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I Have Powers - Watchmen Thoughts (SPOILERS)
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Watchmen Thoughts (SPOILERS)
Discussion behind the cut, to save folks from seeing SPOILERS!

First off, here are three excellent reviews/analyses of the movie from cool people. Go read 'em.

http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2009/03/030509watchmen_review.html
http://artbroken.livejournal.com/1016582.html
http://bryant.livejournal.com/668962.html

I more-or-less agree with most of the thoughts in those posts listed above. Rather than rehash all the points already made, let me branch off into some new territory, covering roughly three areas:

1. Chad's "Russian Novel Effect"
As I get some distance from actually watching Watchmen, I'm liking it more. Whereas when I walked out of the theater, I thought it was "good, but not great" at the moment my opinion is tending more towards "Huh, that was pretty great." I'll have to see it again, and I will probably buy multiple versions of the DVD.

This is a similar mental state to what I call my "Russian Novel Effect": I hate them while I'm reading them, but love to think about them afterwards, as they unfold in my mind.)


2. Rorschach Fans, or "You didn't take the next step."
Someone on my f-list spoke about having Rorschach fans cheering and (inappropriately) laughing and hooting behind them, and they had to shush them. (Holler out in the comments, ok?)

In the viewing I attended, these sort of people were in front of me.

The amazing gore and violence caused in the fights in Snyder's movie finally made sense to me when Rorschach throws the hot grease in the face of the guy who's about to shiv him. The Rorschach fans were cheering/clapping/laughing all through this scene. This scene of someone's face excruciatingly melting off, and will eventually kill him.

Now, my mental attitude towards this went along sort of this timeline: "Breaking the glass, awesome! Grabbing the basket, cool. Kick-ass! Take that, shiv-guy! (...) OMG. That's brutal. Jebus Cripes, that guy's freaking face is melted off! That's horrible. Holy crap. I feel bad, now. Kinda sick at getting charged up in the first place."

And that realization put Dan and Laurie's alleyway fight against the KT gangers in a lot more context. Where initially, I was just thinking that Snyder was gore-ing it up because he likes that sort of thing, there's actually another layer here: the realistic (or, maybe, overemphasized) aftermath of comicbook style fights.

The thing I felt really disturbed by in the theater was that there were scattered groups of people, usually rather young (but not always), who didn't seem to reach the second part of the AWESOME/HORRIBLE two-step.

For those of you interested in such things, check out the IMdB Parental Guide for the movie here. Here's the header for the Violence & Gore section:

The violence in this movie is very bloody and graphic. While it is not shown frequently, when it is shown, the results are usually extremely graphic and brutal. Definitely not for anyone under at least 14 or 15.


3. Doctor Manhattan is a Douche.
This one's gonna ramble.

Why did he dump Janey Slater? Because she was getting old, and he wasn't. Why did he pick up Laurie? Because she was young? Doc Manhattan was having his mid-life crisis there.

Also, I think his whole "I perceive time all-at-once, not linearly" is just an excuse for him not to take any action. If everything's fated, why buck the stream? He allows himself to be manipulated by the government. He allows Blake to get carved up, and then kill a pregnant woman three feet away from him. He lets himself slip away from humanity.

Only after Ozy starts throwing tachyon-jazz around, and Doc can't see the future, and gets slammed back into linear time, does he actually get active.

IMAO, the reshaped plot that Ozy has -- make it look like Doc has blown up several major cities across the world -- is actually a better plan than teleporting a telepathic squid into New York City. (Because, in the original GN, wouldn't the world just assume that Doc would help protect them, much as America believed he'd protect them against the Russians -- not knowing he's left Earth for good?) And a really good reason this change works is because the world has seen how distant Doc Manhattan is, plus -- as far as they know -- he gives people cancer.

In other words, Ozy's plan works because Doc Manhattan is a douche, and everyone kind of knows it.


So, that's that.

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Comments
tundra_no_caps From: tundra_no_caps Date: March 9th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dr. Manhattan doesn't really see the future... he sees himself, all the time, at all times. So if something occured to him or will occur to him it's the same to him. Why he doesn't act? He already did ;)
mechanteanemone From: mechanteanemone Date: March 9th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked the movie overall. Still, I had a few nits, and one of them is that I felt that everyone's violence except the Comedian's, Rorschach's, and when it appears, Dr. Manhattan's, should have been less graphic and more comic book-y. The Comedian and Rorschach should look more psycho by comparison to everyone else, but here even Dan and Laurie get to stab people in the face. I think that was one of the few mistakes of the movie.
trooper6 From: trooper6 Date: March 9th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought he but that graphic violence in the alley on purpose...to let you know, that even though Dan and Laurie and "nice people"--they still get a sexual charge from beating people up...that really, they too aren't all that nice. That there is something wrong with all of them. And I think that Snyder doesn't want the audience to be able to sit back and just enjoy the movie.
masque12 From: masque12 Date: March 9th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
The violence in the comic book was also very graphic. The effects make it more visceral in the movie, but it's about par.

Personally, I think the violence especially need to stay graphic for Dan and Laurie, to showcase their own twistedness in donning the masks and doing what they do. I think if it had been toned down, it would have missed the point. Yes, they are the sympathetic characters of the story, but there is still something wrong with them, as with everyone else. Their ultra-violence showcases that.
nikotesla From: nikotesla Date: March 9th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm in total agreement about the violence and the "HA HA TAKE THAT YOU OH that's really... was that necessary I guess that's what this kind of fight would look like, I guess but he's just a dumb punk" process. The idea is that this is comic book violence, but the players are made out of regular human meat. Lori and Dan take advantage of that fact because they have superhero abilities.

I think the thing about Dr. Manhattan is that he sees himself at all points in his experience simultaneously, but he still has to grow into what that means. For decades, it means crushing existential crisis.

I like that Rorschach's superpower is that he's both merciless and ignorant of his own pain.

But the single thing that hit me the most in the movie was how much of a tool Lori had been. She's pretty much kept around to keep Jon pleased. So when Dan and she fuck, she's having porno sex while Dan's just this really human guy who hasn't gotten laid in a long time because he's been ashamed of himself. I.e., he's being who he is, and she's being who she's expected (and expects herself) to be.

Her identity — the one she was instructed to have, both by her mom and the Government — is to be sexy. She's adopted it and thinks it's her. She's fucking tragic.
chadu From: chadu Date: March 9th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Re: Laurie: Patrick's review that I linked at the top says this, comparing the film characterization versus the GN characterization:

Malin Akerman's Laurie Jupiter is pleasant and a touch oblivious rather than a self-absorbed demi-bitch

I'd agree with that, alongside your assessment. I don't think they contradict each other.

Hmmm... what do you mean "she's having porno sex"? That, on some level, it's an act/not real, and she doesn't realize it?

nikotesla From: nikotesla Date: March 9th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the GN, Lori's between a rock and a hard place, and she knows it. In the movie, she's been so completely manipulated that she only barely gets away from Jon. She's a demi-bitch at most in the GN. I found her human but forceful in a way that you would expect from a hero.

In the movie, she's never abrasive. She's always trying to please, and she goes from Jon, who cares about her but doesn't see the point in investing any energy into it, to Dan, who's attracted to her and badly needs a friend. So, from uncare to desperate clinginess.

And yes, I mean that she's acting in a way that will excite a man, but is insincere. It's only in contrast with Dan's expression that I saw that, by the way; if it was a really porny scene, if Dan didn't have a beer belly (that mysteriously vanished when he put on his costume, oddly), if he didn't have his awkward glasses, if his face wasn't strained and undignified while they were fucking, it would be different. But her perfect O face and gasping sounds were a sharp contrast. That's not to say that she didn't go to his house for perfectly human reasons, that she doesn't need love and attention for perfectly human reasons. It's just that her needs have been put to the use of the Army for so long that her "training" the only way she knows how to fulfill them.
(Deleted comment)
nikotesla From: nikotesla Date: March 9th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's a valid question.

I prefer her as tragic to simply rudderless, as she is in the book.
dangerousfred From: dangerousfred Date: March 10th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)
The movie really highlighted Moore's problematic depiction of women in the GN, at least for me. I agree with your assessment - Laurie never realizes that she's still living the role given to her by other people in her life. Even more so in the movie than in the GN because we never get the discussion between her and Nite Owl about a new costume that is more protective than her lingerie-cum-superduds.

WRT the violence, I got the impression that Snyder was doing a little Deconstruction of his own, showing what real violence looks like. When Batman takes on a bunch of the Joker's goons in The Dark Knight, it's cartoonish - no real damage, just hit after hit and then the bad guys are lying on the floor groaning in pain. In Watchmen, we see what happens, what has to happen when two people have to beat off 10. It was profoundly disturbing, and I'm still flabbergasted at all the negative reviews I've seen that focus on having to see Blue CGI Billy Crudup Junk in the movie and never once mention the violence.
nikotesla From: nikotesla Date: March 10th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, well, we all know how dangerous quantum dong is to the consciousness of those who go to an R-rated movie.

Violence is cool, though. Hurting people is normal.

Anyway, re: Laurie, yes.

Re: violence, yes.
biomekanic From: biomekanic Date: March 9th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Asides

The lobby poster of Ozy pissed her off - "Sacrifces sometimes have to be made". To quote her: "Great! Now I know who the villain is!"

Why does Hollywood's advertising arm have to be made of fail?

We saw it in IMAX - big screen? Nice. 12,000 watt speakers? I like being able to hear, and not have a movie damage my already damaged hearing. I'm going to pass on further IMAX screenings.

On topic:
I liked it and thought the violence was appropriate. IMO, the idea is that this is a more realistic look at superheroes, and with that comes the realistic consequences of their inherent violence. There was a lot of the fighting that had me cringing.

As for Dan and Laurie, what about them watching impatiently as Rorschach's goes to deal with, I don't know his name, the dwarf? Not exactly a fair fight as the guy cowers in the bathroom. They don't seem at all disturbed by Rorschach killing him, just irked that they'd like to get a move on.
jeffr23 From: jeffr23 Date: March 9th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Asides

In the comic, there was dialog to indicate that they simply thought that R. had to use the john. Which is still a viable reading in the movie, although you have to watch the staging carefully to see that Dan and Laurie can't see through the swinging door like the camera does.
(Deleted comment)
chadu From: chadu Date: March 9th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thing I kinda always felt a lot of Watchmen fans didn't click on enough was the fact that all of the "heroes" in the book are fucks or losers.

Does that hold true for Hollis Mason?
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
zonemind From: zonemind Date: March 9th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because Moore's a fuck.
notthebuddha From: notthebuddha Date: March 10th, 2009 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
So yea, Dr. M is a fuck

Actually, the movie Dr M is very carefully trying to be appear less than omnipotent. The whole "99% of the warheads" thing is a complete lie, based on what he does with the glass clock on Mars. If he can keep hundreds of these parts floating in precise patterns at once, he can covertly fubar any realistic number of missile silos marked with radioactive materials over the course of a few hours. He is pointedly keeping this capability hidden to avoid giving Nixon a free hand, but his restraint and lack of scale perception also prevent him from acting spontaneously at all, explaining why he "allows" the Comedian to commit atrocities.
samldanach From: samldanach Date: March 12th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. No matter how much you may disagree with Zac Snyder's vision, just remember: It could have been a SciFi Channel Miniseries Event.

2. Those are some really interesting thoughts about the violence. I'd be curious how much of that was deliberate on Snyder's part, and how much is analysis after the fact.

3. The funny bit is that, despite what he says, Dr. M is actually the one constricted by linear time. Humans view time, not as a line, but as a tree. A single, thick line behind us of the unchanging past, but an endless array of branching choices and possibilities in the future. Dr. M sees both sides as set and unchanging. IMHO that, more than anything, is what removes his humanity. He has become helplessly fatalistic, and unwilling to even try to change.

One thing that always bothered me though, even in the GN: Why does Dr. M not always know about the tachyon-created gray zone at the end of the book? Why does he get excited, as though that future didn't exist until Ozy turned on the machine? What does that say about his supposedly inflexible experience?

3a. I separated this out, because I'm not sure it's related. But, I strongly disagree that the Manhattan threat would work better than the alien threat. In the short run, sure, it would. It's more believable, and more visceral to those living "in Manhattan's shadow." But, what happens in 10 or 20 years, when there are people graduating high school who don't remember Manhattan? I mean, look around you today. The fear response from 9/11 is already fading, and that has been reinforced with terrorist attacks around the world. Dr. M will turn from visceral terror to cartoonish enemy to boogeyman. Ozy would have to use his machines to repetitively seed the world and news with actions on Dr. M's part to keep the threat fresh. Which has all sorts of issues with it, not least of which is questioning at what point his cumulative actions are still better than nuclear war.

Aliens, on the other hand, already have their own mystique. It's not one man, but a rival population. Simply "proving" that we are not alone in the multiverse has a massive psychological and sociological impact. Given that Ozy owns the dimensional research company, it also becomes trivial to seed the media with information about contacts with other intelligences and societies with can be created from whole cloth. It costs relatively little, and does no continuing damage, yet keeps the threat real. All you have to do is "prove" that breaching the dimensional rift is currently, but not inevitably, fatal. Then invasion becomes simply one technological innovation away.

I think that both World Wars should have proven to us that no single tragedy, no matter how large, can change fundamental human nature, or actually slake our thirst for war.

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