Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Spoilers ahead.

After much anticipation, I saw THE WATCHMEN. So here’s my take:

I guess it’s okay.

What generates such enthusiasm from me? Let’s take a look-see.


Great visuals, and some intense action. The murder of Blake among them – great scene, well choreographed, well shot.

And I really enjoyed the opening credits montage – a marvelous way to introduce us to the world, and get us up to date.

And there were some really nice acting performances – especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Marvelous work.

I even enjoyed the understated and underappreciated voice and facial work of Billy Crudup as the CGI’d Dr. Manhattan. Veidt’s line about being able to read ocean’s of emotion in the blue giant resonated with truth – a lot going on with minimal movement.


If you are unfamiliar with the graphic novel, it will help you to know these two things going in:

IT’S NOT ABOUT HEROES. The story is about vigilantes, not heroes.

It asks: what kind of a person would dress up in a costume, and go a-beating on the bad guys? Not in a fictional world, but in the real world?

The answer, of course, is messed up people.

So don’t go in thinking that you will find caped crusaders and big blue boy scouts; instead you will find folks with a screw or two loose playing out fantasies to try and find meaning and fulfillment.

Another helpful tidbit:

THESE PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE SUPER POWERS. Dr. Manhattan is the only powered character in the movie.

You might be confused, because the other heroes punch holes in walls without scraping their knuckles.

And they leap incredible distances in the air without use of wires.

And they do marvelous, super feats that common folk can only dream of doing.

For example, Dan goes for fifteen years without working out. His first fight since retirement, and he is outnumbered by ten to one, surrounded by a gang (that probably has been working out).

Yet they can’t lay a hand on the guy, as he takes them down without working up a sweat.

But he doesn’t have super powers.

What he does have is a director who is looking for hyped up action – ala 300. Or that Crouching / Hiding movie.

Standard, really, for action movies of this type.

But you still might be confused, because the director forgot what the theme of his movie was.

You see, THE WATCHMEN is supposed to ask the question: what if real people dressed up in costumes?

So the psychological drama deals with real people, with grounded egos and jealousies, personal level angst and relational problems, and messy attempts to find meaning and connection.

And the action part of the movie deals with fantasy characters able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Two completely different and clashing movies compete for space on the same film reel -- each one undercutting the other.

The result: the audience can’t rest in either genre, making it harder to enjoy the action or the drama.

Which brings me to WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

To be continued.

Just my thoughts,


1 comment:

David Goulet said...


I too was eager to see this film. I agree that craft-wise the filling in of backstory was brilliant and the visuals were amazing.

Also agree on the acting.

I'll save the rest of my observations for your 'what didn't work'. Hint: I was disappointed.