Today at THT

Sleepy this morning because I went to the late showing of “Watchmen” last night. Loved it, of course. My only quibbles were minor ones:

1. Malin Akerman, who played Laurie/Silk Spectre II, was perfect when she kicked people’s asses and did sexy things. When she spoke, eh, kind of reminded me of Sofia Coppola in Godfather III. Thankfully, the ass-kicking/sexy to speaking ratio stayed within acceptable parameters;

2. I don’t think the casting was right for Veidt, as Matthew Goode kind of came off as a petulant schoolboy. Based on the book, I kind of expected someone a bit older and weathered. Maybe someone with a tan, rested and ready vibe. I know the fanboys wanted Ralph Fiennes for that role for years, but I have to admit, he would have been perfect.

That was pretty much it. Other thoughts:

Even though all of you should have read the book by now and if you haven’t you’re dead to me, I won’t give away any spoilers. That said, if you’ve read any of the pre-release publicity, you know that the ending plot point is somewhat different than the book (i.e. the giant squid thing isn’t in the movie). Good move, and I really liked the new ending. It’s so good that I have this feeling that Alan Moore went into a darkened theater incognito to watch the movie this weekend and left kicking himself that his original ending wasn’t as elegant and as simple as the film’s.

So yes, I highly recommend it. It’s not going to sneak into my top 5 all time list or anything, but it stands on equal footing with “The Dark Knight” and “Spiderman II” among top comic book/geek entertainments. Final word on it: I can’t imagine that people who haven’t read the book got nearly as much out of the movie as those of us who have read it, so if you have any interest in this film at all and somehow haven’t read “Watchmen” yet, please, do yourself a favor, take a day off work this week and read the damn thing before going to the multiplex. You’ll be glad you did.

Now, on to matters slightly less geeky:

  • Sal Baxamusa wants you to know about the sports analytics conference at MIT’s Sloan School of Business, which he has dubbed “Dorkapalooza.” OK, I suppose that wasn’t all that less geeky at all.
  • Chris Jaffe takes a crack at similarity scores on a season by season basis. For all of his gifts of analysis, however, he has not been able to create a database which accounts for the human emotion of love.
  • Evan Brunell runs down last week’s transactions. This is your second straight week with some Neal Musser news. Mr. and Mrs. Musser must be so proud.
  • Over at Fantasy Focus Derek Carty shares with us his League of Alternate Baseball Reality (LABR) roster. Once again, I stress that my thing about “Watchmen” is not out of step with the rest of today’s news in terms of geekiness quotient.
  • Finally, Victor Wang runs down the AL prospects to watch this season. Heh, what’s the deal with this Wieters kid? Why on Earth would Baltimore give him a shot when they have a trusty veteran like Greg Zaun around?
  • You don’t understand. I’m not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with ME!

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    Comments

    1. Chris H. said...

      In the book the password thing is even more hilarious, as Dan guesses “RAMESES” as the password, and the computer prompts, “Password incomplete; do you wish to add rider?”

      Bwahaha.

      The other comment my son had was, “And what was the deal with Manhattan being naked all the time?  I didn’t need to see that.”

      Word has it the Blu-Ray will not only include the director’s cut but Tales from the Black Freighter as well, with the option to watch TftBF integrated with the movie via seamless branching.

    2. kendynamo said...

      yeah i found watchmen to be more enjoyable than i expected.  i’d like to talk to someone who saw the movie but hasnt read the book but for me, after all the hype and my dread of seeing someone try to film the ‘unfilmable’ and fail, i thought it was an excellent job all around.

      my biggest issue with the ending is it takes out the ambiguity of whether what veidt did was justifiable or simply monstorus (and obviated the need for the black frieghter parallel sub plot, which probably helped the movie in the grand scheme of things).  theres no ‘rebuilding’ scene in the book, and thats deliberate.  we’re not supposed to know if veidt’s (btw, anyone else think it was pronounced veet and not vite this whole time?) horrifying plan works or not.  and they also cut out veidt’s chat with dr manhattan right before the big blue guy goes off to start his own ‘life’.  and i know it was rediculius but i liked the squid monster.  it makes sense to cut it so you can also cut the mass dissaperance of artists sub plot but i found the whole ‘energy’ theme to contrived and included to make it topically relevant.  in the book the power stations where people ‘juice up’ are already on every street corner, and it’s dr manhattan (again) who make its possible, not veidt.

      Still, i thought the movie worked well.  the opening montage was inspired and the rorschack, dreiberg scene in the beginning with the beans was perfect. 

      so yeah, it thought it kicked plenty of ass and was amazing faithful to the source material.  defintiley the closest i’ve ever seen a comic book movie adapt a limited series like that.  and the ending was a bit of a let down but i’m not going to get my underoos in a bunch because of it.  and likewise, i will anxiously await the director’s cut on dvd.

    3. themarksmith said...

      I loved The Watchmen as well, but I haven’t read it. For me, the first half was a bit long, and I thought some of it was unnecessary from solely the movie plot. It probably makes more sense had I read the book, but I’m not sure how some of the backstory really added much to it. Still, I really liked the movie, but for those who want to see the Director’s Cut, how much longer can that movie be?

    4. Aarcraft said...

      I have not read the book, but saw the movie. I liked it. I didn’t think it was on par with the Dark Knight, but close to Spiderman II. Maybe if I had read the book it would have inched up. I have to say, I had no trouble keeping track, it wasn’t really all that complicated.

      The obvious music choices almost killed it for me. I mean, can you get any more cliche than The Times They Are A’Changin’ for a montage through history, Sound of Silence for a funeral and Ride of the Valkyries for a war scene?

    5. Eddo said...

      Craig, I agree totally with your points on the casting of Veidt.  He came across a little too “emo” for me, and a little to scrawny.  I just couldn’t buy that this skinny little kid could handle Rorshach and Nite Owl at the same time.

      I, however, have some quibbles with the ending:

      *** SPOILER BELOW ***
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      1. In the book, the ending works because the threat of an extraterrestrial attack causes the world superpowers to realize they may have to fight something bigger, and more importantly, something completely foreign.  In the movie, I don’t buy this.  Manhattan represents the U.S., so why wouldn’t the Russians treat his “attack” on Moscow as military aggression.  I know the explanation for this is, “Well, he attacked New York and L.A., too,” but I don’t think the events would play out that way.  I have trouble imagining total peace being attained when a U.S. agent just attacked Moscow.

      2. I think this is touched upon in the movie, too.  In the aftermath of an alien attack, there’s not a whole lot that the U.S. or Russians could do; the point of it is to make the superpowers realize fighting amongst themselves is futile when a totally detached enemy could attack at any moment.  While this is true with the movie’s ending, too, it leads to one other side-effect: there will still be military spending, just directed at a third party.  The film shows Nixon saying as much, something along the lines of, “We’re going to get Dr. Manhattan.”  That’s all well and good, but at what point in the U.S.‘s military development do they say, “Gee, while we’re building weapons to stop Manhattan, why don’t we set some aside in case the Russians get ornery?”, or vice versa.
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      *** END SPOILER ***

      Overall, though, I liked the movie.  I’ve heard complaints about the use of such popular songs, but I think that actually adds to the movie, as it really needs to be over-the-top in how the world is basically the same and how Watchmen is also a commentary on culture and society.  The opening credits, featuring “The Times They Are A-Changing”, was my favorite part of the movie by far.

    6. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Aarcraft: Yeah, those were a little on the nose, eh?  In way of weak defense, there are some musical cues suggested in the book that probably led the filmakers in that direction. “All along the Watchtower” being a specific one that probably led to others.

      I was not a fan of the use of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in the sex scene myself.  I mean, I love Cohen, but his voice just kind of oozes irony and sleaze in a way that makes that not work for me.  John Cale does a more appropriate cover of that song if they insisted on using it.

    7. Eddo said...

      Craig:

      Again, I actually liked the music choices.  I think their obviousness was a strength – to me, it conveyed that this idea of having masked heroes was this huge part of the Watchmen universe.

      Though I agree that “Hallelujah” was kind of cheesy there.  I prefer the Rufus Wainwright version, but even it wouldn’t have worked in that seen.

    8. Aarcraft said...

      I think Jeff Buckley’s version is the only version that might of worked. I haven’t heard Cale’s. Even then, the song choice reeked of cheese.

    9. kendynamo said...

      eddo – also good points about the ending – i agree with you. 

      as for anyone wondering how much more from the book could have been put into the movie?  a lot. 

      oh also in the minor fan boy quibbling department, why wasn’t sally jupiter smoking the whole time?

    10. Eddo said...

      kendynamo:
      Totally agreed on the smoking thing.  Without Laurie smoking, the reason for her shooting flames out of Archie in the basement was totally ridiculous.  She would know better than to just push a random button.

    11. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Ken—you mean Laurie?  I agree, it was distracting not seeing her smoking. I think it actually led to my disappointment with her voice and acting chops.  Seeing Laurie smoke in the book all the time had me thinking that she’d have a huskier, smoky kind of voice rather than the near-valley girl thing she had in the film.  Just a little distracting.

      Eddo: I see your point about the ending, but I don’t know how the risk you identified—that even in the face of a common enemy, the superpowers would soon start plotting against each other again—would be any different with either ending.

    12. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Also re: the smoking: I can only imagine that it was cut because (a) they mimimized many of the “lifestyle” improvements brought on by Dr. Manhattan, which I assume included those funky smokeless cigarettes from the book; and (b) they didn’t want to show a hero smoking in this day and age because that’s frowned on more every passing year.

      And if the latter explanation is really the case, how messed up is it that the filmakers don’t feel compelled to edit out multiple scenes of limb severing, meat cleaver to the head violence and sex scenes with considerable amounts of thrusting, but can’t bring themselves to show a young woman smoking a cigarette?

    13. Eddo said...

      Craig:
      re: the ending:
      You are right about the ending; I think that’s part of the Moore’s brilliance, showing that Veidt’s plan isn’t really perfect, that in all likelihood, it only buys a few years or decades before the world is back to its old ways.

      But I still like the book’s ending better.  In the movie, all Veidt has change who is hated by the public.  It used to be the Russians, but now it’s Manhattan.  They have a face and a specific person to hate.  In the book’s ending, all they could do is fear aliens, they couldn’t really hate them.

      Think of it this way: I figure, there will be Manhattan sympathizers on Earth moving forward, people who sort of grasp that he had to do this to prevent total annihilation.  You think those people won’t have hatred turned towards them by the masses?  I don’t see there being as many alien sympathizers in the post-novel world.

      It wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me, but it was a black mark.

      re: smoking:
      If they cut her smoking in order to be more family-friendly, that’s complete b.s.  It also doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie, where the primary “hero” is a sociopath who embraces a life of brutality.  It’s a sad commentary on society if we can embrace a simple-minded thug like Rorshach, but not a smoker.

    14. Eddo said...

      I realize my last comment, calling Rorshach a “simple-minded thug”, could probably come off as harsh.  I just hope too many people don’t identify with him as they see the movie, because he’s a symbol of problems with society.  Even he realizes this at the end, when he begs Manhattan to kill him; he know he can’t exist in a peaceful world full of ambiguity (which ultimately causes him to win me over).  He sees things in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, which has gotten the world into a lot of trouble over the years.  Anyone taking away from the movie that he’s a Christ-like figure (I was so afraid his blood on the snow would look like a crucifix) is misguided.

    15. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

      Hey Shyster,

        Not certain of the factual element here, because I’ve slept in the last few weeks, but didn’t you mention when they announced the release of, “Watchmen” that is coincided with your birthday? or, was that somebody else?  I dunno.

      Anyway, if a belated Happy Birthday is in order, please accept this as one.

    16. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Royce: not my birthday. Mine is July 14th.  March 7th was my brother’s birthday, though, and I may have said something about that.

    17. Chris H. said...

      I, for one, had indeed been reading Veidt’s name as “veet” all these years.  That doesn’t make sense given the common i-before-e/i-after-e rules, but that’s how I read it.

      I liked the music overall.  I figured they were just taking the cues from the book, for the most part.

      I do agree that eliminating Laurie’s smoking made the flame-thrower thing kind of dopey.

    18. Chris H. said...

      themarksmith: my son had exactly the same reaction about a longer cut.  Having read the book, I think a longer edit will flesh some things out better, but I can see why folks who haven’t read it would have your perspective.

    19. kendynamo said...

      well, both sally and laurie now that you mention it, but i more so the old mom.  they got her drinking, which is good, but the smoking, coughing and hacking is how i always pictured her.  a real mess.  that laurie didnt smoke is not as bothersome (but the archie flame thrower bit is a good point, too). 

      as for why they cut it, doubt it was to spare the children from a bad influence.  the comedian is still chompin cigars.  i think it was merely a style choice.

    20. Chris H. said...

      Oddly, Hollywood doesn’t seem to view cigars with the same negative light that it does cigarettes.

      Plus, the Comedian was a rapist and murderer, so showing him smoking is okay, I guess.

      (Zack Snyder commented that when the suits saw “Lesbian Whores” written on the wall in the opening, they immediately knew the movie would get an R.  Had it just been “whores,” they would’ve been OK with a PG-13.  Of course, other stuff in the movie would’ve popped it back to an R, but it’s all about the inconsistency.  You should all now go watch “This Film is Not Yet Rated.”)

    21. joao said...

      Aarcraft,

      If you have seen Shrek, you have heard of Cale’s version of Hallelujah. 

      I fall in Eddo’s camp regarding liking the book’s ending better (way better, in my case).  I’m not saying it would have worked in the movie, but you know, they didn’t have to do a squid, which might have looked silly in a movie and confused the masses.  They could have used some other invention that wasn’t a squid.  I have some other complaints about unnecessary (but minor) choices made, but I will hold my fire until I see it a second time.

    22. Eddo said...

      joao:
      The Cale version is used in the film?  I always thought that didn’t sound like Wainwright’s version on the soundtrack.  Thanks for that info.

      As for the ending, I agree that using a squid would have been too out-there for viewers who had not read the book.  Like you say, though, a different creature or something could have been used.  Maybe a fake flying saucer or something?  I just think aliens work so much better than Manhattan.

    23. Ethan Stock said...

      Re:  full frontal on Dr. Manhattan—in our group of 12 there were no complaints at all from the four ladies.  I said over food after “they didn’t need to show that much” and someone said, “Oh yes they did!”  I pointed out that the movie probably had the highest penis-to-breast ratio of any R movie, ever, and the consensus was, “good!” 

      Hrrm.

    24. Craig Calcaterra said...

      Ethan: anyone in your group notice that the book’s Dr. Manhattan was uncircumsized, but in the movie he was snipped?

      Not, um, that I noticed that or anything.  Cause I never notice that sort of thing.

      /leaving

    25. mkd said...

      I am usually harsh on major changes to source material, but in this case I think they pulled it off beautifully:

      1) In the book, the alien entity is basically a new character introduced without warning or explanation to the people of earth. By contrast the power of DrM is already well understood/feared, so when he “turns on humanity” everyone immediately gets what that means.There is no casting about: “What was it? Was it an alien? Really? No it’s gotta be a trick…Aliens? Really?”, It’s just: “Crap, DrM turned on us. We done f’d up, boys.” I think for the alien to really work Veidt would have needed to fake some blips on the NASA radar over the course of the story to plant the idea in humanity’s head that ALIENS are now a thing to be worried about.

      2) The main problem with Veidt’s plan in the book is that there are no actual aliens. The whole thing was a one time fake job—eventually complacency will return to the Great Powers when there are no follow up attacks. DrM, on the other hand, actually exists, everyone knows that he exists, and everyone knows he can return at anytime. Which brings me to my last point…

      3) In the book, the Great Powers only unite because they have been confronted with a hostile Them that places all humanity together into a collective Us. Plausible? Maybe. But does it really get to the heart of the problem? I don’t think so. In the movie’s version DrM has punished humanity for their transgressions. Would you think twice about escalating earthly conflicts if you knew the Big Blue God was watching and had a history of wiping out that of which he disapproves? I sure would. Nixon’s bellicose rhetoric about “getting Dr Manhattan aside” I think fear of DrM will keep war off the table far better than subconscious Us/Them distinctions.

      All in all, I was pleased with the adoption. My fiancée had not read the book and came away very impressed with the characters/story and is planning to read the original as soon as I get it back from a friend I lent my copy to. Put me down as having hated the music though. I get that they were taking their cues from quotes in book, but Jesus, I don’t think it translated well at all. Ending a chapter with a short, haunting Bob Dylan quote does not mean you should have the Owl Ship charging into battle with Jimi Hendrix cranked to 10. Ride of the Valkyries for the Vietnam scene? C’mon. People are trying to tell me its ironic, but it didn’t feel that way to be. I think they meant it.

      3 stars.

    26. Hizouse said...

      My main problem with the ending was that it came too fast, and I couldn’t figure out exactly what earth’s reaction was supposed to be.  In the movie, I thought the earth was uniting to defeat Manhattan, which makes no sense.  He can’t be defeated—and Russia wouldn’t trust the U.S. anyways since Manhattan is American.

      mkd’s fear of retribution makes sense, but I just didn’t see in the film.  I hear his objections to not convincing people of the reality of the alien, but what other explanation could there be for the big squid?  And Manhattan isn’t in the punishment business anymore, although I guess the world might not know that.

    27. Chris H. said...

      I think the whole second half was rushed, but the ending in particular: there was no time to build up to the denouement, or to show how the world really reacts to the new situation.  It just whizzed by too fast.

    28. Aarcraft said...

      Joao:

      The Shrek version was Wainright, at least on the soundtrack. I checked Allmusic to verify.

    29. Eddo said...

      Aarcraft:
      The version used within the film Shrek definitely sounds different than the Wainwright version on the soundtrack.  It still may be Wainwright, but it would be a separate version then.

    30. Daniel said...

      I’m going to see the movie Thursday night.  I have NOT read the book yet, mainly because I’m a book-to-movie snob.  Normally, I read the book first and then am disapointed to varying degrees by the movie. 

      The one big exception is Lord of the Rings (my favorite book of all time).  While I still enjoyed the books WAY more than the movie, I would definitely say that I would have enjoyed the movies far less had I not read the books.  Maybe this is one of those cases.  If I go to the library tonight, any way I can pound the book out before Thursday night?

    31. Ian C said...

      My only problem with ‘Watchmen’ was that I wanted more.  I left the theater wanting to watch the director’s cut right away (but went home to read the book). 

      I totally agree about the ending.  It’s actually better than the book’s because it makes much more sense. 

      I always thought Brad Pitt would’ve been a good choice for Ozymandias, but casting a big star in that role may have compromised the story.

    32. TLA said...

      I couldn’t agree more on your Watchmen points.  Ralph Fiennes would have been perfect.  Fortunately, dialogue involving Malin Ackerman did not drive the story line.  She played “hot” very well though.  I couldn’t help but think that Mr. Skin would like her character.

    33. john said...

      I loved the adjusted solution instead of the squid, but I thought that everything that happened after that was ridiculous. The last conversation between Dreiberg and Spectre really angered me. They’re still crimefighting? WTF? Also, Veidt should have saved the world; instead, they protrayed him as trying to conquer it ala Alexander the Great. It robbed the movie of it’s interesting finale.

      Mild spoilerish, but whatever.

    34. Chris H. said...

      I did think the ending worked just fine.  I’m not certain I think it’s better just yet, but it definitely worked.

      I agree with Ian C—I wanted to see the director’s cut right away.  I think the movie had some pacing issues in the second half, and felt a bit rushed.

      I’m not convinced that people who haven’t read the book will like it.  My son (eighteen years old) hadn’t read the book, and he had real problems keeping track of everyone.  I think there are a lot of nods to those of us who’ve read the book that don’t really do anything for the story (e.g. almost everything involving the Minutemen other than the Comedian/Sally Jupiter stuff). 

      My son’s comment: “They should’ve taken out everyone except Rorschach, the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Veidt.”

      I loved it, but I can definitely see how folks who haven’t read the book might be a bit lost.

    35. Chris H. said...

      Oh, and for the record I loved actually getting to hear Rorschach say the “trapped” line, rather than having it happen off-screen (as it were).

      In fact, overall I thought Rorschach was brilliant.  Jackie Earle Haley was inspired casting.  He actually felt more like Rorschach than the comic character did (if that makes any sense).

      Hurm.

    36. Chris Kash said...

      I never would have discovered Watchmen if it hadn’t been for the original Shysterball posting Craig did back when the first trailer came out. I had to find out what all these people were talking about. I devoured the book over a Thanksgiving trip to visit my family. Since that time I’ve been a huge fan and eagerly awaited the movie. I saw it Friday night and loved it.

      I agree with Chris H.‘s comment and with Shyster’s warning about watching the movie cold. There were quite a few people sittign around me in my sold-out showing who openly complained about not being able to keep up or make sense of things. One couple walked out during the prison riot when Big Figure attempts to get at Rorschach.

      Thanks Craig for introducing me to Watchmen. My wife may not feel the same way since my house is filling up with books, CDs and whatever else I can get my hands on!

    37. Craig Calcaterra said...

      From here on out, if you read a comment in this thread, be prepared for Watchmen spoilers. If you don’t want spoilers, go somwhere else.

      My top five can be a bit fluid depending on mood and stuff, but these have all appeared in it at one time or another, and in no particular order:

      Citizen Kane
      Godfather
      The Conversation
      Miller’s Crossing
      It’s a Wonderful Life/Casablanca, depending on what time of year it is.

      Like I said, though, there are probably 5-10 more that are within the margin of error for top five inclusion.

      As for Watchmen: The point about Daniel and Laurie still crimefighting was alluded to in the book (Laurie talking about getting a more practical costume and carring a gun; I thought Moore was clearly hinting at her becoming Comedian II, actually, and was secretly hoping that the movie’s final scene would show her in Comedian garb).

      I think the Veidt conquering/saving the world was handled very consistently with the book.  He saves it in his own narrow sense, and the bit about him profiting from the reconstruction is totally in keeping with his merchandising everything under the sun to that point.

      I also agree that the end was rushed, and if you hadn’t read the book, I can even imagine it seeming all contrived and tacked on.  Even in the book, Daniel and Roarshach’s solving of the plot is a bit rushed and forced, isn’t it?  Really: would the smartest man in the world would have had such an easily-cracked password?  Even in 1985?

      Also waiting for the director’s cut.  Should be pretty sweet.

    38. Marcel said...

      Were there a bunch of parents with children in the theatre when you went?  There were at least a dozen kids that couldn’t have been any older than 10 or so at the showing I went to.  It’s a good thing they put ratings on movies for a reason…

    39. Chris H. said...

      Marcel: well, part of the problem is that the movie ratings system is ridiculous.  Zack Snyder mentioned in an interview that as soon as the suits saw “Lesbian Whores” written on the wall in the beginning, they knew that Watchmen would get an R.

      Had it just said “Whores,” it would’ve been PG-13.

      You are now all assigned the task of watching “This Film is Not Yet Rated” to see just how truly fracked up the ratings system is.

      Having said that…definitely not a movie for young kids.

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