Who will watch the Watchmen?

Movies and Television

Coming at this one blind, as I am unfamiliar with the Watchmen graphic novel. A little background: Watchmen is based on a graphic novel series of the same name, is about the dark side of politics and the human condition and what happens to people with special abilities without all the stereotypical noble, idealistic bullshit getting in the way. For a character primer, there is this.

Directed by Zack Snyder (300), Watchmen rocks us back and forth from the 40s to the 80s, in an alternate reality with Nixon still in power, Cold War raging hard, dark streets and even darker attitudes. Like The Incredibles, these supers are all pretty much in retirement, until a murder and the threat of global annihilation puts them back in the game.

© 2009 Warner Bros.

The central premise is pretty compelling: “Who watches the Watchmen?,” though clearly it is metaphor for everything. Those we hire to teach us, protect us, lead us, and help us: who does so for them, makes sure they do so the right way. And who decides what is right?

Most convincingly done in the character of the Comedian, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy) gives us a super strong guy with an even stronger, darker bad attitude. Unlike say a certain mopey teenager on the CW, he not only has no problems tossing his opponents 30 feet in the air, the Comedian will kill anyone who gets in his way: women, kids, you name it. There is a hard-to-watch attempted rape scene that clearly illustrates his attitude.

The next main character is Dr. Manhattan, played by Billy Crudup and whomever they convinced to run around naked and blue the whole movie, unless Billy’s been working out. A freak accident turned him into Mr. Universe, able to control matter, and so smart he makes Einstein’s understanding of physics and quantum mechanics seem elementary. As a result he lost touch with reality and his humanity, which was so obvious and overdone. We got that in five minutes, took the movie almost two hours.

Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) is the tough guy with the masked emotions, who is or is not crazy, but in many ways is the voice of reason. As they guy who gets it, he illustrates that while the supers may work to help people, they are not one of them and they can never really live with them.

Everyone else is just sort of there :

  • Patrick Wilson is some nerdy Dan but super powered dude with lots of cool toys.
  • Slutty (Silk Spectre II played by Malin Akerman), is a second-generation super, with skills and speed and strength.
  • Matthew Goode (Break Point) in a horrible blond wig, as the smartest, richest dude in the world and one of the few supers out of the closet.

© 2009 Warner Bros.

The beginnings are both unexplained and unnecessary. For example, we clearly see how Manhattan got his powers, but not really anyone else, save Slutty who is a legacy member and “inherited” whatever abilities she has. Almost all of the past stuff had no relevance on the present, or at least very little. Mostly it bogged down an already overloaded story.

So the movie is too long, too slow, and too obvious. With all the set up of Manhattan’s loss of his humanity, it was clear how that would come into play. With only so many speaking parts, it was clear who the good guys, bad guys, good bad guys and bad good guys all were. And with all its “world sucks” attitudes, it was clear there was no such thing as a perfect ending, no moral absolutes, or clean, “wrapped in a bow” resolution.

Which is my guess where it lost its graphic novel edge, and Watchmen is just another superhero movie trying to go to the dark side, never quite getting there. Some will love it, others hate, but most will be in the middle like me, find it kind of Meh.

Final Snark: basic popcorn movie entertainment, but you’ll need the extra large bucket to get through it.

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