Apocalyptically bad direction mars Snyder#039;s Watchmen

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

Only one good thing can be said about Zack Snyder's painfully flat and irrelevant adaptation of Alan Moore's celebrated graphic novel, iWatchmen/i: It has a killer opening credit sequence. That's it. The rest is indisputably repugnant, from its incompetent storytelling technique to its awkward and unsavory use of violence and sexuality (and nudity for that matter, but I'll get to the digitally enhanced blue penis later).

Based on the bright and colorful Annie Leibovitz influenced opening number, which showcases the rise and fall of America's superheroes throughout the 20th century, iWatchmen/i appears for a brief and fleeting moment to be the smart and subversive action film that both fans and newcomers filled the seats expecting on March 6. It turns out, however, looks only go so far, especially when an intellectually and artistically challenged director like Snyder attempts to adapt one of graphic novel's most complex and cerebral works of literary art for the big screen. Moore actually refused to put his name in the credits of this film, and, in retrospect, it turned out to be a very wise idea.

Set in an imaginary America where superheroes help politicians, including a despotic President Nixon in his fifth term, and conduct covert wars, iWatchmen/i is one of the most disheartening and degrading adaptations to hit the screen this year; a film that strictly and fastidiously re-creates the retro images from the novel but forgets, at every moment of its two-hour-and-40-minute running time, to retell the relevant and riveting story.

The task of moving a plot forward shouldn't have been difficult for Snyder, seeing as the premise revolves around an impending apocalypse. Yet, even doomsday isn't enough for Snyder to wake up and navigate the fragmented segments of his film into a coherent whole. iWatchmen/i quickly and quite easily becomes lost in its own maze of characters and subplots, and yet it plods defiantly forward, like a horse wearing blinders, convinced that it will find its destination and somehow make sense of all the jibberish being tossed around on screen.

Well, it doesn't, and it seems Snyder was aware of his failure at some point during the shooting process. This would explain the overabundance of blood, guts and horribly orchestrated sex scenes that permeate much of the movie. He must have realized, deep down, that Moore's ingenious dystopian tale about a clan of unhappy superheroes was too detailed and profound for him to comprehend. Thus, he could only hope that everyone watching would be too busy salivating over his slow-to-fast motion action sequences to realize that he had no vision to offer, no emotional or intellectual creativity to successfully adapt Moore's Reagan-era novel to the big screen. Speeches and much of Moore's dialogue have remained intact on film, but iWatchmen/i still feels like it was shot by a 12-year-old boy who, obsessed with the novel's animation, completely forgot to decipher the actual meaning behind the text.

Gone is the biting social commentary on the Nixon years and on Cold War paranoia. Gone too is Moore's cynical deconstruction of the superhero and what it means to save a world that no longer believes in its own saviors. What is left feels very much like a George Lucas-infused landscape of bright colors, slick machinery and comically bad acting. Sure, Snyder makes some cool visual references to iDr. Strangelove/i and the first iMatrix/i film, but the movie's visual palette has no meaning or connection with the actual themes of the story. And what is up with this director's obsession with the male anatomy? After the near-naked Abercrombie warriors of i300/i and, now, the continuous cuts to Dr. Manhattan's massive blue member, one wonders whether Snyder would be better suited to directing gay porn.

Or would it be going too far to suggest that Snyder never be allowed to film anything again? I know there are plenty of i300/i lovers out there but iWatchmen/i must be proof enough that when it comes to ideas, however big or small they may be, Snyder hasn't a dime to offer or a nickle to share. He's a copy artist at best and an apathetic plagiarist at worst.

From what we can gather from his last two films, this is a man dedicated to little more than glorifying death, rape, nudity and blood on film. He has no sense of remorse for his characters and no sense of moral responsibility towards the terrible acts of violence committed in his films (a small girl gets chopped up, incinerated and eaten by a pair of dogs in iWatchmen/i. Lovely, right?). Banal and perverse, i300/i and iWatchmen/i appear ugly and sociopathic rather than mischievous or subversive.

So please, do cinema a favor and go away, Zack Snyder. Your presence as a cinematic pervert is beyond unnecessary. It's become profoundly regressive and unhealthy.