Saturday, March 7, 2009

Top 5 Things that Didn't Work in Watchmen

Part Two of a Two-Part Review

Watchmen satisfies on many levels. Considering the difficult source material and unreal public and industry pressure, it's amazing the film turned out as well as it did. But Zack Snyder's loyal translation is far from flawless. Some mistakes are worse than others - here's my list.

5. Silk Spectre II - I won't entirely condemn Malin Akerman's portrayal of Laurie Juspeczyk (called Jupiter in the film). Yes, she seemed to understate the character to an extent, and maybe the relatively-inexperienced actress wasn't quite up for the part, but I feel that the character was botched long before she got her hands on it. In the book, Laurie is far more obviously damaged. She is petty towards her mother, taking all opportunities to talk down to her. She's got a fuse as short as they come, and she is bitter over having, from her perspective, wasted her life. And while Akerman failed to present this, the script swiped away almost all of the character's finest character moments. For example, the revelation that Eddie Blake is her father was rushed and her reaction seemed to come out of nowhere. The setup was almost entirely missing. (This may be corrected in the director's cut.) Also, Laurie's poolside breakdown in Chapter XII, which so well rounds out her arc was omitted completely.

4. "Blue Balls Syndrome" - Admit it: every time Dr. Manhattan appeared on screen, where was your visual center of gravity? DISTRACTING.

3. Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter - I honestly don't know what they were thinking with this piece of casting. Carla Gugino (aged 37) managed to make every one of her lines feel unnatural. As the young Silk Spectre, she was simply not notable. But as the older Sally, the more important of the two parts, it seemed as if she was struggling just to get her lines out. Gugino failed to convey even the semblance of a character behind her (poor) makeup, inadvertently sabotaging the believability in almost all of her scenes. Luckily, her scenes were few and far between.

2. The Songtrack - It's not that the songs Snyder and his crew picked were bad songs. "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel is a classic, but over the funeral scene it seemed completely out of place. "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen is a beautiful classic, but in Dan and Laurie's sex scene, it consumes the scene completely, adding to the cheesiness of the sequence. And I don't know what "Ride of the Valkyries" was doing in this movie. The songs chosen for the Watchmen soundtrack are almost all mood-killers, jolting the viewer out of the dream. I do give props for the use of "The Times They are A-Changin'" in the brilliant opening montage. Aside from that, though, I feel that the long list of great songs on the soundtrack were each used very poorly.

1. Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt - While Matthew Goode's performance was by no means as disastrous as Gugino's, it was certainly closer to the forefront. The character of Adrian Veidt (in the source material) is simultaneously commanding and unassuming, somewhere between Donald Trump and Hugh Hefner. Goode almost managed this. But instead of charismatic, his Ozymandias seemed cold, boring and... and where the hell did that accent come from? (It vanished and reappeared more than once over the course of the film.) Even as Veidt spoke the words "I've made myself feel every death..." I found myself unable to believe him. We should believe him - Veidt isn't a "bad guy." He's not diabolical, he's trying to save the world. Matthew Goode's Veidt feels too much like a heartless villain, and that's entirely contrary to what Watchmen is about - moral ambiguity.

I know there's going to be disagreement on this. C'mon and let me here it!


rrrrrreooow! said...

As you wish.

I actually didn't hate Silk Spectre II in the movie, but I majorly disliked her in the comic. She never really had any redeming elements, and was rude to almost everyone. Right in the opening scene in the comic, she was rude to Rorschach, for no reason. And doctor made him leave for upsetting her. Not much sense, but in the movie, she was less whiny and more of a real person. Maybe her scenes and arch were a bit rushed, but I think the way she was portrayed helped her character, not harmed it.

You're right about Sally Jupiter. I was ditracted by her bad make-up job.

If Veidt is your worst complaint, I would say this movie was mostly postive. Because while the accent was a little strange, going in and out, I thought he did a decently good job. I don't think he came across as a villian as much as an egotistical prick, which is kind of what he is.

As for the soundtrack? I don't know. I think you are wrong. I didn't get a bad jolted vibe from it. I got a familiar vibe from it, something that the audience knows and feels along with the characters.

There. Picked apart like I said I would.

Dan Wilhelm said...

Meh. I agree and disagree.

Matthew Goode was a poor choice indeed. I feel as though his portrayal of Ozy was kind of a big "f-you" to moviegoers. We're not meant to know that he's the villain, but people unfamiliar with the novel can't not suspect him - he just comes off as such a douche, how could he not be the bad guy? He's not really a bad guy at all, but his portrayal and mannerisms scream "villain." He was too slimy and not nearly noble enough.

I wouldn't have thought twice about the first Silk Spectre if you hadn't mentioned her. Didn't bother me. Nixon was a worse atrocity. If there's make-up to bitch about, it was that miles-long nose of his.

I've got mixed feelings about the soundtrack, too. There are some stinkers on there (the aforementioned "Valkyries") but "The Sounds of Silence" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and I think it worked amazingly well during the Comedian's burial. I think "Hallelujah" worked well enough, though. That scene, at least to me, was always meant to be just a little less than serious. She hits the flamethrower by accident in the novel as well, adding to what I assumed was meant to be comic relief in the the novel.

Oh well. Again - if these are our worst complaints, it goes to show just how much they got right.

rrrrrreooow! said...

They should have gotten Frank Langella to do a cameo for the movie. He kicks ass as Nixon.

David L said...

I'm curious: have ANY of you seen Apocalypse Now?

I pretty much have to agree with everyone else here.

Adrian did seem a bit too cold, and that accent grated on me. But they didn't make him a full out villain, at least. I would have liked them to go into more detail about his journeys, though, because that explains a lot.

By the way, Laurie's rudeness is called a PERSONALITY TRAIT. She got it from "wasting her life." I wish they kept in her smoking habit, though.

The huge omissions from Rorschach's backstory bothered me. They don't mention where he gets the mask from or Kitty Genovese.

My biggest complaint is the lack of parallelism - remember in the graphic novel when Adrian is performing on TV while Dan is underperforming in Laurie (why, yes, I am proud of myself for saying that), or Tales of the Black Freighter (a separate DVD seems a little weak)? The closest they came was when they were beating up the thugs and Jon was talking.

Still, nothing was TERRIBLE.

Brian said...

Hated Veidt. I totally agree about how is character had nothing for me to believe in.

Loved the opening montage!

Mike! said...

Just saw the movie today. Totally missed the boat on this conversation.
I really, really enjoyed how closely it followed the novel; it was enjoyable to see how much they kept in with the psychology behind the characters, like Manhattan and Rorschach. Sure, there were some cuts, it's inevitable for that, but nothing important felt missing. As for these complaints, I do agree that Veidt did seem too sinster-seeming from the very beginning; I never really envisioned him to act or sound in the way he did, but it wasn't terrible. As for Sally Jupiter, her lines did feel stilted, but for some reason I rationalized it, like she's sitting around in this rest home thinking of these philosophical one-liners that she finally has a chance to fire off at her daughter. And some of the songs worked real well, some didn't. I loved "Unforgettable" at the beginning, "Times They are A-Changin'" at the opening montage... even some small stuff I noticed; when Veidt is talking to his associates about his plan before the would-be assassin appears, the instrumental to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is playing, which was fantastic. A real, real cool, great movie, I say.
Oh, and I didn't find Manhattan's... wing-dang-doodle to be that distracting.
I did however notice him to be uncircumcised. Good man.