Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Over the next couple of days and weeks, I will be posting reflective articles on 2009. (I wrote my "Best Films of 2009" article over the weekend, and if you missed that, you can check it out right here). These new articles will cover everything from my favorite scenes (like this one) to the best performances. Here's the first entry (after the jump):
Coming into 2009, Watchmen was a film I really wanted to see. However, the mediocre reviews, and reports of the graphic content weren't exactly a turn-on when March 6th rolled around. It's still safe to say that I was excited sitting in that IMAX theater waiting for the film to start, but I wasn't necessarily ecstatic. That being said, my anticipatory feelings were rendered meaningless when the film's opening scene completely blew me away.
Zack Snyder proved with 300 that he could choreograph expert fighting scenes, but nothing in that (animated) film can compare to the way he filmed The Comedian's death in Watchmen. The scene opens up with The Comedian -- played perfectly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan -- enjoying a relaxing night in his beautiful, high-rise apartment building. He's elegantly smoking his cigar while flipping through the channels. He lands on a political talk show for a couple of minutes, an intriguing summarization of the United States' conflict with Russia.
He then lands on a romantic video of some kind, set to Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable." Even though I (and most likely everyone in the theater) knew it was only a matter of minutes before this man was going to die, Snyder and Morgan still managed to lull me into that false sense of security. I couldn't help but fall for the calm, jazzy tune, interweaved with shots of the cigar's puffy smoke.
Just when my mind started to sing along with Nat King Cole, an unidentified assailant kicks the door down as if it were child's play. The Comedian follows this revelation with an awesome line: "Just a matter of time, I suppose." This assailant is an intimidating figure, but so is The Comedian. This warrior isn't going to go down without a fight, and Synder drags out this hauntingly beautiful sequence as long as he could.
A lot of people had problems with the obscure soundtrack for this film, but I thought its arbitrary nature worked perfectly. No one walking into the theater would have imagined that "Unforgettable" would be playing while The Comedian is getting a knife pummeled through the back of his hand, and that is one of the reasons why it worked so well for me. This scene -- and the film as a whole -- is such an ambitious, epic attempt. Even people who were repulsed by the film can't deny the fact that Snyder was going for something big here, and that certainly deserves respect.
Seeing The Comedian thrown through his plate glass window set the tone for what is a disturbing, provoking, viscerally stunning film. Some might scoff at the fact that I think this scene is so beautiful, but I can't deny the impact it had on me. It was a remarkably powerful sequence for me, one that I would rank just below The Dark Knight in terms of great opening scenes of the past twenty years.
And we all know what follows The Comedian's death. One of the most effective and symbolic opening credits of the past decade.