Finite Focus: Changing Times. (Watchmen)

watchmen_onesheet_nmmAs people herd en masse to check out Zack Snyder‘s take on the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time, I think most will agree whether or not the film floats your boat, the opening credits sequences stands to be one of the best 5 minutes of film in 2009. Condensing a massive amount of back-story, exposition, mood and aesthetics to capture the spirit of America diverging from the history we know, to the alternate 1984 of Alan Moore‘s imagination. The national spirit is held up to the mirror in interesting tableaux that the rest of the film, when we get down to having to build characters rather than images, the film simply cannot sustain. On one had, the use of Bob Dylan seems almost cliche, but upon consideration of how this film is aiming at iconic American imagery and key scenes in the national memory, it is well, quite simply, perfect.

Couple this with the magnificent (perhaps my favourite one of all time, even) opening credits sequence in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and it is clear that the directors strength is building image and sound together rather than traditional narrative storytelling. Dawn of the Dead the film certainly does not live up to its opening credit sequence either. Perhaps the complete indifference I had to 300 stemmed from moving that films opening credit sequence (also good) to the back. (Well, probably not, but you see where I am coming from, c’est non?)

It seems that the sequence went online this weekend, and for those who have no interest in bothering with the film (you should, even if the film is far from perfect, it has a lot of stuff worth taking in and is a well above par comic book film), you can litmus test with this below scene. If these credits don’t get your mind and your eyes buzzing pleasantly, then well, you are really going to be baffled by the film.

Kurt Halfyard
Resident culture snob.

10 Comments

  1. I'm about to walk out the door to go see it. I think I'll hold off watching the opening sequence so it can full impact in the theatre. You're totally right, though, a fantastic credit sequence can make a huge impression on me. In fact, these days, a film HAVING an opening credit sequence often knocks it up a notch for me.

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  2. Someone has probably pointed this out already but, look whose parents Nite Owl is saving in the first frame there. Is that Alfred too? There's a sign that reads Gotham Opera House and some Batman posters.

    I guess in this alternate reality Batman doesn't exist. Watchmen makes this easy to deal with.

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  3. I also love that Moloch is one of the John's to Rorschach's mom. A nice detail in there.

    I noticed the batman posters, but never made the connection. This also gets at the Pirate Comic stuff in the film that superhero comics fell out of favour once masked vigilantes started becoming common. Nice.

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  4. I loved the film, but I honestly think that opening sequence is probably the best part of it. I wondered how Snyder would pack so much of Moore's alternate history into the film. Looks like he managed to do it with this! Simply genius.

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  5. The opening credits are definitely the best part of Watchmen (though the cynic in me complains at how flashy and artificial they look – a complaint I had about the films entire visual pallate).

    I just caught The Wanderers at The Wright Stuff screening and as bizarre a comparison as it is, The Wanderers gave me the wonderful tonal play of big ideas and pulp in a period piece that I wanted in Watchmen (plus as Edgar himself pointed out, Wanderers appropriated "The times are a'changing" first and more effectively)

    Actually my perfect Watchmen film would be an odd mish-mash of Nicholas Roeg's The Men Who Fell To Earth, The Wanderers and yeah even The Warriors. (honestly these two films are on my mind from watching them last night) The banality that occurs in all three of those films amidst outlandish comic book moments is what I desperately wanted in Watchmen.

    But all I got was another shallow, hyperactive, and juvenile comic book movie.

    Yeah… I really didn't like it.

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  6. I don't get all the fuss over this opening sequence. It's nice and everything, but only in the way that a really high budget commercial is nice. This sequence's strength comes only from Dylan's recording, not from the filmic aspects, which are unoriginal and trite. Also, how does this sequence fit in thematically with the rest of the film? It doesn't. This is not landmark filmmaking. I sound whiny about this, but it's only as a reaction to all the hyperbole about what a great film this is. I love to get lost in Hollywood productions, but come on, this is just silly.

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  7. Nope, there is a resonance to big American MOments, and history diverging, which really sets the stage here (Love the Batman diorama in the first shot, showing how any sort of superhero comics are dead. Love the symmetry with Moloch the Magnificent hiring out Rorschach's prostitute mom. And then the WWII Nuke, the Monk on Fire, JFK, etc. etc. The scene rocks for me. The movie never lives up to its promise in fact.

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  8. Fair enough. When I walked into this movie I wanted to love it, and honestly I was kind of moved by the credit sequence. Now, after watching the whole thing, I want to hate every part of it.

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