Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reevaluating Watchmen

Tonight, the much maligned 2009 film Watchmen premieres on HBO. There has been ample discussion of its faults, in tone, in casting, and in concept. Based upon the much admired graphic novel by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins, the film, by the alleged "visionary" director Zack Snyder, was a mess. (The adaptation should have been done as an 8 to 10 episode miniseries on HBO, not unlike Band of Brothers.). Whatever the case, the only fun part of the film was imagining how it could have been better cast. My dream roster:
Silk Spectre I: Susan Sarandon or Helen Mirren
Silk Spectre II: Kate Winslet
Nite Owl I: Clint Eastwood
Nite Owl II: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
The Comedian: Mickey Rourke
Ozymandias: Brad Pitt or Chiwetel Ejiofor
Dr. Manhattan: Viggo Mortensen
Rorschach: Jackie Earle Haley, Sam Rockwell or Gary Oldman
President Richard Nixon: Anthony Hopkins
Moloch the Mystic: Sean Penn or William H. Macy
Obviously, Snyder decided to cast younger actors in the role, perhaps because it would have been easier to age them in the film than too make older actors look younger in flashbacks. That was a mistake, as it turns out. Of his original cast, I would only have kept Haley as Rorschach, although my two other alternatives would likely have been as good, if not better. Carla Gugino was not bad as Silk Spectre I, but again, she was just too young to play that role. Hoffman is far more in line with the Nite Owl II of the graphic novel than the fit Patrick Wilson. Just about anyone would have been better than Matthew Goode as Ozymandias. Just think: If Pitt had been cast in that role, perhaps Angelina Jolie could have done the micro cameo as Silhouette. And how could Anthony Hopkins not return to play Richard Nixon, after playing the same role in Oliver Stone's 1996 film?

Speaking of Oliver Stone, say what you will about him, but he would have made a stellar director for this film. Watchmen covers a lot of ground and flashes back many decades to establish the complex back story. With JFK and Nixon, he illustrated that he can cover a lot of history in a short amount of time using a number of cinematic techniques and camera types.

For further reading on this subject, check out the March 2009 review of Watchmen done by now defunct pop culture blog, The League of Melbotis, and then venture back to the summer of 2004 and read The League's prescient thoughts on the perils of adapting Watchmen to the big screen.

1 comment:

horus kemwer said...

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Ozymandius? If Snyder had had the balls to do that he might actually have earned his "visionary" sobriequet (but that would have violated his M.O. of taking the visions of others and reproducing them as "faithfully" as possible in an unsuitable medium).

Actually, I hated the Jackie Earle Haley Rorschach, but I blame that on the direction, not the actor (certainly, his looks were perfect). The only great piece of casting in this was the Billy Crudup Dr. Manhatten, though obviously this was ruined by the gratuitous CGI.

I tried to watch this on the 9th in a hotel room, with nothing better to do, and I still couldn't stand it.