Episode 44: Watchmen: Ultimate Cut (2009, Zack Snyder)



Raymond Chandler, creator of the archetypal American private eye detective Philip Marlowe, was once asked how he felt about what Hollywood had “done to” his books and famously responded that Hollywood hadn’t done anything to them – they’re right there on the bookshelf.

Directed (assembled?) by Zack Snyder last year, Watchmen is so breathtakingly appalling that it may have ruined Alan Moore’s original comic book serial for an entire generation. Unlike terrible adaptations which play loosely with their source material, or for that matter even good adaptations which play loosely with their source material, this film (special?) is a turd painstakingly sculpted into an exact replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker”: a virtual replica full of crap and bad taste.

In the greatest con job of superficial fidelity ever, Snyder crams the experience with as many visual cues and lines of dialogue from the original books as he can while methodically removing with tweezers anything remotely resembling a point of view, let alone that of the author and save perhaps for some trendy environmentalism which the book explicitly deflated as a non-issue. The result is a perfect storm of placating so-called “purist” comic book fans, flattering their desperate longing for mainstream legitimization by finally making the damn movie after 20-odd years of false starts, and pandering to the lowest common denominator across America by amping up the violence to obscene levels.

Everyone’s happy, no one’s happy, everyone’s already forgotten this movie existed. As Rorschach would say, hrm. Right before dropping Zack Snyder down an elevator shaft.

The difference between the “Ultimate Cut” and deleted-scenes-laden “Director’s Cut” of Watchmen is the addition of animated segments from “Tales of the Black Freighter,” the digressive pirate comic book within a comic book of the original series which serves no narrative point whatsoever in a bloated extravaganza already pushing 2 hours and 40 minutes in its theatrical cut. This only points up the unthinking patchwork of the entire enterprise.

The only remarkable thing about Watchmen is the revival of Jackie Earl Halley’s career, decades after becoming a child star in The Bad News Bears. After playing the most anticipated role in the film, one requiring him to remain almost completely under cover of mask, he shortly thereafter won the fool’s errand of playing another nerd favorite with an obscured face, Freddy Krueger in the upcoming Nightmare On Elm Street remake.

This episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast is therefore something of a prelude to our next week’s episode, a Nightmare On Elm Street special to commemorate the event!