Friday, March 6, 2009

"Watchmen" Review

Friday, March 6, 2009


Well, count me out. I'm not going no way! Not a 2nd time, at least...

...OK. So it's Thursday night. I have no school in the morning. And, frankly, absolutely nothing to do. My friends say they're going to see a movie: Watchmen. I say something like, "Oh, wow! I had forgotten that was opening! I'll tag along if that's alright." And so off we go, giddy with glee, to the midnight showing of what is sure to be one of this year's biggest disappointments...

I know my audience -- er, um, my lectance? -- is rather limited, but I still hope that this review may persuade many hopeful movie-viewers from wasting $10 and 3-4 hours of their lives on what will almost certainly end up being a flop.

First a little background on the movie for those who have lives (feel free to skip):

Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins. The series was published by DC Comics in single issues during 1986 and 1987, and has been subsequently reprinted in collected form. [...] Moore used the story as a means to reflect contemporary anxieties and to deconstruct the superhero concept. Watchmen takes place in an alternate history United States where the country is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, freelance costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most costumed superheroes are in retirement or working for the government. The story focuses on the personal development and struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government sponsored superhero pulls them out of retirement and eventually leads them to confront a plot by one of their own to stave off nuclear war by killing millions of innocent people. [...] Watchmen has received critical acclaim both in the comics and mainstream press, and is regarded by critics as a seminal text of the comic book medium. After a number of attempts to adapt the series into a feature film, director Zack Snyder's Watchmen was released in March 2009.from the "Watchmen" wikipedia article

Thus, "Watchman" is a long-(geekily)anticipated film adaptation of its eponymous graphic novel (which, of course, I have not read, as you may know from my Coraline post). Many fans of the graphic novel were certain the movie would become an instant blockbuster. I wonder how many have retained their faith in it. As I've said, I had not read the comic before seeing the film, but I was intrigued by its premise and its claim to art; thus we went to the midnight showing with high hopes. We waited for almost two hours in the theater before the film began, a film which we eventually wanted to ditch with a good 40 minutes left to go.

---> to the brass tacks of the Review:
I suppose I keep delaying my actual assessment of the film because it's so hard to put down coherently. Where to begin? Hmm......with asterisks!

*Watchmen is a long movie. But more to the point, it feels looooooong. I remember when I first saw "The Dark Knight" in theaters, I desperately wanted the movie to stretch out, to keep going; despite the superhero film's unusual length, it felt short, because I was enjoying it so much. Whereas, Watchmen drrraaaagged on and on and on. Time was tangible, and unforgiving; I wondered if the movie would ever end, a sentiment which hardly bespeaks virtues in a film.

*Per the point above, Watchmen only made me care about *one* of its characters. Rorschach makes one think of Travis-Bickle -- if he became a real superhero (with very, very similar monologues); though nobler than the Taxi Driver, Rorschach exemplifies the most extreme and feverish of vigilantes, whose just crusade has become an arguably justified series of executions. But Rorschach is the exception that proves the rule; Watchmen has a fairly large cast, with at least 5 main characters who are given almost equal air time, and I only really care if one dies. Perhaps that's the point. Maybe the cast is just too large, the focus too big. Watchmen does share a lot of the flaws of the unmentionable adaptation of the 3rd book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; it's a little too "epic" for its own good, which generally translates into stilted melodrama and lots of eye candy, but nothing else. I mean, I for one would like to know what a normal Joe-Blow thinks about the eminent destruction of the world, and yet the only characters are the heroes and the villains! And generally speaking, when Watchmen tries to show the depth or complexity of one of its characters, it basically just throws a plot point at them: e.g. "Oh! She really is the daughter of so-and-so, as opposed to what's-his-face. What depth! What complexity!" In other words, instead of making the characters complex, it complicates their lives.

*Gratuitous violence and sex. Listen, I like a lot of violent movies: Man On Fire, Kill Bill, American History X, The Proposition, etc. I also like some movies that have a lot of sex and nudity, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I call sex and violence "gratuitous" when their on-screen purpose seems only to titillate, when useful tools of character and story become mere cheap thrills. The violence in Watchmen is not ever-present, but when it appears, it is more than a bit over-the-top, probably over-the-line, and seemingly for its own sake. Again, the film's depiction of sex and nudity does not take up that much time and is not extremely graphic, but it is excessive in so far as it seems out of place and without much of a point beyond itself. To put it another way, Watchmen suffers from the same faults as Sin City, because both films pretend that gore and sex and scandal are not only capable of being 'artsy', but *ARE* ART in themselves, without any qualification. Forgive my crudity, but boobs and brains are not in themselves worthy of film depiction; there must be a good REASON for showing what is properly (as the ancient Greeks understood it) ob-scene, or meant to be kept off-screen. I mean, once you know that Dr. Manhattan doesn't wear any clothes, do you reeeeally need to see his glowing blue member throughout several scenes? I don't think so.

*Piggy-backing on the last point, Watchmen falls far short of the literary heights to which it aspires to ascend. Its title is taken from the Roman satirist Juvenal's "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", or "Who watches the watchmen?" And its arch-villain is a reference to the famous Shelley poem, "Ozymandias." And while I admit that the graphic novel may be quite different, "Watchmen" the film is by no means art, and is thus not worthy of even parasitic REFERENCES to real art. Art has a cohesion, a continuity of vision, that Watchmen lacks. Art has multiple levels of analogy, while Watchmen's meaning is sadly only on the surface. Art is life-affirming (even if dark and twisted in depiction), while Watchmen often propounds bleak, Nihilistic sentiments. And, ironically enough, these sentiments prove most true when directed at the movie itself. 'Cause, frankly, "It's all a joke."

*On the + Side: Watchmen is very, very, very, very pretty. Again, it has a lot of action and eye candy, but in the end it proves all style, no substance.

--------> In conclusion, Watchmen is like THIS:

And it does THAT to the viewer:

It is a film that might appeal to the most hardcore fans, but few others. It is too obscure, too long, too disgusting and bleak, for the general American audience to enjoy.

I give "Watchmen" 2 Rorschach action figures out of 5.

See what rating Rotten Tomatoes gives Watchmen.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the review. I also thought the song choices were interesting....
But the opening credit sequence was the coolest that I have seen in a long time.

-Kinsey W-

Tyler Awesome Coolage said...

Yeah, the opening fight and the credit sequence were both very cool.

That's why Whitney Matheson of Pop Candy said something like "If you're gonna miss the first 15 minutes, don't bother coming."

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