Friday, March 06, 2009

Watchmen Babies in 'V for Vacation' actually might have been preferable.

(Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for both book and movie. I would think that would be obvious, but...)

Okay, let's just ignore the fact that Watchmen was meant to be read in installments, and that by mashing everything together, you're inevitably going to miss much of the effect. Let's ignore the fact that the accumulation of detail--as exemplified by the newsstand sections and by the interstitial segments--are part of what make the comic so great, and that they can't really be transferred to the screen, or not without going six or seven hours. Let's ignore these very important points, because there are many much more important points to be made here. Basically, I was bang on target with everything I said about the movie--although to be fair, there are a few vistas of suckage I hadn't even guessed at. Let me count the ways.

Life isn't like superhero comics. If you're just an ordinary dude dressing up to fight crime, your battles aren't going to be out of superhero comics. They're going to be clumsy, ugly, and somewhat sordid. That's something you might take from Watchmen the book. Whereas what you would take from the MOVIE is "extreme violence is totally fucking sweet, dude!" Seriously, Visionary Director Zack Snyder™ takes any hint of the possibility of violence and blows it up as far as it will go. So instead of opening with the Comedian having been thrown out of a tall building, we open with a protracted fight sequence between him and a masked figure, complete with tables smashed, knives thrown around, and slow motion. So instead of an alleged assassin just shooting Veidt's assistant, instead he shoots a whole bunch of dudes, until Veidt bashes the shit ouf of him--in slow motion, natch! So when they're rescuing Rorschach, we get to watch Dan and Laurie beating the shit out of a whole bunch of dudes to a rubbishy techno soundtrack. No shit: there is slow motion in the flashback sequence where the bullies are harassing young Rorschach. It's like a fucking psychosis for Visionary Director Zack Snyder™. None of this is in the book, of course.

"They had to do this," I hear you saying. "It's what puts asses in seats for a movie like this." Which may be the case, but it also completely throws out one of the book's main points, to wit: people who would dress up to fight crime are not "heroic." At their most benign, they have deep neuroses; at their worst, they're fascists and borderline psychopaths. It would be incredibly disingenuous to claim that these stupid bullshit fight scenes don't represent, instead, a full-throated endorsement of superheroes--a point which is emphasized by the fact that they do indeed perform all kinds of superhuman feats. Sure, the story's framework remains pretty much the same, but this is a movie, and the visual rhetoric is an important--THE important--factor.

This is made all the worse by the fact that Visionary Director Zack Snyder™ is a sadistic little creep. Look at the scene where Dan and Laurie beat up some random thugs that have them cornered in an alley. In the book, this is not a hyperkinetic fight scene--it's more of a scuffle than a fight, really. The two of them may be reasonably tough, but they aren't superhuman. There's an awkwardness to it. It's not at all clear whether they actually kill any of their attackers. Whereas in the movie--hoo boy!--it's all about limbs and heads being twisted in unnatural directions, with accompanying gruesome cracking sounds. Laurie shoves a knife through a guy's neck. Seriously, Visionary Director Zack Snyder™--what the fuck is wrong with you? Way to completely and utterly miss the point; to wit: these are ordinary people. They are not brutal killing machines. But that, apparently, would have been insufficiently awesome. Or, look at the scene where Rorschach is in jail being threatened by convicts and when the henchman reaches through the bars, he ties the guy's hands together, hindering the cell-opening procedure. In the book, the other convicts cut his throat to get him out of the way. There's a splash of blood, but you don't actually see the act. Whereas in the movie, they hack off his arms with a circular saw. On camera. I don't know what possible justification there can be for this other than the fact that, to restate the obvious, Visionary Director Zack Snyder™ is a sick fuck. If he wanted to make his own original movie filled with over-the-top violence, that would be one thing. But to inflict this cheap, unpleasant creepiness on a much-beloved book? NOT COOL. Yes, Watchmen the book has violence. Obviously. But none of it is nasty and gratuitous in the way that the movie is.

Did I mention that Visionary Director Zack Snyder™ is also a homophobic shithead? 'Cause he is. You could give him sort of a pass on the homophobia and misogyny in 300, given that I'm pretty sure Frank Miller is just as twisted as he is (the best thing Miller's ever done: the cover design for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Gravity's Rainbow. That, I can tolerate. His other work? Not so much). But here, there is no such excuse. There's no notable misogyny, but homophobia...hoo boy. In the book, Ozymandias is, if anything, kind of vaguely omnisexual. He's also, to all appearances, a genuinely good guy, right up until the end. In the movie, he is GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY! Did I say "gay?" I also should say "pederastic"--when Dan breaks into his computer (an ancient Macintosh), there is a file folder entitled "Boys" on the desktop. And not just gay, but also generally petulant and unpleasant--the worst kind of stereotype. I somehow doubt that, if I came in cold, I would have had any trouble fingering him as the ultimate villain right from the beginning. He's actually one of the few characters who doesn't look eerily like his book counterpart, presumably because that guy didn't look like enough of a gay pretty-boy. Also gone is almost any indication that he is meant to be a widely-beloved public figure, naturally. See, this is just the living end. Because the added violence and over-the-top fight scenes kind of ruin the movie, but at least you can see where they would come from. On the other hand, this? It doesn't come ANYWHERE, except that apparently Visionary Director Zack Snyder™ was determined to direct two movies in a row with repulsve gay villains (Xerxes was actually the best thing about that shitpile 300, but I'm quite sure that wasn't intentional). He associates "gay" with "conniving and evil." Fuck you, VDZS™.

So they change the nature of the disaster. That in itself isn't as big a deal as some other things, but it does feel clumsy and kind of half-assed. Of course, without the Black Freighter segments there's no context for Max Shea meaning no non-awkward way to do the island bit. Of more concern is the fact that, somewhat surprisingly, the disaster is given almost no weight. The series of tableaux of death and devastation that make up a good part of the last chapter of the book are, well, devastating; in the movie there's nothing like that. Just some fairly bloodless explosions'n'shit. One gets the very real impression that VDZS™ wasn't particularly interested in the denouement. There's very little detail of the sociopolitical situation of the aftermath. I think this is because it's such an ethically murky scenario that he decided to just more or less ignore/depolicitize it. You know how towards the end of the book there's a newspaper with the headline "RR to Run in 88?" And then you learn that 'RR' refers to Robert Redford, and it's sort of cute, haha, but what it's showing is that the utopia resulting from the disaster is definitively a left-wing utopia. Whereas in the movie, there is no paper, and Seymour simply notes that Ronald Reagan is thinking of running for President in '88. Um...what? Within the context of the new world, that's just nonsensical. Either VDZS™ didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, or he's just too dim to have realized the import of that line. I'm guessing both.

But I'm saving the best for last. Remember when I predicted that non-heroic characters will become heroic? Dan is present when Manhattan kills Roschach, prompting him to let out a very "Do not want"-style "NOOOOOOOO!!!" Then, he goes back inside and--oh yes--starts BEATING THE SHIT out of Veidt, and then screaming at him for having done a bad, bad thing. I shit you not. Obviously this is especially displeasing in light of Veidt being so very gay. "Face not so pretty anymore, is it, you little faggot?" If you think there's not some of that going on--well, I think you underestimate the deeply unpleasant nature of VDZS™'s mind. But beyond that: as I noted earlier, the ease with which Dan and Laurie acquiesce to the necessity of going along with Veidt's scheme seriously morally compromises them. In the movie, there is none of that. VDZfuckingS™ could not stand this kind of lapse, apparently. You would think that, given that he was willing to have them behave in an egregiously sadistic manner that is nowhere in evidence in the book, this wouldn't bother him. What you would be forgetting, however, is that for him, gratuitous sadism is a good thing. Whereas not behaving as a superhero would behave is apparently unacceptable--in spite of the fact that the entire thrust of the book is that this kind of heroism is, at best, highly problematic. Awesome.

But hey, it looks like the book! Isn't that good enough?!?

3 Comments:

Blogger Tavis pontificated to the effect that...

So, as I recall, Seattle's The Stranger (not to be confused with Camus' novel) treated Snyder's adaptation of 300 (which added its own cruel twists to Miller's take, including all of the political side-story with its own helping of murder, prostitution, and sadism) as an oddly homoerotic army recruitment movie. Given the paper's mention of the amount of male nudity in this new movie, it wouldn't surprise me if Snyder's films aren't, to some extent, an attempt to work out his own feelings for other men.

Homophobia thinly masking homoerotic thought? What a surprise.

It may be worth mentioning that Snyder cut scenes, both finished and scripted (by himself, I think), which he felt would have taken his first movie (anohter adaptation--go figure) in too much of a buddy-comedy direction. Maybe that is the film he's always wanted to make.

2:32 AM  
Anonymous Jason W. Ellis pontificated to the effect that...

I was surprised about the similarities between the graphic fight scenes in Watchmen and Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer. Snyder apparently likes the gore.

3:50 PM  
Blogger GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Can't argue with that. I just wish he would refrain from splattering his, ahem, artistic vision all over places it has no business being.

4:22 PM  

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