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The heart of this story is, I believe, about innocence and how fragile it is. Its post-war Italy, a society trying to find new meaning. Children, as is always the case, become the hidden victims. Giuseppe and Pasquale, are two gamins in our story, who are shoeshiners and fast friends. Their only ambition in life is to own a horse that they love, for which they saved for some time. They get involved in a crime without realizing it, but which enables them to buy the horse. Their dream is short-lived though, as they are soon caught and thrown into juvenile prison.
In an almost Dickensian atmosphere, children are treated as adult criminals, which then makes them into one and in an ironical self-serving judgement, the authorities turn around and say – “I told you so”
The problem with some books (more specifically graphic novel, in this case) is that they are literally untranslatable into movie form. Especially when the story is highly complex and interwoven with multiple characters with a storyline that needs to go back and forth in time to make sense.
The problem doubles when the storyline contains “Superheroes”. Then the movie has to take form of the typical action superhero format (Batman, Spiderman etc) or become watered down in its effort to appeal both to the graphic novel fan and to the mass audience. An example of the latter is V for Vendetta, which was a highly sanitized teenager version of the original novel, which more or less killed its appeal for those who cherish the original.
The plot, simply put (very simply!!) is this. Watchmen is about an alternate/parallel world similar to ours but different in many others. In this world, US has won the Vietnam war but only because they had the help of the Watchmen (their predecessors, the Minutemen helped win WWII), a group of vigilantes who don't have special powers like typical superheroes (except one) but they still dress up as ones and help out with ‘saving the world’. They become unpopular however and are disbanded. The story starts with one of them getting murdered by an unknown assailant. One of the Watchmen (Rorschach), who has refused to leave the ‘field’ decides to investigate…so the story and the movie begins…
Watchmen is as much a complex novel as V for Vendetta, if not more. The film-maker chose a simpler route to avoid the fate of V. They simply copied the frames of the movie from the original. When I say copied, I literally mean a xerox. While watching the movie, I had a weird feeling that I was seeing the novel move in fast motion. Even the dialogues were the same. Which in a way killed it for me – I loved the original and seeing the same thing in front of me without any adaptation or original thought of any sort made the movie feel like a sham, made it feel like a rip-off. What made it worse that they still had to water it down significantly in order to make it comprehensible in the 3 odd hours it played (it was a long movie) – for example, the pirate sub-story was gone…
Then I stepped back a bit. I realized that the novel cannot be made into a movie and be pleasing to someone who loves the original. But for those who are not so close to the original or have not read it, it was more than above average. It has a great storyline, has fascinating characters, great camera and animation work and yes, superb music. I mean, when they played “Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel during the funeral of the Comedian, the movie took on a surreal air. And the opening song by Dylan as the movie is introduced fits the mood perfectly.
And yet, no matter what, you cannot relate to the characters, like you did in the original. Everyone remains just about distant…
So, if watchmen is something you haven't read, this movie is worth a watch, if only as a primer for the read. And if you have read the original, give this one a skip…
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This is about as good a political comic satire as you would get. True, the acting is woody and over the top at times but the storyline is funny and the over the top action seems appropriate for the mood of the movie.
A Russian sub runs aground off the coast of America, on a small New England island town, when the commander of the sub tries to get a closer look of his ‘enemy land’. Not wanting to create an international incident, a nine man contingent is sent to the island in order to secure a motorboat to help draw out the sub.
And that is when the fun starts…in spite of the best efforts (may I say comical) of the Russians to make themselves blend in, suddenly the island is in the throes of an irrepressible rumour – The Russians have invaded!!!
The movie panders to stereotypes, both of Russian and American, in order to bring out the humour but it works quite well. As is quite obvious, the story is about how rumour feeds off itself and how panic spreads by the mere repetition of the rumour. The sight of the hapless and bewildered Russians trying to make sense of it all in face of them being branded as the steamrolling invading force is incredibly funny. The American gung-ho style of meeting the invader head on becomes funny when they actually start to search all over the island for the enemy who were supposedly all over the place…
There is obviously a message in the movie, if you care to look for it – as to how stereotyping and propaganda creates caricatures of people whom who we consider as enemy. But the message is so obvious that you sit back and enjoy the comical satire and you wonder how the poor Russian are ever going to get out of this one!!!
Alan Arkin is the best character in the movie – the over-confident second in command who feels his English is top notch (the scene where he teaches emergency words to his colleagues is simply hilarious). He is the translator and the coolest brain in the sub.
I think that the thing to be considered is that when the movie was released, in 1966, the cold war was at its absolute peak, the time when Dylan was singing “Let me die in my footsteps” (about the government generated scare of Russian annihilation). This movie is about how senseless all the propaganda is and that, to me, is a brave statement to make. And the best way to make a statement like that is by humour.
That, this movie does brilliantly…