Friday, March 06, 2009

We Watched the Watchmen*

Last night Li'l Random and I headed to the Movie Tavern for the midnight screening of Watchmen. When I bought the tickets a few days earlier, the guy suggested we get there by 10:30 or 11:00, and that they'd probably start seating at 11:00. I, being a perpetual early bird, got there about 10:15, and there were a handful of people already there and waiting; Li'l Random showed up right at 10:30, which is when the bulk of the people started to flow in; by 10:45 the lobby was incredibly crowded. They did indeed start seating at 11:00, but only allowed 20 people in at a time, allowing enough time in between each wave for people to find seats and possibly order their food. Li'l Random and I wound up barely missing the first cut, but were the lead offs of the second wave and so were easily able to get seats in our regular spot; I think it took most of that hour before showtime to get everyone in and seated.

One of the things I like about going to the Movie Tavern on premiere nights is that there are usually a couple of their wait staff dressed up as characters from the movie; last night there was a Silk Spectre and a Rorschach. I did turn to Li'l Random and remark that if someone showed up painted blue and in a speedo (or worse), I was out of there; when I mentioned this fact to Zinger this morning, he posited that that guy was there, but that I just didn't see him because he was too busy cooking in the back. Thanks for the nightmare fuel, Zinger!

The crowd was pretty lively leading up to the show starting, and Li'l Random wondered if we were going to have to sit through that the whole time; I assured him that from the rabid fangirl conversation I had overheard in line before he got there, there was at least one scrappy female who would be willing to crack some heads if they got in the way of her enjoying the film experience. Still, the concern seemed like it might be justified when the trailers started and the promo for Wolverine: Origins started; have never heard such clamor over a trailer in my life. The noise level continued through the Terminator: Salvation trailer as well, but died off when the movie itself started . . . mostly. There was one idiot who kept making whooping noises early on during the initial fight scene and Rorschach's investigation, but someone near him yelled at him to shut up, and despite a quick rebuttal along the brilliant lines of "No, you shut up!" the troublemaker shut his pie hole, and we made it through the rest of the film with no other incidents -- except, that is, for some distractions provided by the girls seated on either side of Li'l Random and myself.

The girl seated near Li'l Random spent a good portion of the last quarter of the film sounding like she was about to cough up her lungs, which always makes for an enjoyable experience for all involved, but at least her significant other seated in between her and Li'l Random served as a bit of a buffer. The girl seated right next to me, however, was slightly more distracting as two thing quickly became apparent: (1) She was incredibly squeamish when it came to blood and gore, and (2) That said squeamishness took the form of much squirming, squealing, and whimpering for the duration of the bloody sequence. And while the film was far from a non-stop gore-fest, director Zack Snyder definitely didn't shy away from ramping up the brutality factor when violence was called for.

As for the movie itself, well, I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I thought that on the whole Snyder did a good job adapting a very difficult text. Was it perfect? Hardly, although I can probably chalk some of my problems to being such a big fan of the comic that when Snyder's interpretation didn't quite jibe with my own, I found it jarring; most of those moments revolved around Ozymandias. Not quite sure what it was, but the movie version of Veidt rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. On the flip-side, pretty much every scene with Rorschach was pure gold, as Jackie Earle Haley (probably best known for his role as the rebellious Kelly Leak in the original Bad News Bears films) managed to perfectly capture the spirit of my favorite character from the book.

Much has been made among the comic geek world about the ending of the film, which differs from the book; I have to say that, from my point of view, the culmination of the villainous plot in the movie works just as well as that of the book, if not more so, but I know your mileage may vary on that one.

On the whole, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, as did Li'l Random, although it's interesting to me that we came at this enjoyment from two vastly different areas. After all, for him this was a new story, whereas for me it was simply a long awaited adaptation of a work that I have read countless times since I first got a copy of the trade paperback for Christmas of 1988. Yes, that's right, it's been 20 years since I first read Watchmen; if that doesn't make me feel old, nothing will. Anyway, those of us comic geeks who have basically grown up in the aftermath of Watchmen have become a bit jaded to its deconstruction of heroics what with the preponderance of grim'n'gritty books that followed, but to someone whose only real exposure to super-heroics is TV and Movies, the overly humanized heroes here are something of a revelation.

I really hope some more of my non-comic-geek friends see it soon; I'm incredibly curious to see how the bulk of the uninitiated react to it.

*For the record, in my head that title has the word "Watched" pronounced with two distinct syllables: "We Watch-Ed the Watchmen." Why? Partly because the meter better matches the original quote that way, and partly because it amuses me. Okay, mostly because it amuses me.


Starrlett said...

Saw it yesterday morning (yeah, what an interesting church alternative, right?) with Alex and another pal, neither of which have read it.

I, having read it, enjoyed it quite a bit--especially the casting and costumes, and you're right, Rorschach was brilliant. Veidt also seemed... off to me. I wasn't sure if that was that his costume was the least like the original, or that he seemed a little gaunt, or what. The jury's out on the ending for me--it does tie back into the story more effectively than the original ending, but it loses some of the bizarrity of the original that I think was the point. Hmm. Still not sure.

Alex and pal both enjoyed it, but said they'd need more time to absorb it. Alex said it was more predictable than he expected, but I think that's because the "genius" bits we rave about in the comic have to do more with juxtaposition of images, or of word and image, which you can't really pull off in a movie. The plot itself isn't as much the point, at least not for me. Plus, I told him the plot was a lot more revolutionary in the 80's, before we had the Marvel "Civil War" take off on a similar theme--not to mention countless other similar comic themes--and modern comic-book movies like Spiderman 2 and Dark Knight, that have a grittier real-world feel than the movies of the 1990's.

Erm... I meant to say, "we also enjoyed the movie." The end. :)