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March 9, 2009


Watchmen and Jackie Earle Haley

Rorschach in Watchmen

I saw Watchmen this weekend, along with everybody else. I haven't read the book, and went in with expectations that hovered somewhere between the second Matrix movie and the third Spider-Man movie.

But it was better than both of those. The visuals were really cool and I liked the story's grim, Machiavellian attitude about fighting crime in a hopelessly self-destructive world, even if it didn't always make sense. And I loved the characters--they reminded me of the X-Men, if Xavier's and Magneto's respective posses had been fused into one morally ambiguous group of misunderstood outsiders.

But the best part was Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. This is the moment for Haley to get really, really famous. Before this movie, he was probably best known as the cool kid with the motorcycle in Bad News Bears (when he was 15) and for playing the released sex offender in 2006's Little Children. I also really love him as Moocher in one of my all-time favorites, Breaking Away.

This guy is a master of playing really intense, heartbreaking, compelling characters who are totally fucked in the head. I guarantee that, if you saw Little Children, his brief scene with Jane Adams freaked you out, and you might even remember it more clearly than the rest of the movie.

His whole performance in Watchmen was kind of like that. As the central narrator of the movie, and the only member of the original group who still seems to be living as a shadowy crime-fighter when all the rest have moved on to something else, he has to get the audience on board for the movie to work. Also, he's a paranoid sociopath with an especially perverse and gruesome sense of justice. But somehow he pulled it off-- I was right there with him through the whole movie, though more than once my jaw dropped open at the sick stuff he was doing. If his character had been any less interesting, the movie wouldn't have been anywhere near as good.

There were other good parts, too. The actors were mostly solid, except for the woman who played Silk Spectre II--flat as a flounder. Especially compared to the delightful Carla Gugino, who was awesome as Silk Spectre the First. What a tease! Couldn't she have just played both?

I haven't read the book, but I've heard from people who have that one of the few visual changes Zack Snyder made for the movie was to significantly expand Dr. Manhattan's weinus (of course he did!) which I strongly support.

Even at nearly three hours long, Watchmen pulled in $55 million opening weekend--pretty good, though still behind Zack Snyder's last movie, 300, which was the top March movie opening ever. If anything, I wish there had been more backstory and character development about Nite Owl and Ozymandias, though that would have pushed it to an insane original Kill Bill length, so maybe it's just as well.

During the 90's when his acting career was dead, Jackie Earle Haley was apparently a successful director of commercials. Here's a great, touching article about his big comeback in Little Children and All the King's Men. Next he's going to be an asylum inmate in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. Can't wait.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 4:32 PM | #

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Oh Amy---you gotta read the book! If your man doesn't have a copy, I'll lend you mine---if you liked the movie, be assured, the book is much better/deeper/politically sharper/formally intricate.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastard at March 10, 2009 10:58 AM

I read the book a while ago because two younger cousins of mine told me to. I hated it. But the movie cut out a lot of the stuff I didn't like (for readers who know the book - Tales of the Black Freighter, ugh. Mars, ugh. The genetics of Ozymandias's pets, ugh.) So I thought the movie was great - it stripped the book down to a real story and was a lot of fun. I was disappointed that the reviewers didn't like it more, but everyone who wants to see it will see it anyway, I guess.

Posted by: T-Rock at March 10, 2009 9:37 PM

Yeah, I will definitely read it, though I agree that those scenes on Mars got tedious.

Is Tales of the Black Freighter the part about the guy who makes a raft out of dead bodies that he lashes together? And then he sails somewhere on it while sharks eat away at the dead bodies? Ugh, indeed, but also, cool. I heard about that part of the book and sort of wish Zack Snyder had found some totally twisted way to show it on screen.

But I guess they went the slightly less gruesome animation route instead.

Posted by: Amy at March 11, 2009 1:49 PM

It was a scene for scene recreation of the comic right down to the camera angles.

One scene that was changed for what appears to be obvious reasons (Saw): Rorschach doesn't split the head of the child murderer. He handcuffs him to a radiator and tosses a hacksaw over. He then starts pouring kerosene all over the place, looks at the guy and says,"Shouldn't try cutting through hand-cuffs. Never make it in time". He begs and Rorschach then narrates ,"No body got out."

As a super hero, his special ability was memorizing details and noticing everything. He was able to win fights by getting inside his opponents sense of time. The movie left out a lot of his more interesting setups. Veight, of course, was a super genius who was even better at it.

Posted by: Carson at March 12, 2009 4:17 PM

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