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Watchmen (2009)

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Heh. When you called it the anti-Spirit, I was expecting a much more positive review. :)

Yeah. It's a conflicted review. My Spirit review is pristinely conflict-free. :)


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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John Nolte comes to Debbie's defense:

Water


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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John Nolte comes to Debbie's defense:

Water

Edited by Nezpop

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Here's a link I think Peter might enjoy, The Big Money predicts Watchmen's box office future:

In its first weekend, Watchmen will bring in 32.7 percent of its total box-office gross. That

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Wouldn't you know it, they kept one of the best lines in the film -- actually two lines, spoken by two characters -- but screwed 'em up by having the wrong two characters say them. Arrrgh. I can't decide if this is better or worse than, say, the way Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone left out several funny, character-revealing lines of dialogue altogether.

Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: Here's a link I think Peter might enjoy, The Big Money predicts Watchmen's box office future:

Thanks. I don't know if I'd expect this film to do the same business (or rate of business) that 300 did. If we think of Watchmen as a sequel to 300 (and in some ways it has been marketed like one), then it's worth knowing that sequels often make as much as HALF of their money on opening weekend, maybe even more (think of how Spider-Man 3 had a much bigger opening weekend than the original Spider-Man, yet had a substantially smaller cume when all was said and done).

And I don't think we can call this movie an "action blockbuster". There isn't really a whole lot of "action" in this movie. Violence, yes, but that's something else altogether. (Remember how some reporters called the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still an "action" movie? I never understood that. What, just because it has some special effects? Just because it's sci-fi? Watchmen is about superheroes, so of course, many people assume it is an "action" movie -- but it's really more of a murder mystery, a hard-boiled film noir, a character drama, whatever.)

Oh, and FWIW, Snyder has made one OTHER movie that this article doesn't mention (unless I blinked and missed it), namely the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead -- which made 45.3% of its money on opening weekend. But that was horror, and a remake -- two categories that don't necessarily have a lot of staying power.

I don't mean to be dour about the movie's box-office prospects. I just don't see how anyone can predict the sorts of "legs" the film will have before the film has even come out.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Wouldn't you know it, they kept one of the best lines in the film -- actually two lines, spoken by two characters -- but screwed 'em up by having the wrong two characters say them. Arrrgh. I can't decide if this is better or worse than, say, the way Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone left out several funny, character-revealing lines of dialogue altogether.

I intentionally stayed away from the book for quite some time, so that my memories of it were not so refreshed that I spent all my time focusing on "how true to the book" it was. My friend that I saw it with had really been digging into the book, and it made it harder for him to accept things that are different. Which two lines are you referring to?

My initial reactions are very positive. When it came to the performances, outside of Carla Gugino (who is a much better actress than the film would suggest) and Malin Ackerman (whose performance was stiff), the portrayals were excellent. The Comedian, Rorschach and Nite Owl were especially good. Crudup's Dr. Manhattan was nicely distant (and looked great). I liked it.

I was a bit nervous going in, because, frankly, the more negative reviews had me wondering if I was not going to be sitting through an orgy of non-stop gore, violence and sex. I kind of felt like I watched an entirely different movie than, say Schlussel. Other than the one graphic sex scene (which was a total mistake on the filmmakers' part-the audience burst out laughing) I never felt like it went so horrifically far that it crossed lines that we had not crossed, beyond casual treatment of male nudity of course. In the context of the story? It worked.

Edited by Nezpop

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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So, how are we supposed to refer to these characters? Is it "Dan," or "Nite Owl"?

Do the characters go by their "human" names, or their Watchmen names? Are these interchangeable?

And what, exactly, is the difference between the Nite Owl and Nite Owl II? These are the sort of embarrassing questions I couldn't figure out before the movie came out, and still don't know how to answer.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Hey, was anyone else surprised that Bob Dylan songs bracket the film? The second song isn't performed by Dylan, but he wrote it, of course, and it's full of judgment and crucifixion imagery. I'm tempted to call the use of that song, as the climax of the film approached, brilliant, but I don't want to read too much into it, or to "baptize" the film as something it's not (Christian allegory, or something along those lines).


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Nezpop wrote:

: I intentionally stayed away from the book for quite some time, so that my memories of it were not so refreshed that I spent all my time focusing on "how true to the book" it was.

Same here, more or less. Though I don't know how "intentional" it was on my part. I just haven't had TIME. At any rate, I haven't read the original graphic novel in years -- but the lines to which I refer have been lodged in my memory ever since I first read the book 20-ish years ago. They are lines I quote often.

: Which two lines are you referring to?

An exchange between (in the book) Ozymandius and Dr. Manhattan, which has been transposed (in the film) to Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. The exchange carries a fair bit of thematic significance, but it loses a lot of its force when it comes from THOSE two characters instead of the original two characters.

: When it came to the performances, outside of Carla Gugino (who is a much better actress than the film would suggest) . . .

I thought she was okay, actually.

: . . . and Malin Ackerman (whose performance was stiff) . . .

She wasn't the greatest, no, but I also don't agree with those people who have been suggesting that she is the Jar Jar Binks of the movie. The only truly embarrassingly bad thing that involved her in this movie was the sex scene -- and that's the director's fault more than anyone else's. (Would the sex scene have been as bad as it was if it had not had Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' playing on the soundtrack?) (Speaking of which, I agree with those who have found the pop-song picks on the soundtrack "embarrassingly on the nose" more or less throughout the film. A Vietnam War helicopter attack set to Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries'? A discussion of global conquest set to an instrumental version of Tears for Fears' 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World'? And so on. But the sex scene to 'Hallelujah' really takes the cake.)

: . . . the portrayals were excellent. The Comedian, Rorschach and Nite Owl were especially good. Crudup's Dr. Manhattan was nicely distant (and looked great).

I agree about the Comedian and Rorschach. Nite Owl I found a little too reminiscent of that actor's other roles (in Little Children and Lakeview Terrace). I really don't know what to think about Crudup's Dr. Manhattan. I haven't known what to think since I first heard the character speak in one of the trailers.

: I was a bit nervous going in, because, frankly, the more negative reviews had me wondering if I was not going to be sitting through an orgy of non-stop gore, violence and sex.

There was certainly more blood and gore than there needed to be. Apart from the meat-cleaver stuff, I find it particularly strange that Dr. Manhattan would make such a big, bloody mess whenever he disintegrates people, instead of merely changing their atoms or something (a la the subtle way he creates an oxygen pocket on Mars).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Last night, Steve Mason predicted that Watchmen would have the #4 opening weekend for an R-rated film, behind The Matrix Reloaded, The Passion of the Christ and 300. But now he has revised his post to say that the movie is "ticking downward" and will probably be #5 on that list, also behind Hannibal (and practically tied with Sex and the City).

Similar downward ticking took place over the course of Friday the 13th's first weekend, too, for whatever that's worth.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: . . . and Malin Ackerman (whose performance was stiff) . . .

She wasn't the greatest, no, but I also don't agree with those people who have been suggesting that she is the Jar Jar Binks of the movie.

Oh, she wasn't that bad.

: . . . the portrayals were excellent. The Comedian, Rorschach and Nite Owl were especially good. Crudup's Dr. Manhattan was nicely distant (and looked great).

I agree about the Comedian and Rorschach. Nite Owl I found a little too reminiscent of that actor's other roles (in Little Children and Lakeview Terrace). I really don't know what to think about Crudup's Dr. Manhattan. I haven't known what to think since I first heard the character speak in one of the trailers.

I haven't seen Wilson since Hard Candy, so I just remember seeing him sitting there with Hollis towards the beginning and was surprised at how "perfect" he seemed. The glasses and hair really helped. I kept thinking Manhattan sounded Eric Stoltz. :)

: I was a bit nervous going in, because, frankly, the more negative reviews had me wondering if I was not going to be sitting through an orgy of non-stop gore, violence and sex.

There was certainly more blood and gore than there needed to be. Apart from the meat-cleaver stuff, I find it particularly strange that Dr. Manhattan would make such a big, bloody mess whenever he disintegrates people, instead of merely changing their atoms or something (a la the subtle way he creates an oxygen pocket on Mars).

I guess after seeing the reaction of some folks, I was expecting more. So I was a bit relieved. The movie certainly was not setting any new standards for "depravity" or over the top-ness.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I can't speak for the whole country, but when I saw the film last night with three friends, we arrived an hour early and there was already a huge line at the theatre. It seems to have done very well here in St. Louis as far as I can tell.

I was a bit shocked when the showing before ours let out and I saw that some people had brought young-ish children with them. My husband was staying home with our almost-9-year-old who loves superheroes and had seen the commercials, but there was no way we were letting him see it. I told him he can see it when he grows up, if he still wants to by then. I don't know if the film company is directly marketing to children, but I will say that any child with an interest in comic books or super heroes who sees the TV ads will probably be interested, and I hope parents know enough about the source material to know that this is not a film for children. I would think the R rating would be enough of a clue, but I guess not.

As for the film, I liked it, for the most part. I liked it a lot more than I expected to from reading advance reviews and hearing about all the gore and sex. I too was wondering--as CrimsonLine was in an earlier post--if I would feel "dirty" afterwards, but in the end I'm glad I saw it. There were some parts that I found uncomfortable to watch, and I actually covered my eyes for some of the gorier parts and most of the sex scene, but for the most part I was able to get involved in the story and I didn't think it ever became "about" the gore or the sex. I thought it was a very good adaptation of the novel as well, from what I remember (I've read most, but not all, of the novel), and overall an engrossing film that told the story well. I thought it got a little bit silly toward the end but the first half especially was very well done.

Edited by MichLK

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MichLK wrote:

: I was a bit shocked when the showing before ours let out and I saw that some people had brought young-ish children with them.

Yeah, at the semi-populated IMAX matinee I attended yesterday, I spotted a woman with a young-ish child at the other end of the row from me -- and this was at the end of the film, not at the beginning, so I can only assume that the two of them sat through the whole thing together.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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MichLK wrote:

: I was a bit shocked when the showing before ours let out and I saw that some people had brought young-ish children with them.

Yeah, at the semi-populated IMAX matinee I attended yesterday, I spotted a woman with a young-ish child at the other end of the row from me -- and this was at the end of the film, not at the beginning, so I can only assume that the two of them sat through the whole thing together.

After enduring Man on Fire I saw a young couple emerge from the theaters with a three-year-old. I just had to say something. I went up to them and told them it was child abuse to bring a kid to a movie like that. They tried to protest that it was none of my business. I was like, "So what? I butted in where it was none of my business, and you abused your kid by bringing them to this movie. You're grown-ups, you can take it. Your kid is at your mercy."

I'm glad I preserved Lawrence Toppman's open letter to a mother at an R-rated movie at Decent Films. (His paper, the Charlotte Observer, now archives stories for only two weeks before taking them down.)

Open letter to the mother sitting in front of me at last week

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Saw this today... I'm a little conflicted.

On one thing I think it was a near-perfect adaptation, and I really admire the cleverness with which they explained a good deal of peripheral backstory during the opening credits. It's a hard novel to compress, and I think they did a good job at nearly 3 hours.

However, I got the feeling that the movie wouldn't stand very well on its own. There were little things. Almost every scene hit the right chords (except for the

sex scene, which was robbed of any sensuality or emotional effect by its ridiculous accompanying song

), but I don't think they were the same chords people were expecting having gone into the movie blind.

A lot of things were left unexplained. The existence of the mutant cat, for example. Explaining it would have opened inquiry into the only major plot change from the novel... why did they add the cat at all if they were going to give it no backstory?

I felt like it was worthwhile for me, having read the novel. And it was a good adaptation... perhaps the best that can be accomplished. But I think if I hadn't read the novel I would have been lost and disappointed. For me, Watchmen the novel is less about the story and more about the telling. The movie didn't capture that same magic, and what was left was the slightly weaker half... the story.

Edited by theoddone33

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I felt like it was worthwhile for me, having read the novel. And it was a good adaptation... perhaps the best that can be accomplished. But I think if I hadn't read the novel I would have been lost and disappointed. For me, Watchmen the novel is less about the story and more about the telling. The movie didn't capture that same magic, and what was left was the slightly weaker half... the story.

So far, the people I have spoken to who are unfamiliar with the source material enjoyed the movie and didn't feel all that lost. And they've all really liked the movie.

I was a bit shocked when the showing before ours let out and I saw that some people had brought young-ish children with them. My husband was staying home with our almost-9-year-old who loves superheroes and had seen the commercials, but there was no way we were letting him see it. I told him he can see it when he grows up, if he still wants to by then. I don't know if the film company is directly marketing to children, but I will say that any child with an interest in comic books or super heroes who sees the TV ads will probably be interested, and I hope parents know enough about the source material to know that this is not a film for children. I would think the R rating would be enough of a clue, but I guess not.

In spite of my incredibly negative reaction to certain commentaries, I happen to agree that it is wrong to bring kids to the film. However, contrary to the opinions of some (not on this board), I do not think it was remotely hard to figure this out. Any parent who does not investigate *any* movie their kid wants to see first is doing some lousey parenting. The cold hard truth is, from the start, the filmmakers have emphasized that this is a mature film, filled with violence, sexuality and other themes more extreme than what people might assume you would find in a super-hero movie. The ads never shied from suggesting it earned it's 'R' rating or implied "feel good kid movie". It's from the director of 300, another violent, blood soaked 'R' film. There is just no good excuse to say, "I had no idea!" There was plenty of warning that this was not appropriate for children. But I have a strong feeling that the same parents bringing their kids to watchman bring their kids to Horror Movies and the like. It frustrates me, because I feel like some parents just don't care, but the ones who did not know what they were bringing the kids to and are upset by what they saw? It tells me they don't really want to make the effort of being a parent. And I am sorry, but doing the research of what you let your kids read, watch and listen too? It's your job, and in most cases? Not as hard as some parents try and make it out to be. Watchmen would have taken about three minutes out of one's day to determine that it is not appropriate for the kids.

Edited by Nezpop

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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theoddone33 wrote:

: A lot of things were left unexplained. The existence of the mutant cat, for example. Explaining it would have opened inquiry into the only major plot change from the novel... why did they add the cat at all if they were going to give it no backstory?

If I had to guess, I'd say it's because the cat is a key component in a certain famous panel from the comic, and they wanted to keep the equivalent shot in the film identical to the panel in the comic. But yeah, the cat really does pop out of nowhere, doesn't it?

I was also curious about one other element. In the book, the only character with any actual superpowers is Dr. Manhattan, but a number of critics have complained that the film seems to suggest that OTHER characters have superpowers too. I didn't get that impression myself -- with one significant exception -- but I can sort of see why some people might have thought that; all the stop-and-start slow-motion tends to give the impression that the people doing all the running and jumping are running and jumping in some sort of "special" way. The one significant exception, of course, is

Ozymandias

, and the film is at least sort-of true to the book in this regard, but ... but ...

Show hidden text
Well, two things.

First, his superspeed. The film seems to emphasize that Ozymandias has super-fast reflexes (there's even a line of dialogue to this effect, no?). Is THAT true to the book? I can't recall.

Second, he catches the bullet. In the book, I believe he did this barehanded, didn't he? If memory serves, the implication was that he had not only been experimenting with brand-new organisms, but had biologically augmented himself as well. In the film, however, the biological experimentation has been left out of the story altogether, so now... he wears a glove, and the bullet seems to pierce it partly, and there is a bit of blood on the glove, and you could almost be excused for thinking that he was simply wearing a bullet-proof glove and he caught the bullet because he has super-fast reflexes.

Am I forgetting anything?

: And it was a good adaptation... perhaps the best that can be accomplished.

FWIW, I disagree, partly because Snyder has already said that he will release a longer version on DVD (and this film NEEDS to be longer, it needs more space to BREATHE), and partly because this is one of those stories (like the Harry Potter books) that really, really should have been produced as a mini-series rather than a single feature film. At the very least, this version of Watchmen should have had chapter breaks, like a lot of films do, because the story really IS structured in a highly episodic fashion.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, I disagree, partly because Snyder has already said that he will release a longer version on DVD (and this film NEEDS to be longer, it needs more space to BREATHE), and partly because this is one of those stories (like the Harry Potter books) that really, really should have been produced as a mini-series rather than a single feature film. At the very least, this version of Watchmen should have had chapter breaks, like a lot of films do, because the story really IS structured in a highly episodic fashion.

To do a pure adaption, I would think a better route would have been to do a single season on HBO or something similar. That would allow them to do it in 12-13 hours and tackle everything. But I thought Snyder and team did a good job of streamlining the story.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Isn't this basically a reverse/mirror image of the final theme of The Dark Knight? In TDK the villain creates a situation that would expose the public to the truth about a situation (

Harvey Dent became Two Face and went on a killing spree

.) in order take away their hope and create more chaos. The hero decides to lie about the situation and take the blame himself.

On the other hand, in Watchmen the villain (only exposed as the villain at the end) creates a situation to deceive the public about a situation in order to bring them together and create peace. The hero (

Rorschach

) decides to tell the truth about the situation (by

mailing his journal

) and place the blame on the villain.

Is it the same with the graphic novel?

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Wouldn't you know?

Wouldn't you know?

Afterr 7 years of writing reviews that are only read by myself, an online magazine based in Boston (albeit an obscure one) was willing to publish a Watchmen review by yours truly for actual publication...

...and yet this weekend coincided with a marriage prep retreat in a distant part of the state, a job interview, and my brother's own need for the car we've been sharing. And now that the opening weekend's over, who is going to read a review even if I do write it? I was unable to get to the movie, so I'd still need to find time to see it even if I were to write something.

This stinks. It's a sacrifice I had to make, but I am sad about it. I hope to fight again another day!

Edited by Jeff

-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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Is it the same with the graphic novel?

More or less, though I think it's spelled out better in the graphic novel.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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I was also curious about one other element. In the book, the only character with any actual superpowers is Dr. Manhattan, but a number of critics have complained that the film seems to suggest that OTHER characters have superpowers too. I didn't get that impression myself -- with one significant exception -- but I can sort of see why some people might have thought that; all the stop-and-start slow-motion tends to give the impression that the people doing all the running and jumping are running and jumping in some sort of "special" way. The one significant exception, of course, is

Ozymandias

, and the film is at least sort-of true to the book in this regard, but ... but ...

This bugged me as well. Nite Owl and Ozymandias aren't supposed to have superpowers -- I know they don't have superpowers -- but they were still able to toss people halfway across the room, punch through marble columns, and whatnot with a lot of ease.

This was one of the film's biggest flaws, IMHO. Snyder is slavishly devoted to the realism of the book in many ways and exhibits some restraint there, but when it came to the "intense" scenes, realism and restraint get chucked out the window, and so we have "normal" heroes throwing people across the room, Dr. Manhattan exploding people into clouds of blood and guts, and so on. Whenever there's a chance to throw in a little ultra-violence -- even if it's not in the original novel, which in most other respects, Snyder has an almost religious devotion to -- he takes that chance and runs with it. Perhaps it's supposed to make movie darker and grittier, but it just felt sad and tedious to me.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Did anyone make anything of the framing of several shots with the World Trade Center towers in the background? It happened several times in Ozymandias' office and outside on the street as well.

Usually, in post 9/11 movies, shots like this are there to make some sort of Statement (the final shot of "Munich," for example).

But in this case we're dealing with an alternate reality in which the Vietnam war was "won," Nixon serves five terms, and there's no reason to believe that Al Qaeda even exists. So I doubt there was any sort of Statement being made. But I did find it distracting in a couple of places.

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What did everyone think of the treatment of the character Silk Spectre II as portrayed in the movie? I'd like to know what her purpose was, other than to stimulate male viewers. It's all very male-centric, and it struck me as a throwback to the treatment of females in many of the movies I saw in the 1980s: lots of sex, always focused on the woman's face as she achieves orgasm. Her back story was moving, but I thought the film treated her as male-fantasy object more than a character in her own right.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Did anyone make anything of the framing of several shots with the World Trade Center towers in the background? It happened several times in Ozymandias' office and outside on the street as well.

Usually, in post 9/11 movies, shots like this are there to make some sort of Statement (the final shot of "Munich," for example).

But in this case we're dealing with an alternate reality in which the Vietnam war was "won," Nixon serves five terms, and there's no reason to believe that Al Qaeda even exists. So I doubt there was any sort of Statement being made. But I did find it distracting in a couple of places.

It also takes place in 1985, slightly before 9/11. ;)


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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