Two Blondes Go To A Movie: Watchmen

Two Blondes (plus a guest “Blonde”) review a movie and mostly ramble about themselves:

We have something special for you folks today.  Today we have guest “Blonde,” Jim Campolongo, weighing in on Watchmen along with Alison and Jessica:

 

ALISON SAYS:

Jessica and I went to see Watchmen at the dome at Arclight Hollywood.  Before the movie started, Jessica turned to me and said: “I love movies.”  I agreed and we sat back contentedly (not sure if that’s a word) into our theater seats ready to watch a movie, even one that was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

I had not read the comic book series before seeing this film. I didn’t have the same expectations that some of the diehard Watchmen fans might have.  All I really knew was what I had seen in the trailer and I heard there was going to be a lot of blue dong in the film.  I had warned Jessica that I might giggle when the naked blue man appeared on screen, but some semblance of maturity must have taken over, cause I watched the movie like a grown-up rather than the twelve-year-old girl who lives inside my heart.

I thought the film rocked.  My favorite part was the amazing opening sequence.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself for all 2 hours and 45 minutes of it.  I was blown away by the cinematography, the effects, the and by the sheer spectacle of it all.   There’s a part of me that wonders if I would have enjoyed watching this film as much as I did if I hadn’t seen it in a theater like the Arclight.  I’m not sure if it would have struck the same chord.  Despite my enjoyment, I don’t think every plot point would stand up under close scrutiny.  I wasn’t that into the ending, but was so happy to be watching a movie like this in a big, beautiful theater, that I didn’t care.  Also some of the music was a little heavy-handed, but once again I was still happy and thrilled to be along for the ride.

And now for some fun random trivia regarding the people who created Watchmen.  The director, Zack Snyder, turned down a chance to direct S.W.A.T., because it wouldn’t be rated R.  I gotta give the guy props for knowing what he wants to work in. The film 300 would not have been the same if he had been forced to make a PG-13 film out of it.  And one of the screenwriters, David Hayer, played a role on the show Major Dad.

LA Viewers: If you’re into violence and comic book movies, go see it at Arclight.

Translation for non-LA natives: It’s a really cool movie to see in the theaters, but it’s long, so don’t buy a large soda.

JESSICA SAYS:

I would like to start this review out with a warning to my mother:  Mom, this is not a movie for you.  You know how you don’t like any violence or sex in movies, much less gratuitous sex and violence?  Yeah, don’t see this.  It’s not your average PG-13 comic flick.  The costumes alone would make you blush.  I’m not even going to mention the full-frontal naked blue man because I’m sure Alison has.  She couldn’t stop talking about it before the film started.

I don’t know a whole lot about comics (or graphic novels).  Maybe that’s because I’m a girl, but I think I would probably enjoy them.  I was just never exposed.  I don’t know where you would have found comic books for sale in the tiny town I grew up in.  I sort of feel like there is a whole pop culture world out there of which I’m not a part, by not knowing comics.  So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t expect any, “It doesn’t match the glory of the comic,” kind of reviews from me.

I see most of the comic-based movies when they come out, and I must say, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen recently.  All of these heroes are dark, twisty, and above all flawed.  They are almost flawed to the point that it’s hard to root for any of them.  Almost.  I was pretty won over by Patrick Wilson’s Night Owl.    It didn’t hurt that he’s pretty, besides playing the lone nice guy.

Most of all, what won me over about this film was the visual look.  It somehow manages to be slick and gritty.  It was, in a nutshell, exciting.  It probably helped a little that Alison and I saw it in the Cinerama dome at the ArcLight in Hollywood.  For those of you who don’t live in LA, the Cinerama dome is awesome.  The experience there is how movies are made to be seen.  It feels like an event.  There are ushers who come out before the show to give a little talk that is half audience warm-up and half ‘please shut off your phone’ reminders.  The screen wraps completely around your field of vision.  The sound system is overpowering (almost a little too overpowering).

I recommend you go see this move, but only if you’re old enough that all the violence and sex in this movie can’t corrupt you any more than you have already been corrupted by rock-n-roll and cable TV.  You should try to see it in IMAX or the Cinerama.

JIM, OUR GUEST “BLONDE,” SAYS:

Before we get into this review I have to admit something: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a blonde. There was one misguided attempt in seventh grade to streak my hair, but even then, the hydrogen peroxide shaded my locks a less than lovely pumpkin-vomit orange, leaving no trace of blonde anywhere except maybe within the act itself.

I will say this, though — I, like any red-blooded American male, love blondes. In spades. And I thank Alison and Jessica for the honorary club membership. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I bought those Green Day and Offspring CDs in middle school.

So without further ado, let’s get to the reviewin’…

Like a good chunk of our moviegoing public, I too saw Watchmen this weekend. And I’m baffled by my reaction. Why? Because I’m a nerd.  Before we get all accusatory here on the interweb, trust me, I’ve got the nerd cred to prove it: I still hit the comic shop every Wednesday, own multiple Batman shirts, and did not see a girl naked in real life for several years longer than I care to admit. I’ve owned the graphic novel of Watchmen for over a decade now and revere it.

So imagine my surprise when I walked out the theater thinking the movie kinda sucked.

If I subtract my bias for the material, I’m left with a film that doesn’t engage me, plain and simple.  Despite a well done set piece or two, the story lacked a sense of pace. There was no rhythm. No forward momentum. For example, just as we get an interesting helping of plot progression, the movie would pause for ten minutes to tell us how the character of Dr. Manhattan came to be. Or how anti-hero Rorschach lost his moral compass when confronted with a panty sniffing pedophile. This kind of non-linear presentation may be structurally sound in the novel, but it sure as shit doesn’t work in this film. While non-linear storytelling can be well executed in cinema, Watchmen’s dense source material plays as though its been compressed in all the wrong parts. As an average viewer, the character moments feel tangential, while the story’s mystery crawls at a snail’s pace, leaving me indifferent to both. I’m watching this thing from the POV of a dude wanting to be stimulated, but I’m feeling every second of the near-three hour runtime instead. And not in a good way.

watchmen-scream-awardsPetty stuff like plot and character work aside, I also had massive problems with the music. Every song cue, from the opening Dylan track to the closing “Desolation Row” cover, felt so damn bush league. I’m still not over the crazy laughable sex scene set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (Note to the baked film school undergrad who compiled the soundtrack: I’ve seen more subtlety on Cinemax after dark.)

All right, all right…  So I’m ragging on the flick pretty hard. But I do think it’s warranted. Remember, I’m a nerd. When I add in my bias for the source material, I remember Watchmen is supposed to be a commentary on the comic book medium itself, demystifying the idea of the superhero and showing him as a possibly psychotic, flawed, and maybe less than average being.

So why does the movie treat us to delicately choreographed fight scenes in which our heroes emerge unscathed? Where they can perform daring feats of martial arts wire trickery set to amped techno music? In presenting these guys as bad-ass crime fighters, the film becomes the antithesis of the novel’s primary themes. Leaving the geek inside of me pissed enough to order more porn on my mom’s credit card, even though I know she’s gonna see the bill and ground me again.

I guess I can only blame one person for this inevitable exile: director Zack Snyder. To be fair, I’ve never been a huge fan of the guy.  His Dawn of the Dead remake lost a lot of steam after the first ten minutes, and his follow-up 300 played like a vapid Lexus commercial for guys who won’t admit they subscribe to the Here! network. Snyder’s perception of cinematic cool has never been cerebral.  It’s always been sex, violence, and rock and roll. Which may explain why the only thing he brings to this film is excess; excess in gore, violence, and even misogyny. The attempted rape of Silk Specter, for example, is far more brutal in the movie than the novel (check out the panels if you don’t believe me). It’s unnerving to me that this is where the filmmaker decides to step in and expand upon the source material.

Truth be told, the only thing I can’t accuse Zack Snyder of is being insincere. I truly believe the guy set out to make the most faithful adaptation of Watchmen possible. I just don’t think he understood a damn word of it.

And there you have it, a nerdy non-blonde’s review of moving picture. If you liked it, hurrah. If you hated it, blame Alison and Jessica.

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