R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: Getting to Watch the Watchmen, Part 3

I mentioned last week that I had finally gotten to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater, and that it was a pretty awesome experience overall, as it was the only one of the original Indiana Jones Trilogy that I hadn’t technically seen in the theater. Last Crusade I had seen kind of recently and Temple of Doom I barely remember seeing at a drive-in outside of Dallas, Texas when I was a little kid. Thankfully though, if my experience seeing Temple of Doom on the big screen was only a vague one, that situation was about to be rectified also.

The same theater that had shown Raiders the week before decided to keep the ball rolling by showing Temple of Doom this past week and again it blew me away how awesome these movies really are and how I’ll probably never get tired of seeing them whether on the big screen or not. The experience also reinforced my opinion that I have no idea why anyone would consider this movie the “bad” Indiana Jones movie. Nonstop action, huge laughs, wonderful interplay between Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw, the best fight scene in the entire series, and what is maybe the most cinematic of all the films, and this is the worst one somehow?

Some sequences obviously stick out when you get to see them projected. The opening dance number and the subsequent Tommy gun shootout/car chase through the streets of Shanghai were just phenomenal. The sequence never seems to stop being mesmerizing, and I love how you can’t stop laughing as Indy’s fortunes seem to be getting worse and worse. The mine cart chase and bridge finale are also nonstop awesome, especially seeing that huge well of water tumble over to flood the mine. Anything to do with children in the movie, from the last shots to the sequences of Indiana and company unlocking the children from their shackles are absolutely fantastic images. I still maintain this is one of Ford’s best performances, as I love that he slowly goes from fortune seeking adventurer to Moses-like figure freeing the slaves. Not only that, but I love seeing “evil” Indy as well, which is a side of Ford you hardly ever see on screen.

I think my favorite scenes the other night though, involved the scenes of human sacrifice by the Thug-gee cult. Just everything, from the amazing set to the extras all in unison just kind of gives you this feeling of mass hysteria as you’re watching the scene, not to mention the thrill of watching Molla Rom reach in and take a human heart out of someone’s chest. By the time the heart catches on fire, you’re shocked that you’re watching a movie from the guys that brought you E.T. and American Graffiti.

There was a smaller group of us at the showing than there was the week before for Raiders, but I honestly think we had just as good a time, if not better. Because it’s not the most beloved one, I think there’s a more cultish phenomenon that exists when people talk about Temple of Doom, no pun intended, and the fans of the second movie, of which I’m a part, are a bit more rabid than if you just like Raiders because it was the first one. It’s like being part of a special club or something, and it’s the same no matter what cultish movie you’re a fan of. Sure, anybody can be a fan of The Dark Knight, but being a fan of Batman: The Movie with Adam West, now that’s something special.

This isn’t the best segway, but this is kind of the way I feel about Watchmen right now. Yeah, it didn’t do the kind of business that Warner Brothers probably would have liked, but for an R-rated, nearly 3 hour movie, that really focuses on discussions and themes more than action (though the fight scenes are awesome) I think the movie is doing pretty well, and not only that, WB should make their money back. Besides, I think that time is going to tell what kind of impact this movie really makes, much like Blade Runner.

Sure, Ridley Scott’s movie flopped upon release, but honestly that feels a little more like a badge of honor these days for the film, which has probably made its money back ten times over with every new release on home video. Honestly, the movie is so revered in its place as a Science Fiction classic, that it’s hardly even a cult film anymore. Watchmen already has about 3 DVD releases planned before its run in theaters is even over, so I’m sure that Warner Bros is really hardly even sweating Watchmen’s box office.

Honestly, this is a movie made for cult status, just with a pretty major budget. This goes to some pretty dark places, with characters who are detached from society or outright psychotic, or maybe even both. Last week I talked about the characters that you could maybe see as heroes; the ones who are really about the kind of self-sacrifice that a normal person could get behind. Those were the good people that bad things happened to. This time I’d like to talk about the characters that you wouldn’t necessarily call heroes. These are the ones that would just as likely shoot you in the face or stick a cleaver in it than try to arrest you, but we all know those are the ones that will inspire the biggest fanbase.

First off, there’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake, AKA The Comedian. With about a third of the screen time as most of the other major characters in this thing, he still ends up as a major force onscreen. Absolutely seething charisma all over the place, Morgan is able to tap into why the character has been so enduring on the page for so long. There’s a ferocity to him in so many of the scenes here, even if his dialogue seems to be the most faithful of any character in this movie. He never seems stiff or overly rehearsed in his dialogue, but instead he feels like an animal ready to strike at any moment, which he often does. Seemingly during every moment of screen time for Morgan, this guy is The Comedian brought to life onscreen, and even better, we get to see him in action, which is something the book could only hint at.

Just like he does with so much of the action in this film, Zack Snyder has hyper-realized nearly every moment that The Comedian has in the story, so his murder is exaggerated, his taking apart of an angry mob is fully realized with him wielding a shotgun and teargas canisters, and his involvement in horrible acts of violence, or killing innocents in Viet Nam is just as horrifying as it was in its original text form. What I love too are the moments we get to see that the book only suggested; like killing JFK on the grassy knoll or getting to see the sadness of The Comedian’s existence later in life, especially as he is finally taken down by an assassin. I think maybe Morgan’s biggest accomplishment, is that despite all his atrocities, we still don’t hate The Comedian, and in fact, in some instances we see exactly where he stands.

NOTE: From now on there will be Spoilers, but you should have seen Watchmen by now anyway!

I think the most thankless role in the movie has to go to Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. Now, honestly this was one of the toughest character portrayals in the movie to gauge because having read the book I already knew what this character was up to. I’d really like to know what a person thought of this performance who didn’t know that Veidt was actually the villain, because I have no idea how obvious this really would be to a new viewer to this story.

For my own experience, I was impressed by how likable that Goode was able to make Viedt throughout the movie, because in the book, just as with Dr. Manhattan, he comes off as really cold. Goode was able to inject some sadness in this role, especially in Adrian’s earlier scenes, that manage to make the character much more sympathetic in some way. Even after the end of the film, I didn’t really hate Veidt like I have in the past reading Watchmen and instead felt sorry for him. Even with less screen time than The Comedian, I can say that Goode definitely makes a great impression in the movie, and makes this character work as well as he can.

Now finally, there’s Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. The meatiest role by far, and already the favorite character from the original book, Haley is pitch perfect as the insane, violent, neurotic, and completely engrossing vigilante. This is the type of character that actors dream of playing, and Haley absolutely knocks it out of the ballpark. If anyone in this film deserves to be iconic, it is Rorschach, and in every scene he’s in, there’s just no taking your eyes off him.

Haley is so good, I can’t even really tell you which scene I like him in the most. I really like the odd buddy dynamic that builds between Haley’s character and Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl, which blooms into a team you can really root for as the movie reaches its climax. Just as it is in the source material, there’s a history that is only really hinted at between Rorschach and Nite Owl, but these two really make you believe it, and I like the screen chemistry between them. I REALLY wish the first altercation between Rorschach and the patrons of the scummy bar he questions the underworld figures near film’s end was in the movie, as I’d have liked to make it a bit of a running joke that he keeps going in there and terrorizing the bar keep.

Still, what’s left in the film is still brilliant, especially anything after the vigilante is arrested and we get to see where Rorschach was driven over the edge. I know that the section of Rorschach taking the life of the child murderer is different from the book, but honestly, how many times have we see a man get handed a hacksaw and told to saw through his foot. From Mad Max to Saw to one of the Scary Movie atrocities, we’ve seen it a million times, and the end result is a scene that is more personal and really shows how Rorschach has finally had his psychotic break.

Wrapping this up, I’m sure that after 3 columns covering it, its no secret that I love this movie. Yes, its not the blockbuster that some had hoped, but who cares really? This thing is a living, breathing version of one of my favorite pieces of literature of any kind, and ends up being more faithful than 99% of any adaptations I’ve ever seen in a movie like this. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is monumental achievement, and frankly I’m happy and grateful to see it done this well. Now bring on The Dark Knight Returns!.

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