Who Sees the Seemen... or whatever.
Actually, I'll get to that in a moment. First, a confession:
I didn't read "WATCHMEN" until yesterday.
I know, I know - blasphemy. I'm just not a big Alan Moore fan. I've tried to read several of his graphic novels and... I just couldn't get through them. They're so wordy. And I don't mean that there were too many words in general... just that too many were used to get something simple across. The type of language that was used made it seem like he was either trying to hard or that he KNEW he was writing something special and smiling the more he put down. And it seemed that the more people liked the book, the harder it was for me to get through.
So, frankly, I was afraid to read WATCHMEN. It's been SO hyped, so lauded, that I had a sinking feeling it would be the worst of the bunch for me. And not only did I not want to try to push through something I couldn't finish, but I didn't want to have to explain to people I hated their sacred book. It's much easier to say, "Oh, I haven't gotten around to it yet..." than to get into an argument over something that's damned near religious text.
But I was still excited about the movie, because despite my inability to get through Moore's writing style... I love his ideas. To me, and I know people will hate this comparison, but give me a chance to explain.... To me he's kind of like... George Lucas....
George Lucas of the mirror universe, anyway.
They're both idea men. They come up with these grand themes and stories using familiar archetypes that speak to a LOT of people. George created analogues of fantasy and Kurasawa characters. Alan Moore, in the case of WATCHMEN, created analogues of Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question, Peacemaker, and other old Charlton Comic characters. George used his analogues to tell hopeful stories that tugged at people's hearts, while Alan used them to tell gritty stories to tug at their brains. And Lucas underwrote his stories while Moore overwrote them.
So, I was hoping that like with the original three Star Wars films where George had help from other writers and directors, that Zack Snyder would be able to give me Moore's story in a way that I could enjoy and still get all of the ideas and themes of the book.
But then, yesterday morning came. I was discussing this with friends on twitter and reviews were coming in about how certain things were changed while others were EXACTLY alike and I realized, I wouldn't have ANY point of reference for that inevitable discussion.
So, just before noon I decided I'd start it...
And just before 8 p.m., I finished it.
If you couldn't tell by my reading it in one sitting, I freaking loved it! Couldn't put it down!
For me, did it live up to the hype? Was it one of the 100 greatest novels of all time? The greatest comic of all time?
But it was really frakking good. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
My opinion about Moore hasn't changed. He was emulating and lampooning an entire genre so the characters spoke quicker than his usually do and their internal monologues weren't pages long. But, he still threw stuff in there that really slowed it down for me like the comic within the comic "The Black Freighter." Oh god did I gloss over at those parts. It was "typical Moore" to me - interesting, but my eyes glazed the more the internal monologue droned on. And though I understand why it was there, I still felt it was completely superfluous. I only made it through those parts because it was inter-cut with the superhero stuff.
Now, the movie... It was the comic on screen without the stuff that I didn't like much so I loved it. I loved the pacing, I loved the actors, I love the effects. I even, blasphemy of all blasphemes, loved the ending change - even though I was completely prepared to hate it.
After I read WATCHMEN yesterday, I checked the reviews and the one thing that people agreed on was they didn't really like that the mcguffin was changed from the squid to Doc Manhattan. They either loved the movie until the ending which RUINED it for them... or they hated that one part, but it wasn't enough to ruin the movie - they loved it DESPITE that change.
I misunderstood part of the reviews, though - I thought reviewers were saying that somehow Ozy convinced Doc Manhattan to destroy New York City - which made NO SENSE TO ME WHATSOEVER. So I was waiting for that moment and I wondered if the first two hours of the film would be awesome enough for me to overlook that obvious misstep.
Only, that's not what happened... In the end, even with the change the only thing that was really different were some visuals and a few words. So, I thought about it and I wasn't upset... I was just confused by the change. It didn't HURT the story so I it didn't hurt my love of the movie... but it still left me feeling a little off...
Until I thought about it on the way home and it suddenly clicked. Partly because of one review I read where the reviewer mentioned that someone asked him if WATCHMEN the movie was a satire of comic book MOVIES like WATCHMEN the comic was a satire of comic BOOKS. The reviewer's response was that they didn't know on first viewing, they'd have to watch it again.
I don't think that it fully does to comic book MOVIES what the original did to comic books and I don't think it could and still be as faithful an adaptation as it is. But it's still a PRODUCT of comic book movies... and the world we live in today.
The costumes in the book are typical superhero costumes made of spandex and cloth. The movie costumes are right out of comic book movies made of latex and rubber.
In the comic, Ozy's plan is to create an alien threat to unite the world. He teleports a giant squid into New York City that explodes and destroys half the population. This works perfectly for the comic. It's a huge crazy visual of a creature right out of comics that's so insane, it's awesome.
For the movie, Ozy recreates Doc Manhattan's power to destroy several cities in the US and Russia, making Doc the common enemy. This angers fans for several reasons. One, they understandably miss the squid and two, instead of Doc Manhattan leaving the galaxy because he lost his one connection to humanity, it's because he's now the "perceived" villain and his staying would ruin the plan.
But, I like this ending - not better than the comic - just for the movie. And there are a few reasons. Once again this is an adaptation of the comic book, but a product of comic movies. In a world where we make an X-Men movie where no one flies, this makes total sense. Our comic movies, though fantastical, still try to ground themselves in strange ways. There seems to always be a "too far" for them. They are willing to suspend disbelief only SO much. For the audience, we're already asking them to accept superheroes, to throw a fake giant exploding squid on that might be the too far for this movie. And I'm not arguing that having that line is GOOD - I'm just saying that it makes it fit in with the other movies in the way that WATCHMEN fit in with the other books.
But oddly enough, BECAUSE studios are only willing to ask their audience to suspend disbelief so far... I can toally buy Ozy doing the same thing. The people in the movie accept heroes, they accept Doc Manhattan, because they see them every day. Creating an unknown enemy - an alien creature - something totally new might be too hard for them to swallow. We live in an age of skepticism (excluding major religions). The War of the Worlds broadcast wouldn't accidentally scare people today. So the choice to unite the world against a common enemy they already know makes sense to me.
Plus, when I thought about it - as cool as the squid was... I don't think it would have succeeded as a plan. The point was to have everyone band together because of a threat - but there's a scene where a newscast explains they don't think the aliens will return. They compared the squid to a bee feeling threatened due to accidentally finding itself in our dimension and giving it's life with a final bee sting. Since America was the only country affected by the attack, and the feeling was that this might not happen again, there's no reason the comic Russians wouldn't use it as an opportunity for their gain.
By making Doc Manhattan, a very literal god-like character, the mcguffin and having it affect cities around the world.... Not only does it put everyone in equal danger, but in a danger that is always there. They KNOW what Doc is capable of and they know that he's out there watching, waiting for humanity to just give him a reason. So, it makes total sense to me that it would cow those who worshipped him and band together the governments. It's not enough to have peace, they would have to work together to be prepared for the "just in case" scenario of Doc Manhattan's possible return.
The movie wasn't perfect, of course. What movie is? But it was mostly small stuff for me. The only REAL big issue I had was with Doc Manhattan's perception of time. They explained HOW he perceived time, but not why he reacted linearly.
There's a moment in the graphic novel where someone asks why he was surprised when he found out his friends had cancer. Since he perceives all of time simultaneously, shouldn't he have already known they had cancer? He gives a quick explanation - I don't remember what he said exactly, but it was enough to give me an idea.
I think that Doc Manhattan exists out of time and our perception of him is like that of a two dimensional being perceiving a sphere. A sphere cannot completely exist in two dimensions. So, if you were to take a sphere and pass it through a two dimensional plane, what would it look like to a being that existed in that plane? Take a ball and pretend like you're pushing it through a piece of paper. It would start of as a single dot on the page. As you pushed it through the dot would look like a circle that got bigger and bigger until you got to the sphere's center, then it would get smaller and smaller. Even though the sphere exists in three dimensions, the two dimensional beings can only interact with the whatever part happens to be in their plane at a given time.
In the same way, Doc Manhattan may exist outside of time so that he experiences it all at once, that he reacts all at the same time... but we perceive it linearly. He may have access to the knowledge of his friends' fate, but we do not perceive his emotional response - his reaction - until WE get to that point. We're essentially pushing him through the piece of paper.
In the movie he never even addresses this, so you can't even begin to either theorize. Doc explains that about the tachyons blocking his view of a certain time period, but when he's surprised about his friends - there's no tachyons, and no explanation as to why it comes as a shock.
That's not a very big thing for some people, but I LOVE time travel and time perception rules. And to leave them out makes it seem like a deus ex machina, when it's really not. It makes a weird sort of sense to me in the graphic novel, but not in the movie.
The most interesting thing to me about this movie, though, was my audience. This was the first time I've seen a movie where the reaction of the crowd made me realize that I wasn't just watching a movie, but that I was watching a movie in Alabama. I don't know WHY this is the first time I've encountered this phenomenon, but it is. The first realization came during the opening credits when there was a lesbian kiss. Several people - not one, not two, not three, but quite a bit of people all said, "Ewwww!" or "Ugghhhh!!"
Come on, Bama. Get with the 21st century. *headdesk*
There were quite a few moments like that. Though some might be more universal, but because of the extra moments I got due of my region, it kinda made them more annoying. Like, every time someone had sex, people laughed. And not just when it was supposed to be funny and awkward. It was like, "Superheroes are having sex! OMFG HA HA HA!" And I'm like...
But the worst was every single time Doc Manhattan's schlong was onscreen, people giggled.
Grow up, people. It's a penis. Half the people on the planet have them. I've actually read lots of complaints about this. Most people didn't demand a change like making him wear pants, they just wanted strategically cropped shots, etc... Honestly, I'm GLAD they didn't crop the shots. I'm tired of seeing movies where they go out of their way to frame shots so that parts don't show - and not just men, women too. I'm sorry but if you just had sex with someone and you're married to them, you're not going to go out of your way to hold on to the covers to hide your breasts.
People have sex, they have penises and vaginas and boobies, get over it.
Yes, they can be titillating, and that's fine by me. And that's another reason I'm glad the penis was there - because I'm an equal opportunity exploitationist. I want to see boobies, but it's not fair that I get to see boobies while girls don't get to see penises. So if all I have to do to see more boobies is to watch a movie with a penis or two, that's FINE BY ME!
But seriously, it's an R rated movie where the nudity made total sense for the character and they didn't compromise any shots just because there was a blue dong in the frame, so I say HUZZAH to them.
I have a ton more thoughts about the movie and the book, but it's so freaking late and I'm tired and I think I need to digest it some more and maybe even see it again.
And again... and again... AND AGAIN!
(Can you tell I liked it?)