimes.

9) The classic heroes

I love Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason, the retired cape who has written a tell-all book about the superhero lifestyle. Also, the film's flashbacks of the Minutemen and other classic heroes, along with the various villains, is too cool. It is fascinating to see how the hero image evolves with time and becomes corrupted for some. It is not hard to imagine these people really existing. Oh, and the costumes are fantastic!

10) Homage to Dr. Strangelove

The scenes in Nixon's war room are an obvious homage to Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Not only the set design, but the shots themselves - especially of the officials sitting around the table - are right out of Kubrick's film. It is an appropriate homage, considering the impending doomsday theme in both films. This brings me back to the music - remember the final scene of Strangelove, with an apocolyptic blast set to Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again"? Obviously, the music choices in Watchmen cannot compare to Kubrick's, but the intentions are similar. It's that same sense of darkly comic irony that I love in these song choices.

Agree? Disagree? Think I'm insane? Let me know in the comments!


SP III said...

I want to see the 10 things you didn't love about ZS's Watchmen.

I didn't care too much for Night Owl's "No" But that's just me, I think Vader ruined it for me, and ever since, I just flashback to that and giggle a little.

I could be upset that Zack left out my favorite scene from the book, but that would just be splitting hairs then.

Not a great "comic" movie, but a great movie

Heather said...

See, Vader is a perfect example of how NOT to say "no." That's why I like Nite Owl's all the more.

Honestly, I couldn't think of 10 things I didn't like about the movie.

What scene did he leave out that you love? Tell me it's not the squid. And did you watch the director's cut? I hear it's got a lot of scenes from the book that were filmed but cut from the theatrical run (like Hollis Mason's beating, for one)

Tony said...

Sorry Heather, I hate it when people don't comment on my blog too. It was just easier to do it on FB :P

Anyway, awesome list. I was thrown off when you said things I love about "Zack Snyder's" Watchmen into thinking that you credited him with all of this (some of which was him).

But in any case I wholeheartedly agree with everything. I think you wrote down my exact top 10 list of things I loved about the movie (and subsequently the book) as well.

Heather said...

Thx Tony, I only specified Zach Snyder's Watchmen because to only say "10 Things I Love About Watchmen" could - and most likely by default refer to the original - refer to the book. Plus I always put a director's name in front of a movie, it's a critic habit.

Wes Guerrettaz said...

There's not much for me to dislike about it. Many of the changes made sense, but there were a few I could've done without.

I could had done without Malin Ackerman (I'd rather have Rose Byrne play Silk Spectre.)

I could had done without Laurie stabbing a Knot-Top in the throat. She's not Rorschach.

I would have liked to see Adrian and Manhattan have their conversation at the very end. Adrian seemed too sure of himself in the movie, but after the deed was done in the GN he had some doubts.

Still, I haven't seen a better film this year yet.