Jan 10

To Squid Or Not To Squid: The Unreviewed 4

Do You See + FT9 comments • 439 views

So here’s the last batch, from March onwards where ones new Years Resolutions start drifting away. And rather than great, or bad movies, these are all a bit of both, rather reliable and stolid rather than stuff worth writing about. All films i would recomend people saw without out trying to tell them that they are the best film ever. You know, the bread and butter of the film industry, even if they all potentially offered a lot more.

Watchmen: One of my favourite movie going experiences of 2009, merely because it made good one of my other New Years Resolutions. Namely I saw it with a lot of people. I think about eight of use sat in a prime location in a packed Vue Islington, and enjoyed watching a comic we had all read being turned into a film which was nearly exactly like the comic we had all read. And in retrospect, what more did we want? We all came out with very few complaints, we all agreed that the one significant change (SQUID) made lots of sense and then also agreed that Watchmen is Ok but not the best thing ever anyway. In a year that I would characterise for its excellent credit sequences, Watchmen had one of the best, a masterclass is effortless world building. The rest of the film was less of a masterclass of adaptation, really too long and not quite as portentous as it wanted to be. But then that is the case with the comic, and we all agreed in the pub afterwards. It reminded me that watching a film with people really is a different beast, and part of the point of cinema. It was a fun afternoon.

Outlander: I saw this with Mark, and he was toying with writing about it so I backed off. In the end though it is a silly little B-movie yet again trying to retell Beowulf, this time with ALIEUMS!!! Outlander is almost as much fun as a film about Vikings and Aliens and Alien dragon monsters can be. It has John Hurt in it. It has a feisty Viking warrior princess. It has a mystery glow in the dark space alien dragon. And unfortunately in the lead role it has about the dullest actor working in Hollywood at the moment, Jim Calveziel. Even his dullness cannot strip the film from its simple b-movie joys, and luckily much of the rest of the cast do overact into his blank alien canvas. He is the acting version of A Spaceman Came Travelling here, which is what he is playing, your least favourite bit of the thing he seems to have become a vital part. So it lacks the complete bonkersness it really needs, but well worth kicking back with for a laugh.

Synedoche, New York: You know the way that no-one likes a smart arse? I sort of feel that way about Charlie Kufmann’s film. Phillip Seymour Hoffmann is a terrific actor, but rarely a sympathetic one, and pile this with the standard Kaufmann conundrum plot and the film is the kind you describe as impressive. It is impressive, but hard to love. And I often wonder if the rest of the world is super dumb if they find all of kaufmann’s ideas so mindblowing. Synedoche, New York’s great idea is that his playwright lead basically constructs a play of his life, in real time, in a smaller scale (which then breeds its own inner play within the play). And it goes on for twenty years, and he still doesn’t get to understand why he is unhappy. And there are no end of great questions about art, theatre, and particularly movies nested in there. But unlike Being John Malkovitch or Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind there isn’t also a master story, or connection with a character I cared about. I cannot say I enjoyed the experience even: I enjoyed the mulling over it more afterwards. Though this time that mulling was heavily predicated on how I might have made it better. I want Kaufmann to continue, but hopefully this has got the blurting everything out stage out of his system.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: I still don’t think I have anything left to say about this juggernaut series. I haven’t read the books and am genuinely enjoying the films as a regular saga, without really buying into the mythology or really caring about the destinies of these characters. Indeed I tend to prefer the slower developmental aspects of the series, the bits where we see the kids slowly growing up, and so Hermione and Ron are at this point much more interesting to me than Harry. And yet, even Harry interests me as a protagonist, as he drifts comfortably away from being the complete Joseph Campbell hero type, and the series is capable of surprising me. I still hate its twee 1950’s throwback public school feel, but since that is central to the premise I won’t escape it. But all the above could have been written about any of the Potter films, and this one has just drifted into the bunch. Nowhere near as badly directed as the Chris Columbus pair, but nothing much of importance really seems to happen in it.


  1. 1
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Nixing the Squid was definitely a good move in Watchmen. Never made that much sense and just seemed like another layer of complexity for it’s own sake. Much neater dove-tailing in the film.

    What was a bit crap (and I think quite a few critics picked up on this) was the scene where Laurie and Dan beat off the muggers – a low-key fist fight in the book, a ludicrous Tarantino-esque bloodbath in the film – makes a mockery of the book’s characterisation – how can we recoil at Blake or Rorschach’s excesses when we’ve just seen the voice of reason stabbing a man through the neck with his own knife? Very silly.

    That said, otherwise very entertaining and yr right about the credit sequence, I’ll never hear The Times They Are A-Changing again without thinking off a man in a giant moth costume being hauled off to the looney bin.

  2. 2
    Matthew on 6 Jan 2010 #

    I like the Watchmen Squid. I don’t get how the-nations-of-the-world-uniting does anything to forestall a second attack from Dr Manhattan, who is just the laws of physics with the capacity to hold a grudge. Whereas evidence of sentient, hostile life elsewhere in the universe is a very good reason for the human race to band together in a spirit of peace and harmony.

    Plus, Doctor Manhattan was first and initially foremost an American citizen, I would have thought him going berserk would have given the Russkies an extra excuse to hate the Yanks.

    Also, like Bernard Cribbins I just like squid.

  3. 3
    Tommy Mack on 7 Jan 2010 #

    I suppose when you put it like that, it does make more sense that way.

    Wouldn’t they just examine the Squid,once the dust had cleared and find out that it was made of rubber?

  4. 4
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jan 2010 #

    i actually liked the film’s acknowlegdment that laurie and dan’s violence isn’t really any different from rorschach’s: it;s one of things the manky art in the comic obscures — i don’t think it;s silly at all, it just turns the critique back on itself: that their self-rightenousness on this issue is basically deluded, and that rorschach IS the one that understands the politics of vigilante superheroismus

  5. 5
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jan 2010 #

    oops and sorry about outlander pete: i can’t now think of a single thing i wanted to say about it, so i shouldn’t have baggsied it — except perhaps to point out her AWESOME FROCK which remains spotlessly blue even after she’s spent a night thrashing around in the middle of a giant pile of half-eaten corpses

  6. 6
    Pete Baran on 7 Jan 2010 #

    That is a better point than the one I made.

    What I think is good about the Dr Manhattan ending rather than the Squid ending from a storytelling point of view is that it IS ALL IN THE TEXT. Manhattan no longer cares about humans, is outside of time and space, and is basically a sentient nuclear Armageddon. So the purported actions in the film are completely consistent with his attitude AND consistent with Man In The Street solutions to the problem (just blow ’em all up and start again). Where the film does drop the ball a bit is in trying to visualise how this logical solution is so beastly. But then films have never been very good at death on this scale, look at how little the deaths of billions in 2012 effect us over the saving of a dog (AGAIN WITH THE DOG EMMERICH).

  7. 7
    Martin Skidmore on 7 Jan 2010 #

    I think the reason it fails to make the solution seem as monstrous as it is is because the film omits all the ordinary people. We do glimpse the two Bernards, for instance, when the explosion happens, but that’s their only screen time. When Veidt says he’ll feel every death he has caused, every day, I was very conscious of our being deprived the opportunity to feel a few of them.

  8. 8
    Tommy Mack on 8 Jan 2010 #

    The problem I had with the Squid is that it’s a grand conspiracy theory involving hundreds of people which has to be written into the story just to set up the ending. Whenever the stuff about sci-fi writers and artists disspearing popped up in the book, it seemed that it must have some grand significance since it had little to do with the rest of the plot.

    Stitching up Dr Manhattan on the other hand is a neat, nasty little twist

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 11 Jan 2010 #

    I agree with TommyMack. The squid scenario ties in the Center For Extraspatial Studies, the SciFi writer, the surrealist, the geneticist and the comic book writer, which in turn ties in The Tales From The Black Freighter (used by Moore as co-narrative in the book). The companion DVD also expands the Shipwrecked story and does a clever TV interview piece about Under The Hood. All this had to be omitted from the original film to keep it pacy. No need for any such constraints from the book as we can immerse ourselves in the Watchmen world as much as we like. Read Blood From The Shoulder Of Pallas to understand Dreiberg and his twin fascinations with ornithology and mythology for instance.
    The film needed to demonise one or all of the main characters, because in Hollywood, no character flaw goes unpunished. Dr Manhattan, detached from humanity is exiled. Veidt, the architect of both endgame scenarios is punished for hubris. Blake, told a joke that even he struggles to laugh at is tossed out of his apartment window. Rorschach, uncompromising to the end becomes a symmetrical blot in the snow at the hand of Dr Manhattan. Laurie and Dan survive but not without being confronted with their own shortcomings and having to accept them and move on. In truth, the squid is merely a plot device, something that Snyder recognised immediately. The fact that Dr Manhattan is the scapegoat in the film does not detract from what is essentially a deconstruction of the superhero and what it means to the human psyche to be in the presence of one.

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