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Home > Letters to CR

Adam Casey On Taking Issue With Part Of The Watchmen Film Review
posted March 9, 2009
 

You wrote: "[the "Watchmen bingo"] effect lasts about five seconds unless you're really just going to movies to experience yourself watching them."

I liked the movie, and won't respond to your critique point by point, but I have to take some issue with the above quote.

The general public has been moving towards enjoying more formalistic movies for sometime and the audiences are aware that they're watching a movie such that they are observing it as the sum of it's parts (most usually special effects) than the whole.

As a film school graduate (in 2004), I butted heads with faculty over the premise that nothing (poor camera work, distracting sound effects or music) should take an audience out of the movie they're watching. While I agreed that the filmmaking techniques should be of high quality (something that is subjective), I firmly believe many people go to see a movie *because* it's a movie.

What started with Star Wars reached a crescendo with The Matrix. Special effects depicting impossible things make a viewer aware of the artificial nature of the film whether they know it or not. With the advent of 70mm audio tracks, THX, and Dolby Surround Sound, the audio experience has approached the same formalist level of the visual experience.

Furthermore, the modern movie marketing/hype machine (a mechanism of which is the fan community, both for comics and movies) that lasts for a year and a half or more has changed the movie going experience from taking in a story to observing the film's components. There are cast announcements, cast drop outs followed by new announcements, leaked footage, set stills, and interviews revealing plot details or mentioning big effects scenes that now cause the viewer to "grade" the film with a mental checklist making sure all the previously available information is accurately represented.

Of course, your and many others' mileage may vary, but it's hard to imagine with the short attention span of American viewers that immersion in a story and not being aware of the filmmaking techniques is easily possible these days.