Watchmen and the Jar Jar Binks meme

Watchmen and the Jar Jar Binks meme March 6, 2009

First, Devin Gordon wrote this in his Watchmen review for Newsweek magazine:

Snyder’s attention wanders when it comes to meat-and-potatoes storytelling, perhaps because he’s never really had to tell one before. He draws performances that range from sublime (Jackie Earle Haley as a bitter antihero named Rorschach) to ridiculous (Malin Akerman, who has a sweet onscreen disposition but is nonetheless the Jar Jar Binks of “Watchmen”).

Then, SpoutBlog ran the following picture with an article by Christopher Campbell called ‘5 Reasons a Watchmen Movie Was Unnecessary’ — an article, I might add, that never uses the words “Jar”, “Jar” or “Binks”:

And then, I discovered that the image below was one of six finalists in Gizmodo’s ‘104 Ways to Hilariously Ruin the Watchmen Movie’ PhotoShop contest:

Well, at least that last item wasn’t necessarily saying that the movie was ruined, only that it could have been ruined.

I must confess, I am kind of curious, now, to see if this meme has any sort of staying power. But just for the record, I saw the film myself this afternoon and I do not think Akerman is the Jar Jar Binks of this film.

I am not quite sure just what I do think of the film itself, yet, but for what it’s worth, Jeffrey Wells‘s reaction comes close to my own on several points, and I agree with Heidi MacDonald that the pop-song picks on the soundtrack are often “embarrassingly on the nose”.

Oh, and my favorite exchange from the book — and one of the book’s pithiest, most significant bits of dialogue — has been completely recontextualized and given to two completely different characters, in a way that robs the exchange of its full power, I think. I can’t decide whether this is better or worse than, say, the way Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) simply omitted several of the funniest and most character-revealing lines from its source material. I mean, at least the Watchmen exchange is still in there, somewhere… but if they’re not going to do it right, then why do it at all?

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  • This is very interesting, as I had no idea about any meme, or even the Newsweek piece when I put that image of Ackerman/Jar Jar. I just had heard she was the worst part of the film and so felt obligated to put her side by side with the infamous Binks.

  • Don Smith

    So, what were the dialogue bits? (from both HP and Watchmen?)

  • Two bits from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that I missed include:

    1. Dumbledore’s after-dinner speech: “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”

    2. The scene where Neville hops into the room because Draco has bound his legs, and Hermione immediately pops up and unbinds them. (I loved this when I first read the book, because it seemed to me exactly like what you’d expect children with magical powers to do, from the bully to the know-it-all girl who’s eager to show off her knowledge.) (I believe this bit was included on the DVD as a deleted scene, but still, it’s not in the movie.)

    I also have a vague feeling that an exchange or two near the end, in which Harry realizes that Snape does hate him but feels honour-bound to protect him, got cut from the film somehow.

    The bit from Watchmen that I missed:

    Ozymandias: I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.
    Dr. Manhattan: ‘In the end’? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.

    In the film, a version of this exchange is given to Nite Owl and Silk Spectre instead. And coming from them, it just doesn’t mean as much. Not even close.

  • Don Smith

    I just reread the book this afternoon. I didn’t notice the dialogue you mentioned (although I certainly believe you), but it was interesting that they also moved the dialogue about “creating life” from between Adrian and Jon (book) to Laurie and Jon (movie). This seems like a *really* bizarre thing for *him* to say to *her*, given the sexual nature of their relationship, and the way in which her conception (in particular), or at least his recognition of it, played in his re-connection with humanity. When he says it to Adrian, it’s two scientists discussing an experiment. When he says it to Laurie, it’s about reproduction. It’s especially interesting that he says this to Adrian in the book, given Adrian’s role in the creation of the squid. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Jon meant.

    I also thought it was interesting that Adrian let Dan beat him up in the movie, where he showed no such remorse in the book, despite his protestations that he felt their loss.

    Also, by using Jon as the scapegoat, especially in the light of the dialogue they kept about Jon being “like God now”, and Jon saying “if there is a god, I’m nothing like him”. But at the end, it’s fear of a distant, god-like being who can kill/punish us that has united the world — one who is about to go off and create life on some other planet. Is that Snyder’s view of religion?

    What do you think?

  • I can’t say I was bothered by the on-the-nose music, because in a comic-book movie where exaggeration is the lingua franca, I just expect everything to be on-the-nose. It was more like a beat being hit.