We made the 45 mile drive to distant Alexandria to see Watchmen this afternoon. On the way there, I learned that neither Skatje nor Collin had ever even tried to read the graphic novel, so I almost slammed on the brakes and turned around to make them sit down and read it before I’d take them — but my own fanboi nature prevented me from putting off the movie any longer, so I took them anyway. The kids have been sternly instructed now that we’re home that they’re required to read it. Good thing I kept going, too — it was excellent. Where Ironman was last summer’s exhilarating carnival ride of a superhero movie, this one is the grim and intellectual anti-superhero movie of this year. Ten tentacles up!
It is true that the movie did remove the giant space squid from the ending, but — and this is rather heretical for me to say — this ending was better, and made the story even stronger. I was imp…
Wait, what’s that noise?
There’s mad-eyed bearded man pounding on my window! It’s…it’s…Alan Moore! How did he know what I was writing? I haven’t even posted it yet!
He’s broken in! He’s com…NOOOOOOOOOOO! <SQEEEEEEE> -fzzztzzzt- <crackle> *click*
Have no fear, gentle readers. I knew that would happen, and took precautions. While the enraged Mr Moore is distracted by my robot duplicate upstairs, I can continue my review from the safety of my armored bunker.
I did have some concerns. The director, Zack Snyder, last made the cartoonish 300, another adaptation of a graphic novel, and while stylish, it was also ludicrously macho to the point of camp. He may have been a good choice, after all, because what he did in that movie was slavishly translate the ludicrous machismo of Frank Miller to film — he seems to be a kind of visual mimic. What he did in Watchmen was to channel the cynicism and complexity of Alan Moore, instead, and thereby produce a movie that was cynical, complex, and interesting. There aren’t many movies that I can say I would like to see a few more times, just to pick up on the details, but this is one. Even if the ending is changed, it’s still entirely faithful to the spirit of the graphic novel.
Oh, dear. Don’t be alarmed — Mr Moore seems to have chewed through the casing of the robotic power supply, causing a rather large explosion in my living room. That must have stung!
The casting was phenomenal. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was the perfect image of the terrifying psycho — again, Snyder’s dedication to the source pays off. Heath Ledger was frightening as the Joker, but this Rorschach, who is playing a “hero” as a vengeful vigilante with an absolute moral code, is just as powerfully present. When he’s thrown in prison with a mob of criminals he was responsible for putting there, and he shouts, “I’m not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with ME!”, he’s convincingly dangerous.
Billy Crudup as Dr Manhattan has a strange role: he has been given godlike powers, and he has to play a being who is gradually losing his humanity. I thought he pulled it off. The role is key; one of the ideas Moore tries to portray…
Mr Moore is trying to batter the door to my lair down. I think I shall have to release the rabid bat-hyena chimeras; they’ll take care of him.
Anyway, as I was saying, the story is trying to address the standard superhero comic book trope of the superman, the man who is unstoppable, invincible, and nearly omniscient by showing what such a creature would be like, and what the world would be like with such a being in it. It’s not simple — the superhero certainly wouldn’t be rescuing cats from trees or stopping burglaries, he’d have much more cosmic matters on his mind, and you have to figure he’d feel a bit detached from a humanity whose members are as fragile as vapor to him. That’s an idea that the story explores.
There’s also the counterpoint. If we lived in a world where costumed vigilantes with powers that mainly seem to be enhanced combat abilities, what would we see? Moore sees it as a gateway for fascism, and I can’t much disagree with him.
These are good questions to ask, if only for the benefit of us godless folk (there is a connection!) It’s one of the questions we “New Atheists” ask: if there really were a god like the ones described in the Bible or Koran or whatever, wouldn’t the world look a bit different? Wouldn’t the existence of these kinds of beings have significant consequences, wouldn’t there be direct effects on reality that we would have to deal with? Postulate a superman or a deity, and suddenly there are all kinds of peculiarities of their apparent nonexistence that must be rationalized away…we have to pretend that such a being would be content with the occasional foiled bank robbery or tornado that misses Aunt Edna’s house.
Face it, we live in a world of moral ambiguity, where there are no simple answers, no uncompromised good guys and no unremittingly evil bad guys. And if a few individuals did have vast powers beyond the average person’s reach, it would not make the complexity vanish.
Uh-oh. He’s cut the power conduit from the fusion plant. I’m going to have to conserve my battery reserves to fire up the particle beam turrets, so sorry, I’ve got to cut this review short. Trust me, though, the movie is well worth seeing, if you don’t mind a little brutality and a rather grim moral.
Oh, man, I hope that appeases him a little bit.