Monday, March 16, 2009

What Zack Snyder must've been thinking - I

The more I watch Watchmen, more it feels like a normal run-o-the-mill formula film! It might not be noticeable at first as the story whirs past you (confusing those who don't already know it) but for those who know the story and are a bit of movie buff, the pattern is obvious. I don't blame Zack Snyder though because it all worked pretty good in 300 and a sh-tload of other movies out there. But before I go further, let's look at the patterns that make it a formula film -

1) Sex sells - Yes sir, sex is a potent element in drawing customers and Watchmen had it in some generous amounts! Snyder must've assumed that it worked splendidly in 300 then why not Watchmen (more so when it's in the graphic novel itself). But what he missed is that 300 had some tiny tid bids of sexuality thrown in here and there. Meaning, it was just enough to stimulate the viewers and cut it short too soon to make them keep asking for more. This is kinda ironical in itself because I always thought that it was pretty smart on Snyder's part to keep it short (and abrupt) so as to not overwhelm the viewers. But in Watchmen there are atleast three extremely long scenes that start you off wanting more and end well past the two times you've looked at your watch atleast twice!

This becomes even more endearing when a normal movie goer can't see the relation between the sex and the main plot! The reason being, the successful movies where the basic theme is about people having sex (Basic Instincts for example) use it to further drive the plot. In other words, the viewer knows how Sharon Sone (as Catherine Tramell) seducing Michael Douglas (as Detective Nick) drives the plot forward. But in Watchmen it just comes as as interruption between the more interesting unveiling of Rorschach's past thus taking viewer's attention away reducing the already short span! More so, when the sex scene occurs right after some guy's head has been "hatcheted", it broders vaguely disgusting. The less I say, the better here.....

2) Gory Violence sells too - Yes it does and that is the reason horror and action-horror flicks exist! 300 had it in tons and Snyder must've felt that some extra doses of it in Watchmen would make it even more viewable than 300 was. But again, the problem is that,just like sex, when it comes to gore and violence, more is not better. If you add too much distracting sex then it becomes a soft porno (or hard if there is nothing else) and if you add too much gore and violence then it becomes a horror movie! And as much horror movies are in demand, the non-horror-movie viewer base is strictly exclusive to them. In other words, the horror movie fans might enjoy the gore in Watchmen, but the people who are not into seeing someone's arms getting chopped off will hate it enough to caution everyone else to stay away from that movie. But if that is so then how did 300 became such a success? Again, 300 was not so saturated as with violence and viewers expected it. But Watchmen caught people by surprise. These are the poeple who went to the Watchmen expecting it to be another X-men or Spiderman or Darknight and they just wouldn't expect to see what they did! Again, the horror genre fans must've been delighted by it but the others would be more then expected to run out of the theatre half way through.

3) Guy Richie's style storytelling techniques works - Not strictly Guy Richie's but anyone who has seen movies like "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch" and "Pulp Fiction" etc would instantly see the similarities in the overall storytelling in Watchmen. There are flashbacks to fill in past, many plot lines run parallelly, camera switches back and forth between short cuts of different scenes to show different things happening in parallel, certain frantic-ness that induces a sense of urgency in viewer's minds and different plot lines converge to a single conclusion towards the end. I'd say that there is a huge viewer base for movies emplying that type of storytelling techniques and even the Watchmen graphic novel uses the same technique to explain what is going on so Zack Snyder is spot on here.

But again we run into the problem of short attention span of the viewers. Most of the people I know, and the ones who didn't know the story beforehand, found it too confusing! Pretty much everyone waited for the plot to build and go in one single direction but it never did. At some point there was past, then it was present, then it was Rorschach then it was Mars then it was past then it was some out of place sex scene and finally it was i-don't-give-a-fu*k-anymore! Yeah, really, just sorting out what was past and what was present was like a chore for most people I talked to. Again, the storytelling technique is great but if you notice, the other movies (that liberally use them) manage to stay coherent and each of the subplots feel like fun and take the story forward. But in Watchmen, they managed to confused the viewer more than taking the story forward. Further, the rule of thumb, when showing multiple sub-plots parallelly, is to maintain the same timeline but Watchme unfortunately mixed past "flashbacks" with present "flashbacks" and after a point it was just some random "flashbacks" going on and on for 3 hours resulting in an unfathomable plot (oh so there was a plot - one reviewer commented!)

Part II - What Zack Snyder must've been thinking Part II

What Watchmen movie was missing - What Watchmn Graphic novel had but movie didn't

More about Dr. Manhattan -

To find about Dr. Manhattan's funky transformation, click - Osterman to Manhattan - Dr. Manhattan's funky transformation

To read some of Dr. Manhattan's memorable quotes, click - Dr. Manhattan's memorable quotes from Watchmen

To find some funny details about Dr. Manhattan's personal life, click - Dr. Manhattan's personal life and his girlfriend Silk Spectre

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