How not to write a movie review: Watchmen edition March 2, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in arts and culture, Comics, Watchmen.
To be absolutely clear: I have no idea whether Watchmen will be a good film. Zach Snyder hasn’t convinced me he has anything to say behind his visual sensibility, and I have lots of reasons to think that the film might fail.
But I’m absolutely certain that if Watchman is a disaster, it isn’t for the reasons laid out in this horrible review. It seems Anthony Lane doesn’t like the film, but wants to be absolutely clear that he Knows His Comic Books. Otherwise, why include the embarrassing-attempt-at-street-cred-slash-opening-salvo?
The world of the graphic novel is a curious one. For every masterwork, such as “Persepolis” or “Maus,” there seem to be shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks.
Comic book fans will know that mentioning Maus is a requirement for anyone wishing to demonstrate that they Really Understand Comics. Persepolis is a close second in this regard.*
Having now established that he is a Serious Person Who Should Be Taken Seriously, Lane proceeds to make silly mistakes (i.e. mocking one character for being a ripoff of Batman when that was precisely the idea, as anyone familiar with the material should surely know), and stumbles his way through a few potentially valid criticisms, to end on what might be the single most embarrassing line from any review I’ve ever read:
Incoherent, overblown, and grimy with misogyny, “Watchmen” marks the final demolition of the comic strip, and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?
I can’t wait until Lane explains a) how a film could be a “demolition of the comic strip” (any more than claiming that Cruel Intentions marks the destruction of the novel) or b) why he expects his film-criticism-turned-amateur-hour-comics-criticism to be taken seriously when, for all his posturing, he clearly indicates to understand comic books every bit as well as the bitter man at the poetry reading, objecting that “real” poetry rhymes.
But I suppose we should suspect nothing less from a man who thinks the description “not quite as enjoyable as tripping over barbed wire and falling nose first into a nettle patch”** is either an enlightening or clever descriptor.
*Both laudable works, mind, but Lane’s rhetorical move here is the equivalent of starting a review of a metatextual film by assuring the audience that you have indeed seen Citizen Kane.
**That’s Lane’s recap of V for Vendetta, a review which tells us nothign about the film, and far too much about Lane’s sense of humor.
[Update: fixed typo.]