Review – Watchmen
– by Shawn Conner
The recession. Terrorism. Global warming. The View.
Doesn’t humanity have enough to worry about besides nuclear war?
Apparently not, according to Watchmen. The new movie based on Alan Moore‘s decades-old graphic novel asks us to share in the threat of nuclear devastation to a world where Richard Nixon is still president. That’s a big leap, bigger perhaps than asking us to believe in its costumed superheroes.
Many are asking, does it stay faithful to its source material? To which I reply, Who cares? Moore is rightly revered for bringing a more adult, postmodern sensibility to the stagnant swamp that mainstream comics had become by the end of the ’70s. And for its time, Watchmen broke new ground by taking certain elements of the superhero genre, i.e. its inherent fascism, to their logical conclusions.
However, what was groundbreaking 20 years ago is pretty much cliche (if not camp) now, and what was “adult” in a superhero comic – attempted rape, penile dysfunction – isn’t exactly new in the moviehouse. The series’ alternate history, though, is where Watchmen (the movie) falters in its attempt to engage the audience; we just have too many other things to worry about than to be asked to imagine a world where the U.S. won the Vietnam war, and Nixon is still leader of the free world.
Thus, any movie version of Watchmen is ultimately doomed to begin with. Even when Zach Snyder‘s film get things right, it goes wrong. Simply on its own terms, as an action movie with serious overtones, Watchmen suffers from an interminable middle stretch, while the plot (confusing at best) grinds along. There are just too many melodramatic-bordering-on-corny moments, not to mention armchair psychologizing, unnecessarily graphic violence, and ultimately a misguided belief in its own significance, as exemplified in its soundtrack‘s ponderous, hamfisted appropriations of countercultural signposts “The Times They Are A-Changin”” and “All Along the Watchtower” (The Hendrix version. Of course.).
The movie does deliver visceral and visual kicks, as intermittent as they are. Billy Crudup steals the movie with his multi-dimensional (read here for just how “multi-dimensional”) performance as the Blue Man Group reject Dr. Manhattan, and just about everyone else makes us believe in their weirdly outfitted characters. The opening fight scene, between the grizzled old rightwing superhero vet the Comedian and a mystery assailant, sets the bar high early on (perhaps too high) for sheer kinetic energy. It goes without saying that the effects are the best $130m can buy, and that Malin Akerman (above), in her Silk Spectre II outfit, will launch a thousand fanboy dream sequences.
Ultimately, Watchmen is an interesting, sometimes satisfying curio for comic book fans. But I wouldn’t recommend it to non-comics reading friends, who are likely to leave the theatre wondering what all the fuss is about, and why they just spent three hours in a movie theatre watching the Watchmen.
(Of course, before Watchmen was a movie it was a groundbreaking graphic novel. You can order the Watchmen graphic novel with a Target promotional code.)
Oh, and for a totally off-the-wall review by a Conservative nutbar, go here. It’s enough to make me like the movie.