Sunday, 29 March 2009

Attending A Showing Of The Moving Picture Watchmen

So in brief, Watchmen is fine as a film, but probably unnecessary. Let me unpack that a bit for anyone who wants to know more than a one sentence summary.

The film takes as many scenes and sequences as it rationally could from the comic[1], but, more impressively, puts forward many of the messages and themes explored in it. So we have the essential impotence of superheroes[2]; that to fight evil, we must commit evil; that those with power must be held responsible. But while we get these, most of the plot, action and soundtrack is turned up to 11 distracting us from it's message. I will demonstrate my thesis in as vivid a way as possible, by using as my example Doctor Manhattan's penis.

Once you have an 18 certificate and a naked man wandering around, it makes sense that it appears on screen. Once we got over it's more unusual attributes (it's blue! it glows!) Heckler pointed out that it's larger than in the comic. We checked when we got back and, by golly, it is.

Now the penis is CGI[3] so it's size is at the whim of the director. We might consider the scenario in which Crudup asks Snyder to endow him more generously and Snyder says "Alter a single part of the Greatest Comic Book Film adaption ever made, my Magnum Opus based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Magna Magnum Opus that I wish to alter for the screen as little as possible, because you feel inadequate? Well okay". We might consider the change just crept in from one or other sketch or storyboard picture. But more likely this decision was deliberately made by the creative team. So why?

Doc Manhattan is a force of nature as much as a character, with no limitations other than his own conscience and authorial fiat. Yet ultimately he is as ruled by fate, destiny and the impersonal forces of history as the rest of us, if not more so as he can see through the illusion of free will. Yes it's potence and impotence again; Doc Manhattan doesn't need a big penis as he has all the power in the universe; his small penis represents his powerlessness[4].

In the film, we get the lack of power, but it's overwhelmed by the sheer kinetic action of the characters; we get the time and period cues, but the music plays at full volume even when a song in the background would make the point better; and in Zack Snyder's book, there's no action sequence that can't be improved by slow motion. And that, in my opinion is why the penis is bigger; because bigger, louder, more violent, more in-your-face is the default choice.

As I said, it's good. But you don't need to see it if you've read the book, or if you've watched The Dark Knight which covers much of the same ground. If you want to see it, with everything turned up to 11, you'll probably enjoy it. So there you have it. Thanks to my talking about penises a lot I've managed to review the film without resorting to any stupid lines like "Who watched the Watchmen? We did!"

Oh, toss.

[1] Which is not to say that they haven't been altered to make them properly cinematic. Snyder and his team don't seem to have lost sight of the most important thing; making what appears on the screen work as a film.
[2] A colleague felt the sex scene was completely gratuitous; well yes. But, as it turns out, that's what the gaudily costumed masked adventurers are; gratuitous, unneeded, mere decoration. Their potence turns out to be completely powerless before the forces of history.
[3] No, it's not motion capture. Although Billy Crudup's performance was indeed motion capture, he wasn't walking around in a skin-tight-around-the-parts suit, but a crazy futuristic blue LED covered suit with a standard crutch (assuming that docu-ad I caught the last 15 minutes of wasn't lying to me). The performance is motion capture; the penis isn't.
[4] Or maybe it's easier and less embarrassing to draw, I don't know.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

What I Learnt From Battlestar Galactica

Everyone else in the BSG-watching blogosphere has had their say; now it's time to find out what I learnt from watching the remake of the classic 70s space opera TV show.

- The new Battlestar Galactica is a long, high quality drama exploring themes of interest to both the general public and to science fiction fans. It combines soap opera style storylines with spaceships shooting at each other, while contemplating the meaning of being human, and the nature of god. No, seriously.

- Building artificially intelligent robots is a bad idea, especially if you treat them like slaves. They will inevitably rise up and try to destroy you.

- God is not keen on the whole destruction thing.

- Or maybe God is okay with the creation, destruction re-creation cycle. I'm not sure. The theology was left a bit fuzzy.

- Which is the way I like it.

- Frak is used as an exact synonym for a common but vulgar English obscenity, but for some reason is more acceptable on TV.

- You should never get drunk and nearly be seduced by your brother's girlfriend.

- It all happened a long time ago[1] in a galaxy far far away[2].

- On third thoughts, God isn't into the creation/destruction cycle, but only does the bare minimum to hint what need to do to stop it, as it's our decision at the end of the day.

- The bare minimum including prophetic visions and dreams, bringing people back from the dead and encoding clues in a child's DNA.

- Bob Dylan is God.

I know for sure that Heckler learnt at least one more thing, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for him to reveal it here.

[1] 150,000 years
[2] 1,000,000 light years

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A Heckler and Kochk Shopping List

After attending a early evening showing of Watchmen last Saturday, Heckler and I called in at a local supermarket to purchase essential supplies for continuing a movie watching evening. The full list was:

12 x Lagers
3 x Real Ales
1 x DVD of Snakes on a Plane
1 x Bottle of Margarita mix
8 x Fab Ice Lollies

Our watchlist for the rest of the evening was Beowulf and Zombie Strippers; all three films deserve reviews for differing reasons. I will endeavour to provide such in the near future.

Friday, 13 March 2009

We Join The Battlestar Galactica Debate By Asking The Only Important Question

So, is the new Battlestar Galactica simply a very long science-fictional exploration and analysis of the themes in the Bob Dylan classic All Along The Watchtower?

I don't have a problem with that actually. Firstly that lets me figure out what happened in the 70% or so of the episodes I've not seen. And secondly, that should give us a nicely ambiguous ending; nice for me because I like ambiguity* and nice for the studio because it leaves room for inferior and exploitative spin-off movies.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

Tomorrow I'll recycle most of this post by looking at the musical themes explored in Watchmen.

All Along The Watchtower links: Hendrix; Dave Matthews Band; Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young; Paul Weller; Bryan Ferry; U2 (sorry Heckler); Dylan himself; and, of course, Bear McCready's BSG version.

* Or do I?