A Good War or Uneasy Peace

Back in high school, my science teacher used to ask the class one at a time, what we’d rather have; a good war or an uneasy peace.

As you thought about this question, your eyes would move primarily to the left or to the right signaling which side of the brain was dominant. In my case, (and very much to my surprise) I was more attuned to left brained thinking than right, paving the way for more analytical, objective and rational thought.

So, with that said — the moment at the end of Watchmen was not completely lost on me which suggested an uneasy peace against a common enemy would be far more beneficial than an all out nuclear war which would destroy humanity all together. (Whew, run on!) It was an understandable and rational way to maneuver events.

Despite getting what the story was trying to accomplish, I guess it was everything else that bothered the shit out of me. Before you ask, no. I didn’t read the comic, graphic novel. I did know about its existence, but it wasn’t something high on my priority list. And yes, I understand that Zach Snyder was utterly faithful to each comic frame.

He should have cheated.

I have to admit, I did really enjoy the opening of the movie. The title sequences set to the one music track I could stomach was pretty engaging. Except of course, the shooting of JFK by The Comedian – that one had me going WTF? Yes, I understand the whole Comedian working for the Gov’t and hence giving weight to the whole conspiracy theory, but really, Zach. You had to go there? I’ll give that scene credit for being one of the only ones that actually made me feel anything, though…and it was mostly disgust.

My main issue was continuity. It was like back story, story, current, past, past, bad music, past, story, wtf, violence, gore, gore, bad music, sex, back story, future, past, current. It was almost like anytime I even had the inkling of caring about someone, the short and quirky scenes would jump to the next setup and pretty soon I wanted to vomit like Laurie every time she was teleported by Dr. Manhattan.

Another main issue was the soundtrack. Music may not be high on your priority list when you see a movie, but it is on mine. Movies that have really good sountracks are generally movies that move me. It’s one of the first things I remember about a film and I’m really sad to say, that whomever picked the diddies for this failure should be relieved of duty.

“Ride of the Valkeries” by Wagner during a Vietnam scene? Totally threw me out of the seriousness of the moment. Score from Snyder’s other movie ‘300’ would have worked substantially better here. All I could think about at this particular moment in time was the scene in Blues Brothers when the nazis fly off the bridge (you know being that this song was written by one of Hitler’s favorite musicians). Yes, I saw the references to Nixon with the swastikas throughout the movie, but this effort in pairing music with that particular scene tried too hard to tie in the political maneuvering to win the war in Vietnam and ended up failing completely.

I didn’t think it could get any worse of course until “Hallelujah” started ringing through my eardrums during the Silk Spectra II and Night Owl love scene. What a mood killer. It what could have been a completely erotic scene, the music completely killed any stimulation for me.

Nena’s “99 Luft Balloons” was okay but it felt like an afterthought. “Ooh, let’s throw in a song about paranoid elected officials willing to destroy the world because of a children’s toy”. Bah. Yeah,the movie was set in the 80’s, yeah, it was a great song, but unlike peanut butter and chocolate, these two great tastes did not go well together here.

I don’t know. I really wanted to like this movie, but this was one of the few movies in which I wanted out. Violence, gore and sex really don’t bother me in ultra-stylized movie adaptations because they are usually not too believable. (It’s the good horror and war movies that make me squeamish.) So it wasn’t because of those elements, it was the fact that after almost 3 hours, I didn’t care about anything or anyone in the movie. Not even the millions who die in the end to save the billions. I was like, eh. Whatever.

Oh and I have to say, I had a really hard time not looking down at Dr. Manhattan’s blue happy man. Usually I’m very adult when I go to movies, but frankly, it was the only interesting thing on the screen. It also doesn’t help that every time the camera would pan back and you could see the Doctor’s body, the teenagers in the theater would giggle.

Eh. Go see it if you must, but I really won’t be surprised if you don’t like it. Don’t try to convince yourself that you do either, I tried. It doesn’t work.

(Btw – I went and saw The Reader, with Kate Winlset right after this. Despite its tone, it actually moved me in ways I can’t describe.)

9 thoughts on “A Good War or Uneasy Peace

  1. Vince says:

    Having read the graphic novel, I’m not sure I want to see the movie. It’s not that the movie won’t be the graphic novel – no movie can be entirely faithful to any book – LOTR being an example that, like Kate, I enjoyed and thought was, for the most part, quite good. It’s that I’m not getting much positive feedback on the movie from either those who liked the graphic novel (I did, but I’m not a fanatic about it) and those who didn’t, like Kate.

    Cultural references are fine, and yes, I would get the reference to “Apocalypse Now.” But you better make sure that your references won’t be missed by most of your audience. From everything I’ve read, the movie was aimed at just the graphic novel fans, or given the price tag, I hope it wasn’t. No, references to have to be caught by all the audience, but they better be relevant ot the vast majority, or what’s the point of doing them?

    I think noting such a problem is very relevant in a review. If a movie is full cultural references that a significant portion of the audience is missing, then they’re not going to get a portion of whatever the movie’s message is.

    And if the movie is marketed wrong, then noting why you may not want to see the movie is absolutely valid. If I go to see a movie I should know will have refernces I’m going to miss, that’s on me. If I go to a movie that I should be able to enjoy regardless of mmy age/background/what I have or haven’t read, and I don’t get the refernces, that that’ on the movie.

    And Eric, Peter Jackson is a good director. There was just no need to remake King Kong with the only difference being better special effects. Well, and Jack Black. But I admit I’m not a Jack Black fan ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. ed says:

    I didn’t read the book, I don’t know the plot points and where it was deconstruction and where it was irony, but they should have changed the ending cause I didn’t like it.

    The only reason it got made was because people loved the original. All we do as a movie watching society is bitch and moan about books being butchered for pulp movies… Remember watching the first LoTR with about 20 rabid tolkien fans?

    Spoiler, only thing I really missed was the squid ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. “The Ride Of The Valkyries” during the Vietnam sequence was (of course) an Apocalypse Now reference, and could have been one of the few times the soundtrack came close to giving the movie the cultural-reference-heavy depths the original comic had; that having been said, I’m not sure it actually worked.

    The back-and-forth nature of the story is part of the original, and for that matter so is a sense of disgust: the heroes in Watchmen ultimately aren’t heroes. I’d say more, but I don’t really want to spoil anything.

    I said at Giant Midgets that I wasn’t sure it had anything to offer somebody who hadn’t read the book, and unfortunately it tends to disappoint those who have read the book in sundry major and minor ways. I think I could have summarized my post as “It makes a neat companion to the book,” which is why I stand by thinking Watchmen is nifty, but it should also be taken from that that I’m praising Watchmen (the movie) with faint damnation. It’s neat to see those Dave Gibbons’ drawings move and hear people saying those Alan Moore lines, and I’ll eagerly buy the extended DVD if it still comes out, but it’s not a great movie.

  4. P.S.

    Kate, just to be clear: I’m not actually disagreeing with you, so I hope my first two paragraphs don’t sound argumentative. I was pointing those things out, but as I said in my final paragraph, I’m not sure Watchmen works on its own terms, as opposed to as an adjunct to the book (where it doesn’t always work, either). That being the case, there’s no reason at all for you to like it or feel any differently about it.

    Oh, and Ed: your second paragraph may be one reason I don’t come down harder on Watchmen, actually: for all of the movie’s faults, I think Zack Snyder gave us the best Watchmen movie anybody could have hoped for; so there’s some gratitude there–if they had to make a Watchmen movie and I couldn’t stop ’em (and Alan Moore couldn’t, so who am I?), at least we got this one. Unfortunately, Snyder may have accidentally proven that Moore is unfilmable, since even a religiously-faithful version doesn’t entirely gel.

  5. See, I didn’t read the comic. I didn’t care where it was deconstruction and where it was irony and the ending was fine, but lost in all the shit before hand. I didn’t care about the ending.

    I’m usually really generous with movies, Ed. I joked in one Twitter that Howard the Duck had more substance. I would argue the more rabid a fan, the more expectations a director/writer must live up to in a new movie. LOTR was still a superb film despite the things it changed and I would argue made the story more watchable for people who weren’t such Tolkien fanboys. It told its own story through pictures as opposed to retelling a story that would have been hard to film in its entirety.

    Watchmen retold the graphic novel almost word for word and was inherently unwatchable for it.

  6. “The Ride Of The Valkyriesโ€ during the Vietnam sequence was (of course) an Apocalypse Now reference, and could have been one of the few times the soundtrack came close to giving the movie the cultural-reference-heavy depths the original comic had; that having been said, Iโ€™m not sure it actually worked.”

    Alas, I did not see Apocalypse Now. My father pretty much banned any serious Vietnam war movie in my house being a returning Veteran. Alas, my only experience with the song was the mention of The Blues Brothers and the history behind the song and composer.

    I would be interested to see where the gap between people who would get that reference (Perhaps a little older than myself) and those who didn’t would actually fall.

    It was obviously lost on me, but not only for the homage to a Vietnam movie, but because it just didn’t work for me.

  7. ed says:

    I think you’re hitting a cultural problem with all media.

    No book will be pleasing to everyone. No movie, no album, nothing. There was never the intent to do x, y or z. It was aimed at an audience (a niche market as we quaintly phrase it these days).

    That does not stop the unintended, for lack of a better word, from lining such enterprises up against the wall and ordering them shot the day the damn thing comes out.

    Mind you, it’s marketed wrong, just as most Moore flix are. They’re not intended for everyone. of course they want to make 300 mil, 500 mil, 1 billion. The Wolverine PG13 movie will disappoint droves, mark my word. Not enough ‘spirit’ (gore, death, just sheer mayhem and anger). People will hate star trek.

    What kills me is people who don’t get the refrences, who know they’re missing them, just lambasting things (on line, in papers, in earshot of me at work/on a train) KNOWING they’re missing the parts that make it click.

    I promise I won’t go see Nights In Rodanthe and then talk about what a piece of crap it is. I won’t go to a foreign film laced with cultural references and point out how I didn’t get them, thus the filmmaker missed the mark.

    Let me get off the pulpit here, but it’s just ok to go ‘I didn’t get it’. Flight of the Valkries was a parody of something, as was the song paring of the sex scene. Let’s focus on Rorshack. He was the key to the movie. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Vince: one reason I hated the two LOTR movies I was able to make it through was that the directing itself was full of bad, hacky choices–the abuse of slo-mo footage, using SFX to deliver what his actors could have put across (the scene in the halls of Theoden is just atrocious because he has two of the best character actors in the film world–Ian McKellan and Brad Dourif–and instead of letting them vie for Theoden’s soul, oh look, CGI), etc.

    I’ve heard Heavenly Creatures is good, but I haven’t seen it. The Frighteners is just a mess. Bad Taste is fun but too long, and it definitely isn’t good (nor is it supposed to be, so it’s really a wild card in an appraisal). I didn’t see Kong but deciding to do it was a bad call.

    Out of four Jackson movies I’ve seen (two LOTR chapters, Frighteners, Bad Taste), I thought two were terrible, one was not-good, and one was an intentionally awful goof-off. So I’m going to have to stand by my little aside about PJ.

    Back on topic: Ed, the problem with making a movie just for the fans is that a movie with Watchmen‘s budget can’t really afford to be a cult classic. No, you won’t make everyone happy, but you need to make a big cross section happy. (And here I will give Peter Jackson a nod: he made a movie that appealed to a lot of people; of course that’s not necessarily the same thing as making a good movie, but whatever.)

    While I think Snyder and his writers understand Watchmen and delivered something extraordinarily faithful to the book, I’m not sure they delivered a particularly appealing movie. For anyone, and not just the fanboys. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it really isn’t, but it also isn’t really a successful one, not even on its own terms (and I’m not talking about money, though that may be a problem for them if the theater I was in was any kind of example).

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