Friday, March 6, 2009


It takes a lot to get me to a movie theater these days. I don't like watching movies with a crowd of people. But I couldn't wait for Watchmen to come out on home video, so I went to an afternoon showing yesterday.

I've found that I'm not very good at writing movie reviews except with respect to movies that I really hate (e.g., Marie Antoinette, Inland Empire), so I'll just say: This movie kicks ass.

But some further thoughts of a more meta- nature are appropriate here.

I've never been one to get into comic books, but I was persuaded to read the Watchmen graphic novel a few months ago. It's the most well-regarded book in its genre, and it even made Time's list of the 100 greatest English novels (1923-present). I liked it a lot, and was -- along with all the fanboys -- really looking forward to seeing how it would turn out on film.

Since I saw the movie, I've been reading lots of reviews. While the response from critics has been all over the map in terms of how good or bad the movie is, there's one thing they all agree on: the movie is the most faithful to its source material of any movie of its kind. The term "slavishly devoted" has appeared in several of the reviews I've read.

A lot of reviewers have seen this as a major flaw, but in my mind anything other less than slavish devotion would have been an abomination. Furthermore, all the negative reviews I've seen (there are many) seem to miss the point of the movie (and of the comic) entirely. The focus of these reviews revolves around two main criticisms: the movie is (a) too dark, bleak, and unsettling, and (b) too violent.

As but one example, see the NYT review. On the first point, it denigrates the movie for its tone with, among others, the words: "dank", "grimy", "downcast", "gloomy", "world-weary", and "misanthropic". To which I say: duh, you idiot, it's a set in a fucking dystopia! Would this same criticism apply to Blade Runner? Or Soylent Green? Or Brazil? Or, for that matter, No Country for Old Men?

And too violent? Really? I guess The Dark Knight -- a superhero comic-book movie that received virtually unanimous acclaim -- has just the right amount of violence? This is just dumb.

That's not to say that there's nothing in Watchmen to criticize. The sex scene was IMO terrible. Some of the music choices were questionable. And a handful of the scenes -- in a 2.5 hour movie -- were a bit clunky. But this stuff is just nitpicking. Overall, this is an outstanding piece of work. Probably better in its way than The Dark Knight or the LOTR movies. And I just have to laugh when I see people comparing it to the Spiderman movies. There just is no comparison.

If you want to see well-considered review by someone who appears to understand what he's talking about, I recommend this one.

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