Doom and Doomer: Watchmen

JIM DOOM: So did you see Watchmen yet?

DOOM DeLUISE: Yes I did.

JIM DOOM: I read Sunday morning that it had a three-day opening of $55.7 million. How do they know that on Sunday morning? Isn’t Sunday part of the three-day total?

DOOM DeLUISE: Sunday’s an estimate. Actual figures don’t come out until Monday.

JIM DOOM: Is there just some kind of formula where they can say “Well, if Friday this well and Saturday did this well, historically Sunday is x percentage of what we saw on Friday and y percent of Saturday, so if we average those two, we can reasonably assume Sunday’s total” or something like that?

DOOM DeLUISE: Yeah, that’s it exactly. According to the actuals, Watchmen only grossed $55.2 million. Still, 55 million dollars for a rated R movie with a two and a half hour plus runtime is pretty damned impressive.

JIM DOOM: So I already wrote about what I thought Tuesday night. Want to give me a similar overview of what you thought and we can jump into specifics after that?

DOOM DeLUISE: Sure. Like you mentioned, virtually every important part of the comic book is in the movie, oftentimes word-for-word or shot-for-shot. The amount of effort it took to hit all the high notes should be pointed out, to begin with, and applauded. Also, the fact that Snyder was able to convince the studio to go through with the ending, to give him so much leeway in terms of what he got to throw on screen, is also very commendable.

The guy who played Rorschach, also, should be noted as delivering a fairly amazing portrayal. Once he took the mask off, when he was really given a chance to act, he nailed it. Every little bit.

As for the rest of the movie, I really pretty much just hated it all.

JIM DOOM: You were really concerned about the ending — how did it compare with what you feared?

DOOM DeLUISE: Oh, I’m fine with the ending. The things they changed make sense. The things they left intact also work for the story they were telling. I’m not at all bothered by what was changed from the book to the movie. Like I always say, I don’t care if they’re faithful to the “source material” when they make an adaptation. I just want to see a good movie, and this, in my opinion, wasn’t a good movie.

JIM DOOM: Well, I’m not asking about your thoughts on the faithfulness. You were worried about the ending because of what they changed in the script.

DOOM DeLUISE: Oh, right. I read a script a year or so back that was supposedly the final draft that they were filming. In that, Niteowl killed Ozymandias at the end (crushed him with his Owl Ship), and there was some hokey scene where Ozy broadcast a message to the world disguised as Dr. Manhattan after the attack and told everybody to stop fighting each other, because He’d Be Watching. Thankfully, my fears were unnecessary, as none of those changed made it into the final film.

JIM DOOM: At least, not the theatrical version.

DOOM DeLUISE: Maybe they’ll include them in the sequel.

JIM DOOM: So want to talk a little about what you hated or what you thought made it a bad movie?

DOOM DeLUISE: Sure. When I was walking out of the theater, I asked my girlfriend how it was possible that they included every major story beat and line from the comic (more or less) yet ended up creating something so emotionally and intellectually flat. I still can’t quite figure it out, but it seems like they just had a list of scenes they wanted to shoehorn in, but then they didn’t think to develop them so that they’d have any sort of impact.

For instance, when Laurie finds out the Comedian is her dad.

In the comic, that’s one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes, but in the movie, they hadn’t established her hatred for him, so at the point when she figures it out, it just doesn’t matter or even make sense, really.

It seems like the movie made some demands of its viewers; that is, the viewer has to fill-in-the-blanks with the knowledge of the book that they bring to the table. So if you haven’t read the comic, I’m guessing you’ll probably appreciate the movie even less than somebody who has read it, and if you have read it, it’s sort of demanding that you remove yourself from the movie experience the entire time by making you fill in those gaps.

JIM DOOM: I’m surprised you say they didn’t establish her hatred for him. That was the whole basis of the scene with her mother.

DOOM DeLUISE: You mean that scene that lasted all of 30 seconds?

JIM DOOM: That was the subject of the argument that formed the terrible memory she always went back to.

DOOM DeLUISE: Yeah, but the scene with her mother seemed more like Laurie was trying to convince her mother that SHE should hate the Comedian, not that Laurie did

JIM DOOM: I had forgotten that part from the comic and the movie did enough to explain it to me. I’m actually glad they didn’t spend more time on it, given how much more there was to get to.

DOOM DeLUISE: Admittedly, I wasn’t paying much attention during the scene with the argument, because I kept thinking, “Man, that is some awfully shitty makeup”

JIM DOOM: Yeah, it really was.

So can you elaborate on what you felt made it intellectually flat?

DOOM DeLUISE: Unfortunately, a change they made in the ending. At first, when they said there wasn’t going to be a squid, I didn’t care. I mean, that doesn’t translate well. So they went with Dr. Manhattan-based bombs. Ok, I’m game with that. But then you stop and think about the plot, the purpose of the plot, for a second, and it kind of falls apart.

Dr. Manhattan is an American scientist. If he’s telling the world to stop all fighting or else, threatening everybody with violence, for all intents and purposes, it’s just an American. There would be no difference in most other countries’ minds, right? The squid threat worked because it was an extra terrestrial, so the entire world had to join together to fight this common enemy.

JIM DOOM: I think that’s why it was important that he had to destroy a huge chunk of New York too. Had the Americans not also suffered, I think you’d be totally right.

My problem with that scenario was that they’d already established Richard Nixon and his advisors as the “Better dead than red” gang who were really unconcerned with mutually assured destruction so long as they were safe in their bunker. It made his somber change a little less believable.

DOOM DeLUISE: Why did they even have Richard Nixon in the movie? He didn’t have any lines in the comic. He looked like Patrick fuckin’ Swayze from Point Break, with a terrible make-up job and terrible acting to boot. At least the scene in the war room gave me a chance to go to the bathroom without missing anything important.

JIM DOOM: My best guess would be just that he’s a face of the moral transition. It was a pretty simple device to use, and I can see the temptation to overplay the hand at first.

DOOM DeLUISE: All this stuff is just kind of skimming the surface, though. I mean, I don’t hate the movie for the ending. I don’t hate the movie for the lack of emotion in certain spots that I remember as being more emotional.

I hate the movie because of the acting and the fight sequences and the computer graphics work. And the soundtrack. That abysmal, disgustingly stupid soundtrack.

JIM DOOM: I thought most of that stuff was hit and miss. The main acting that stood out to me as weak was Silk Spectre Jr., and that probably stood out most because of how much she had to carry. It’s probably not too easy finding great actresses who want to prance around in spandex and get naked on screen. Otherwise, I didn’t mind the acting, and in cases like Rorschach, loved it.

DOOM DeLUISE: Oh, I loved Rorschach, too.

Except I kept thinking of that skit from Jiminy Glick where Martin Short is pretending to be Al Pacino, and he’s just growling and then starts choking and yelling for a lazenge.

JIM DOOM: Same with the soundtrack. There were times I didn’t care for it, but the “All Along the Watchtower” part was exactly what I was referring to in my earlier review when I mentioned Snyder incorporating some of the finer testosterone / adrenaline moments of “regular” superhero movies. It was a “Hell yeah” type moment that was able to happen without having to rewrite the end with the heroes standing victorious over the villain. He picked his battles.

I don’t think the movie would have worked as well without moments like that. I say that, of course, as someone who thought the movie worked well, so take that for what it’s worth.

DOOM DeLUISE: I liked “All Along the Watchtower,” especially because it reminded me of how the last lines in that song are one of the closing sentences in one of the chapters of the book, and another chapter is titled after a line from the song, “Two Riders Were Approaching,” so it was a nice little moment thrown in there.

DOOM DeLUISE: I didn’t think 99 Lutballoons or Hallelujiah or Desolation Row fit at all, though

JIM DOOM: Why not 99 Luftbalons?

That seems extremely appropriate.

DOOM DeLUISE: It just seemed way too poppy and out of place. I like that song, but it just didn’t feel right to me. Didn’t it play when Dan and Laurie went out to dinner? Like, it only played for about twenty seconds or something, so it just seemed jarring

JIM DOOM: It might have, but when I think of that song, I think “Bubble-gum sounding song with the darker undercurrent about the Cold War,” which I thought made it a great fit for the movie.

Not to mention the whole idea of something innocent triggering something deadly.

DOOM DeLUISE: Oh, another thing. Speaking of the Cold War aspect of the movie, by cutting out basically every single human character from the movie, I didn’t feel the Cold War threat as much as in the book. Small nitpick.

Let’s talk about something else I hated. The gore. Jesus Quincy Adams, this thing was gross.

JIM DOOM: Yeah, I didn’t like that. That was one of my big problems with it. Relatively speaking.

DOOM DeLUISE: Like the shot where Dr. Manhattan blows those guys up in the bar, and then it shows their dangling entrails hanging from the ceiling. Or when Rorschach takes the meat cleaver to the dude’s head, again and again.

JIM DOOM: Why do you think he used so much gore?

DOOM DeLUISE: I don’t know why he used gore. I think violence can be a lot more effective when it’s just implied (like the scene where Rorschach takes the Big Figure to the bathroom), but then we were given that huge rush of blood at the end. It seemed like Snyder didn’t really get why that scene was cool in the comic. It’s because Rorschach killed the guy and we didn’t even see it.

The movie just seemed really obvious to me. Like, all the subtlety of the book was taken out and we were given a big, loud flashy chest-bumping movie. The “Everyday Superhero” idea was cool in the book, but it’s not really in this movie. Instead, these are just your typical super tough superheroes, who can break arms with one hand and who can send a guy flying across the room with one kick or one smack to the stomach.

Warner Bros. is probably patting itself on the back today, congratulating Zack Snyder on how well he “gets” the fanboy community, but fanboys are idiots. If you’re a fanboy, you probably loved this movie. If you’re just wanting to see a movie based on a really great piece of fiction, though, you’re probably going to be pretty let down. And, Jim, while you may say that it worked, for the most part, the fact that a lot of it sucks as much as it does should be more bothersome, I think. I mean, this sucker is on how many top 100 lists for being one of the greatest works of American literature? And the best we can get is a movie that’s maybe 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, at most?

JIM DOOM: So I liked the movie the more I thought about it, and although I didn’t like the violence, I think I’m giving it more credit than you are. I was uncomfortable seeing how much the sympathetic duo seemed to be enjoying the violence they were inflicting, but then I thought about it, and started to think about it in terms of the unintended violent consequences of do-gooding, which is obviously a theme of the whole work.

So as far as interpretations go, the no-credit interpretation is that Snyder thought the kung fu gore was awesome; the give-credit interpretation is that he knew it was off-putting. I would’ve initially leaned toward the former, but the more I think about the movie overall, the more I shift toward the latter.

DOOM DeLUISE: That’s a fair criticism of me, though. I’m not giving Zack Snyder any credit whatsoever. I mean, he made 300.

JIM DOOM: The things I didn’t like didn’t bother me enough to affect my enjoyment of the movie. I think the slow-mo is gimmicky, but I had completely forgotten about it until someone asked me about it. The things I didn’t like did not stick with me at all beyond the moments they bothered me. The things I did like, however, did stick with me. That’s why I’m not bothered.

I would put this movie right up with The Dark Knight. I actually like The Dark Knight a lot less as time goes on. My fondest memories of it are as a fantastic series of Joker sketches. Things like the convoluted plot, Batman looking and sounding stupid and the dumb ending make me appreciate it less. Maybe the same will happen with Watchmen. But so far, I like Watchmen more as time goes on. So I just don’t share your assessment that this is some kind of turd that people are going easy on.

DOOM DeLUISE: Can you name me a single scene from Dark Knight that is as comparably stupid as the Hallelujiah Owlship sex scene, when the NiteOwl’s space ship spurts firey hot jizm all over New York City?

JIM DOOM: Maybe rebuilding fingerprints from a shattered bullet rebuilt via various gizmos from an apartment I never understood why anyone was there leading to a trap that implied the Joker would know Batman would pull that off.

This is, of course, assuming I’m agreeing with your premise that the best overall comparison of two movies is by looking at their worst scenes.

DOOM DeLUISE: Ok, fair enough. We don’t have to do that.

JIM DOOM: To me, the most important thing this movie could do is preserve the message of the comic. Doing that alone wouldn’t make it good, but I was impressed with how well it did that. I also felt like Snyder built a theme of hope on top of Moore’s despair. Pretty much anytime anyone talks about using fiction to probe the shades of gray in characters, they’re talking about looking at the ways in which good people are actually bad. But I came away from this doomsday movie with a surprising sense of hope, which came from the good that sociopaths like Dan and Laurie were doing by trying to help. It let the material make its point about the bad things that can happen when one person tries to decide what is right and wrong for the whole world, but it doesn’t let that condemnation snuff out the good things that can happen when one person tries to help another.

I thought that was very important, and it took a delicate touch that I didn’t expect from Snyder. It’s why I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in the scenes I didn’t like. The studio spotted him when he was making 300, and I think they completely lucked out that he matured as an artist in the meantime. It would’ve been just as likely for him to continue in the opposite direction.

DOOM DeLUISE: I think he did continue in the opposite direction, but he somehow lucked his way into a really great gig. I’ll give him some credit. He had to make a lot of difficult decisions regarding what should be cut and what should be kept. And, in the end, I think he did a good job of that. But if you were to cut out all of the ridiculous over-the-top kung-fu scenes that he just seems to have a huge boner for, then make it so that everything is in regular motion instead of super slow-mo (this is a nitpick that’s been voiced everywhere, it seems, but why is there so much slow-mo? do we need slow-mo when the only thing moving is a guy’s hair?), you’d probably be left with a movie that’s about twenty minutes long. That’s an exagerration, of course, but you get my complaint.

I thought that both the ladies who played the two Silk Spectres were terrible (surprising that Carla Gugino did such a shitty job as the older version of her character but was so awesome at the younger one, oh wait, that’s not surprising at all).

Plus, I thought the guy who played the Comedian was laughable, but not in a way that he probably desired, and the guy who played Ozymandias had all the confidence of a cardboard box, which is one of Adrian’s defining characteristics in the book.

Plus, could they have possibly made Ozy look more villainous throughout the entirety of the movie? When they first introduced him, why didn’t they have him twirling a mustache and wearing a cape? I don’t remember the book being that melodramatic, and I remember thinking that the Ozy being the “bad guy” plot was quite a swerve, but this movie is nothing if not incredibly fucking obvious, so it’s no surprise that the guy playing Ozy just sneered his entire way through the movie with an occasional flashing of an insincere smile.

JIM DOOM: So I just want to make sure I’m getting you on this — you think there was no more maturity behind the presentation this movie than there was in 300?

DOOM DeLUISE: No, I don’t think there was. I think this source material was better, and I think the script was more intelligent, but you can still see the immaturity of the director in a lot of spots, most notably the aforementioned OwlShip sex-capade. Handled with all the maturity of a teenager’s wet dream

Overall, I think my thoughts on this movie can be summed up with a simple analogy. It’s like a really terrible punk rock cover version of my favorite song by some shitty band like Blink 182.