Zack Snyder is arguably one of the consistently worst directors of big budget action films in the past century. There’s Michael Bay, there’s Roland Emmerich, and then there’s Zack Snyder. He gained fame and popularity for his adaptation of 300, a film that’s alright but nowhere near as good as most make it to be. His second major graphic novel/comic adaptation, Watchmen, is his best movie in my opinion. He would go on to direct the childish Sucker Punch, ridiculously edgy Man of Steel, and the horrendous Batman v Superman. He’s a director directing what he loves but his attachment to the medium of comic books and film is of dubious nature. His interviews have had him discuss his love for violence and rape and edgier subject matter…he comes across as a fourteen year old in an adult body and his films reflect that constantly.
The problem with Snyder and the reason I despise him so much is the fact that he actually has a lot of talent and Watchmen showcases it immensely. The direction, shot composition, and comic book feel of the film is brilliant. It’s a sublime piece of artistic film making and a wonderful adaptation of what was considered an unfilmable graphic novel. If not for some self-indulgence, this would probably be my favorite comic book film of all time.
Flubs in Watchmen come in the form of Snyder’s more childish tendencies. The violence of the film, for instance, is entirely excessive. The graphic novel never reached the levels of gory viciousness portrayed here and while the violence of the comic was meant to be shocking and push a point, the violence of Snyder’s film is over-the-top and shocking in how senseless it is. For instance, the prison scene. Night Owl and Silk Spectre want to break out Rorschach. In the comic, it’s a quick couple of panels. In the film, Snyder has a drawn out action sequence for no reason. He’s obsessed with the violence and while he does a great job crafting the characters and more mundane moments, the extravagance of the violence is off-putting.
The other thing I hate about this movie is the reliance on licensed music. The amount of music in the film is insane and so much of it feels entirely unnecessary. Playing Sound of Silence during The Comedians funeral is one such example. A solemn moment that leads to painful reflections for the characters should have been silent but for the sound of falling rain. Shoehorning Simon and Garfunkel in is tone deaf as you can get.
And then the Hallelujah scene. Silk Spectre and Night Owl have sex in his flying craft Archimedes. What should have been a quick fifteen second scene of passion with heavy breathing and other associated sounds becomes completely terrible with Hallelujah playing over the course of two-ish minutes of an awkward, voyeuristic sex sequence with a painful orgasm joke at the end. This one scene is enough to ruin the film overall for many viewers.
Despite the two issues above, issues that plague Snyder movies for his entire career, I still love Watchmen. The Director’s Cut version or the 215 minute version are the ways to go as they flesh out the characters better and leave a lot more of the good parts of the movie. That’s the problem: Snyder thinks the good parts are the sex and violence. He likes the dark stuff but doesn’t understand the human elements. The audience thinks the good parts are the characters. This is a film propelled by a great script, good actors, and excellent directing in most respects. But it’s also a film that shows a director who takes it upon himself to over-emphasize the wrong things.
It’s too bad that the masterpiece of genre subversion and the deconstruction of comic books as a whole, Watchmen, has a film version with so many issues. Because, let’s face it, Logan is by and large the better anti-conventions comic book film and will most likely have a much longer legacy than Watchmen ever did.