Saturday 14 March 2009

i believe I have lately admitted to myself that I do not care for Hollywood and its product, and I have resolved that before i start advancing into old age i should allow myself to be more opinionated. When You see comic book content having to be dumbed down in order to be turned into movies, you know that something is wrong with the world. To start with, what's all this stupid business about giving Dr. Manhattan a circumcision, when he was not portrayed thus in the book, and turning him into beefcake? He was based on the classical ideal of proportions expounded in Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man:

The circumcision is therefore another slice of American baloney. To suggest that he made himself thus because, faced with unlimited choices, he chose that which was fashionable (a justification I have just read on a discussion forum), is to turn a sophisticated idea into a commonplace one. Man imitates the gods after all, not the other way around. And all that musclebound stuff came in when the Image artists started referencing the body-building mags. In Classical anatomy, that look was reserved only for Hercules.

email from Hayley Campbell: (WATCHMEN SPOILER ALERT)

cal's right, it really is sparta.

saw watchmen yesterday.

the first five minutes are amazing. in the credits they do 5 second bits about what happened in the past. there's dollar bill slumped against the bank, his cape caught in the revolving door (the one he wouldn't have designed for himself only the bank wanted something iconic, remember?). there's mothman being dragged off to the loony bin. there's silhouette kissing a pretty nurse at the end of the war then being found dead in bed with her, old fashioned flash bulbs exploding above them. the design of it all is so perfect it's gobsmacking.

then it starts. most of it is such a carbon copy of the book that some of what alan's saying gets across by accident. it's kind of like someone with no sense of humour retelling a joke he heard once. some lines are taken out of context and you remember them from the book so you KNOW they're a good line, you KNOW they made sense and had a purpose once but without that it's probably just another 'i gave birth to the 20th century'. i wonder if the movie makes a glimmer of sense to someone who's never read it. i re-read it so recently that i'm not sure if stuff was in the film or if i just remember it so vividly from the book.

i liked the way the violence in the book was implied rather than seen. the worst we saw was a man getting his fingers bent backwards. in the movie we see arms broken in half, the skin splitting open and bone shards shooting past the camera. when they fight the comedian in the beginning to toss him out the window it's as if his entire apartment has been dipped in liquid nitrogen -- they throw him against a wall and it shatters. they slam him against what looks like a marble bench top and he leaves a head-shaped hole. everyone seems to be full of 90 pints of blood. when the dogs fight each other for a bone in the book it's just a long bone - it's up to us to realise the true horror of it all. in the movie, it's a leg bone with a frilly sock and a small pink shoe on the end. it's all there, it's just so fucking obvious.

but the worst bit - the bit that keeps replaying in my mind which means i can't look away - was the sex in the owl ship. jesus fucking christ. WHO'S FUCKING IDEA WAS IT to play 'hallelujah' when poor ol' dan sorts out his willy problems? i would have suggested that in the meeting as a JOKE. HALLELUJAH HE'S FINALLY NAILING THE SILK SPECTRE! the bird who plays the silk spectre, incidentally, is one of the worst actresses i've seen in a long time. but back to the sex scene: it goes on for ages. i think they used every verse and chorus in the cohen song and we all know that goes on for 3 weeks. there's the close-up of spectre coming against the dashboard, pull-out (oo-er) to a wide shot of nite owl thrusting just as the choir sings 'hallelujah'. the timing. they did it on purpose. oh it's awful. it's so, so awful. offensively obvious the lot of it.

there were lots of things, little human details, that were skimmed over for the sake of time (it wasn't janey's watch jon went back to get - the one that got broken on the pier - it was his own, we don't see the psychiatrist having problems with his wife, we don't get to listen to the newsstand vendor telling us what he thinks, nor do we see kovacs going to buy his new frontiersman so that when rorschach's face is revealed you didn't see enough of him to go 'oh, he's that guy.') but if they cut the bogus fight scenes in half they could have fit so much more stuff in. my favourite bits in the book were the tiny details. when veidt says 'bubastis...forgive me' and she says 'owr?' before she's exploded. i liked that. in the movie he says 'sorry, girl.' but she's so busy menacing dr manhattan she doesn't notice.

they changed the ending. i think it probably makes more sense. it's a far more likely scenario (as comics go) than having an island full of artists designing a cthulhu. but it wasn't as ridiculous and lovable. i wanted a squid, i just got another BANG! THWAP! BOOM! explosion. once again the movie has turned out more comicbooky than the comic ever was.

but the thing i think most reviewers are missing is that dr manhattan has no scrotum. it's amazing. he's a eunuch. that's why laurie left him, i reckon.

and that's my two cents.

Thanks for letting me use it, Hales.

In summary, I wouldn't say that a good movie is an impossibility. In the realm of the classics, Branagh made a great version of Hamlet that was able to incorporate old brit tv stand-up comic, Ken Dodd as Yorick. Negative reviews were few and nitpicky. And in the popular realm, J K Rowling stuck to her guns and now there is a whole series of Harry Potter movies that, once again barring a few nitpickers, has not failed to please the fans. And I guess that's what keeps fools like me from completely writing off the idea of the screen adaptation, apart from the fact that the world of comics is about as dumb a world as you could hope not to live in. However, I believe that trying to make superheroes, which are but graphic symbols, stylised and colour-coded, look real on film, is as absurd as the person dressed up as Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. High camp is the only way to do it, like the old Batman tv show, which I loved as a kid. Scenes like the Penguin fixing the races by throwing itching powder around the stables so that several horses had to be 'scratched'. Or Batman calling police headquarters to say that he was trapped in a giant cookery book at the corner of Broadway and Fifth. (or some such coordinates). Not that I could be bothered watching them again, mind you. I'd rather be thumped on the top of my head.

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Blogger Matthew Adams said...

I would probably have to agree with Hayley's review (probably one of the first intelligent reviews on it i have seen).

I actually came out of the cinema feeling that I liked the movie, or that I had to like the movie (for various reasons, including not disapointing friends with another negative review of a movie that they liked, and wanting to keep those friends). I didn't care too much for people disliking the movie because it too slavishly followed the book (I heard that quite often) because if it hadn't followed the book so closely, the same fanboys would have hated it. Poor dumb Snyder was in a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't position, which makes me now think the simplest solution for him would have been to not make this movie. What Hayley wrote set off a lot of lightbulbs in my head as to what I secretly felt was wrong with the movie (I won't mention this to my friends as they are more important to me then a silly movie), which actually made me feel rather silly about proclaiming my like for it.

Either that, or I am just a fickle whore, easily persuaded.

Though I am not quite sure why everyone hates the leonard cohen song, or do they just hate it's rather inappropiate misuse in this and other movies?

15 March 2009 at 07:38:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Hawthorn said...

Was he circumcised? I just thought it was the outline of the glans through the foreskin.

Wow, remember when the conversation here was about what was an appropriate use of the term "Graphic Novel"? Now we're like "How about the glans on Dr. Manhattan?"

Anyway, I thought whatever else about the movie, it was brave of them to include a naked Dr. Manhattan at all. It was also a good measurement for how mature your fellow audience was to see how many people giggled uncontrollably whenever he was on screen.

15 March 2009 at 20:45:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that sums up the film is Dr. Manhattan's vocal delivery.

Being a Rhode Island boy in the Greater World, I'm sensitive to the assimilation of people with ridiculous East Coast accents. I've always assumed that a scientist from Brooklyn would lose much of his accent while retaining very noticeable traces of his general point of origin.

As the existence of Dr. Manhattan was, roughly, God pretending to be a human, one can reasonably conjecture that he would attempt to retain as much of his original voice as possible. This, then, is one of the better jokes of the original-- God has a New York accent. Shades of Kirby and Lee.

In the film, Manhattan talks like every alien from every cheesy SF/Horror film of the last 50 years; a blank affectation, like a heroin addict from Jupiter. This is, of course, exactly what a mass audience would expect-- big blue God guy talks like a zombie from the stars.

And it is in the details where the adaptation fails over and over and over again. Frankly, the original does not succeed in its major thematic goals-- everything creaky about the book is in its most overt political/cold war statements. Its many, many successes are in its nuance-- every panel contains an unexpected twist or tweaking or an attention to the right visual or character detail.

The film lacks any subtly or nuance, and makes everything stupid, even down to incredibly fundamental things like Rorschach saying "Your hands. My pleasure." One word change alters the entire meaning of the character-- a meaning that one suspects escaped the director/screewriter.

This is the Xenophon version of Watchmen, a dumb guy doing his interpretation of smarter guys' ideas, getting the broad strokes mostly right and losing all meaning in the process.

16 March 2009 at 02:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks, jarett.
I guess we have a consensus that Watchmen is in the details.
ps./ love your blog. trying to place that artist on the Heart Throbs piece.

16 March 2009 at 04:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Aaron White said...

Terry Gilliam considered making a Watchman movie, but instead made films like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys. I believe these films include every aspect of Watchman that Gilliam could have gotten into a film, but are better than a Watchman adaptation because they

1. have their own identity,

2. don't inflict a Watchmen movie onto the Watchmen and the world.

Reminds me of the time I watched Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education and thought it was a better Lolita film than either of the Lolita films.

16 March 2009 at 09:37:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the kind words-- if you place the artist, please do let me know!

17 March 2009 at 06:36:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Martin Conaghan said...

Hi Eddie,

I can't seem to find a means of contacting you on your blog, so sorry if this is in the wrong place.

It's a long shot, but you might be able to help me out with something. Could you drop me a quick line at this address (I'm disguising it to avoid spambots picking it up).

The second part of my email address is: @copydesk dot co dot uk

The first part is 'martin'.

(I hope that makes sense).


Martin Conaghan

17 March 2009 at 07:02:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Terry Gilliam considered making a Watchman movie, but instead made films like Brazil"

How remarkably prescient, to make the film five years before he abandoned Watchmen and two years before the comic was published!

17 March 2009 at 22:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Aaron White said...

Hey, Gilliam's ahead of the curve.

18 March 2009 at 08:21:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Stephen said...

Branagh made a great version of Hamlet that was able to incorporate old brit tv stand-up comic, Ken Dodd as Yorick. Negative reviews were few and nitpicky

I remember mostly liking the film -- particularly the setting, and the decision to use the complete text. But I must admit that what I remember most is one of the (very nitpicky) things that I disliked. So, to nitpick:

I really hated the way Branagh delivered the line "words, words, words". Obviously these things are fully open to interpretation (by actor and director, same in this case), but I always thought it should be delivered all of a piece -- preferably flat, bored: What are you reading? Words, words, words. But the three varied readings Branagh did... ugh.

By the way, speaking as someone who hasn't seen the movie, I liked Haley's review a lot. But I really think she needs to lay off the e e cummings.


19 March 2009 at 22:47:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I walked out of Watchmen after about 90 minutes with the realisation I never want to watch a Hollywood blockbuster ever again.

It had everything comptemptible about Bush-era movies (yeah it was made when he was still president). Some examples:

-The 'titilating' cleavage close-ups before the rape scene.
-The sadism cranked-up to an inane level (torture porn time!).
-The way the Viet Nam war was announced with 'Ride of The Valkeries' - presumably because us idiots only know of the war via movies.
-The way Ozymandias - implied as gay by a rabidly right-wing character in the book - is introduced fondling the Village poeople on his way into a leatherboy bar.
-The sex scene was filmed by someone who only seems to know sex from lapdancing and web porn
-Irritating 'bullet-time' fight sequences and the way the texture of the movie looks like a videogame/OS - probably to advertise its spin-off game.
-All humour, satire, political nous or imagination of original subsumed by the ego of yet another overgrown 12-year old with an equally contemptible hit under his pants (the revolting '300').

People tell me I was just too attached to the original - maybe, but this movie shows that U.S. popular culture is as moribund as its economic system.

21 March 2009 at 14:55:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

well said. Especially about the sex scenes. I've walked out of movies for the same reason. I wish you'd signed your name.

I'm told Silk Specter drops fifty feet from the owl ship wearing high heels, which she may well be wearing in the original, but it's one of those things where once you start doing it with real people you realise is completely insane.

21 March 2009 at 16:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Milo George said...

hey eddie,

Hope all's well. Your email account is bouncing -- could you drop me a line? Thanks!

-- milogeorge gmail com

1 April 2009 at 12:52:00 GMT-5  

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