Watchmen, Part II
Submitted by Scott Story on March 15, 2009 - 21:26
I know people who think that superheroes donâ€™t lie, and that they would never fight other heroes.Â Itâ€™s easy to see where they got this idea, because, outside of comics, superheroes are portrayed as one-diminsional, bright, optimistic do-gooders, sort of boy scouts in tights. They always do whatâ€™s right.Â Itâ€™s never hard to decide what is right or wrong.Â Good always wins over evil.Â Good deeds never have unforeseen, bad consequences.
In comics itâ€™s another story all-together.Â Well before the â€œWatchmenâ€ or â€œDark Knight Returnsâ€ were published, comics had already shed much of its innocence and stories often pushed the accepted boundaries and dealt with drug abuse, alcoholism, pornography, addiction, and any other vice you can think of.Â Most often these vices were dealt with tastefully, and moral conservatism won over depravity.Â When heroes fought each other, it usually began with a clichÃ© misunderstanding, a short inconclusive tussle, and then a congenial team-up to deal with the â€œrealâ€ problem.
I would argue that what â€Watchmenâ€ and â€œDark Knight Returnsâ€ brought to the comics scene was mental illness: the superhero as a sociopath, or psychopath, or some other such behavioral dysfunction.Â For example, Batman has spent the last thirty years wound so tight and out of touch with his human emotions that he is regularly described as psychotic.
This war for the soul of the superhero is at the heart of Watchmen.Â Dan/Nite Owl is a decent person, one unwilling to abandon his morals or dish out jackbooted oppression.Â Comedian has completely surrendered to his dark philosophy of brutality, and he believes in stark, ugly â€œtruths.â€Â Rorschach is a one-man judge, jury, and executioner.Â Ozymandius exemplifies putting the ends before the means, and in service of his goals he has placed himself high above his fellow humans.
Dr. Manhattan is easier to nail down.Â He belongs to the old archetype of the non-human who is more than human.Â Pinnochio, the Vision from the Avengers, Data from Star Trek, and many others fit this role.Â Dr. Manhattan believes that he is now divorced from humanity and their concerns, yet it is the tears of a woman (Silk Spectre) that change his mind and bring him back to earth one last time.Â Still, itâ€™s curious to note that for most members of this would-be human archetype, most aspire to become human, as if that were innately superior to their non-human status.Â Not Dr. Manhattan.Â We come away with the suspicion that he left for another galaxy and he would do well and good without his human traits.
The soundtrack to Watchmen is outstanding.Â In addition to the original score for the movie, which is moody and a little threatening, there are old songs worked in to great effect, including Bob Dylanâ€™s â€œTimes They Are A-Changing,â€ Leonard Cohenâ€™s â€œHallelujah,â€ Simon and Garfunkels â€œSounds of Silence,â€ and the Jimi Hendrix version of Dylanâ€™s â€œAll Along The Watchtower.â€
Scott Kurtz of â€œPvPâ€ labeled Watchmen as superhero porn.Â I respectfully disagree.Â Clearly, this movie is Superhero Noir, a dark, serious alley off the brightly lighted streets of traditional superhero fair.
Itâ€™s safe to say this movie isnâ€™t for everyone.Â If you expect that you are going to watch something like Superman returns, or Iron Man, or the Fantastic Four, you are going to be quite disappointed. Watchmen is darker even than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Donâ€™t take your kids.Â The teenagers that shared the theater with me seemed less than diverted, and they came and went often to get refreshments.