watchmen and the critics

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane's major criticism seems to be that the film is too stylized to be taken seriously, and, as much as I'm hoping to like Watchmen, I'm worried that he's probably right.

Comparisons have been made to Sin City, but SC was all about style--the characters were stereotypes and the plots simple--and I felt at least that it worked very well. Moore's Watchmen, on the other hand, had some wonderful moments of character depth, such as Rorschach's awkward handshake with Night Owl, the final exchange between Ozy and Dr. Manhattan, or anything dealing with the first Silk Spectre (who seems to be the most complex character in the book).

As for the plot, well, Ozy's grand plan feels like a Stephen King copout, but Moore should be given credit for, all throughout the novel, following the lives of everyone at the street corner when ground zero hits, which gives their deaths some resonance. And Ozy's, "I did it thirty-five minutes ago" is a first-rate twist. And even though the narrative's overridden with flashbacks, there's still a pretty decent story.

But the marketing of the film seems to concentrate solely on the visuals and the fact that Snyder directed 300, which makes those of us who read and enjoyed the depth of Moore's book cringe.

Roger Ebert, on the other hand, gave the movie four stars, but he's been taken in by visuals before with movies like The Cell and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which didn't offer much else. Then again, only the first and second paragraphs of his review address the visuals, the rest covers plot and character.

But of course, we can't make the judgment until we see the movie. And to the people who thumb their noses at comics: After 5,000+ years of culture and the same criticism being leveled against theater, music, novels, cinema, and everything in between, how can you be so certain that a specific medium is incapable of art?