Film Review: Watchmen


Leaving the cinema after watching Watchmen was a unique experience. I’ve never felt more void of love for the human race and simultaneous re-awakened to how precious and miraculous earth and mankind is. Strange doesn’t come close to explaining how I felt last night.

Watchmen as a film is beautiful to look at – the opening sequence is original, engaging and draws you into what is a cinematography triumph and a neat way to show 40 years of character back stories.

Set in an alternative 1980s where the Doomsday clock is symbolically indicates the imminent threat of nuclear destruction we watch as a disbanded group of vigilantes, re-unite in a fractured manner to solve the mystery of “The Comedian’s” death and the biggest joke of all – saving the pond scum of mankind from self destruction.

As a fan of graphic novels, Watchmen as a film doesn’t quite work – it felt disjointed. Like the original serialisation of the comic book the story changes to focus on individual characters intermittently during the film, but as a film medium this makes it harder to tie all the characters together. I like the way you can flip back through the pages in a comic to see how symbolism or narrative repeats itself and interlinks, it’s a bit harder to do that at 24 frames a second. However, Zak Synder is clearly a fan of the graphic novel Watchmen and that’s why he stayed (relatively) true to its form.

Sex is a theme which throws some light on the messages of this film. The romantic tryst between the overweight Daniel Dreiberg (Night Owl 2) and awkward Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre 2) is one of humble honesty reflecting awkward realities. Once re-awakened to their superhero duty and casting aside the “fears” they have as good citizens (the war and being stalked by a killer) they celebrate in leather clad, theatrical, confident and passionate form (hilarious symbolism in the climatic gas explosion). I’m not sure Alan Moore was trying to say that if you live your life to fight for what you believe in and not succumb to the propaganda and fear that the institutions of society create then you’ll have better sex, but it was implied!

The backdrop to this metropolis shows a society rife with nude shows, xxx clubs, prostitution, rape and child molestation. Society devoid of hope (no religion, leadership) living with the imminent threat of nuclear war and ruled by a corrupt president has lost all morals. Even the god like Dr Manhattan who cannot bring himself to fully indulge his sexual desire with his lover Laurie claims, in his Mars exile, he no longer cares for the human race.

Man has become a cancer to himself. This is what the beautiful, restrained Ozyimandias see and uses as motivation to set his drastic and ruthless plan of redemption into action. Of course Dr Manhattan is blamed as Ozyimandias has replicated his unique energy to destroy and save the world – a mirror to the real life Manhattan Project – developing the A Bomb to end one war and star another.

I’m naieve. The Watchmen made it clear to me that Chris Nolan is not as clever as I thought he was. The Dark Knight and Watchmen could be mistaken for being a genre of ‘new’ superhero movies, except it’s a concept Moore thought up 20 years ago. By turning the idea of a superhero on its head Moore, and the mixed bag of hero/ villains/ saviours that he created as the Watchmen, simply shows an age-old distrust and apathy for government and ruling institutions.

Moore mocks the concept of the traditional superhero – even though the Watchmen wear the fantastical costumes of traditional DC heroes, their roles are darkly more complicated and disturbing. Both realistic and absurd. The Minute Men who preceded the Watchmen were ex cops and themselves masked vigilanties. The next generation has Dr Manhattan, a supernatural being created by a man made nuclear accident.

Dr Manhattan rejects ‘costumes’ and is nude – his godlike status shows he has no man made constraints. Like a god he has the power to change the outcome of real events (Vietnam War and presidency of Richard Nixon) yet he is the one who needs to be convinced of mankind’s worth. As a godlike character, he ironically needs a miracle to be convinced of mankind’s worth. In recognising the random, chaotic way in which cells merge to make life he realises the value of man. But after 2 hours of watching the violent scum of society I was too depressed to share his enthusiasm.

I’m off for a dose of Disney to cheer myself up.

Best scene
: Ozyimandias set to destroy the world from his polar temple, in full costume, stood atop a fabricated pyramid claiming “I’m not a comic book villain”. The irony was not lost on me.

Watchmen Trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808406490/video/10658091

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