Watchmen, Part 1
Submitted by Scott Story on March 8, 2009 - 22:11
Morning, All! Saturday I watched the Watchmen. I was moved by this movie.
For the sake of full disclosure, I was already primed to enjoy the movie, having read the graphic novel many times. As you can tell from Johnny Saturn, I have no allusions that superheroes are perfect or beacons of morality. In fact, I’ve long been convinced that the world these costumed vigilantes inhabit is dark, gritty, grimy, and oh-so-unsavory. I also believe that superhero stories reflect the world in which they are created, and by that I mean specifically the political climate. Thus, as you would imagine, the littered, raining, graffiti marked world of Watchmen appealed to me on a deep level.
When I got home, I announced that this was the best movie I’d ever seen, period. While I stick by my statement, I realize I may have been a little too caught up in the movies’ spell at the time. Is it the greatest superhero movie? Yeah. But, it was a different animal than most superhero movies. It was the superhero movie evolved into something that preceded its inadequate genre title.
Batman Begins and Dark Knight are great movies with some truly memorable acting. But, Watchmen kicked it up a notch. The fight scenes were very brutal, bloody, and relatively short. It was perhaps the best action I’d seen since the Bourne movies, which also presented brutal, dirty, close combat, not the beautifully choreographed dance-like martial arts of most movies of this sort.
In terms of sex, this movie had the first full-on superhero sex I’ve seen yet. In fact, the camera doesn’t flinch much as it records the sex act from beginning to frenetic end. In context of the movie, this scene made sense, illustrating that Dan Dreiberg the retired hero couldn’t consummate his new relationship, but that the Nite Owl, Dan’s superhero persona, was a whole man and able to do the job. There isn’t too much sex in the movie beyond that, but there is a lot more nudity. Dr. Manhattan spends most of the movie naked, but it doesn’t feel out of place, and by the end of the movie the audience is used to it.
One thing that took me off guard was the Comedian. As they put it in the movie, he is just short of a Nazi, and he’s certainly a sociopath. He’s sadistic, cruel, and he enjoys it. Yet, as played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, the Comedian is almost likable, and he’s often the voice of the movie, the voice of the American Dream gone haywire. As a rogue and rebel among rebels, his pronouncements often make sense. The Comedian isn’t deluding himself like the other costumed heroes are. Thus, it’s not really a contradiction when the Comedian learns of Ozymandias’ plans and has a change of heart. When he appears drunk and crying in Moloch’s room, we actually believe that the Comedian feels terrible guilt for all the crimes he’s committed, and that world is even crueler than he thought it.
Originally proposed using Charleton characters, which DC purchased in 1985, here are the characters they were based on: Comedian—Peacemaker, Dr. Manhattan—Captain Atom, Night Owl—Blue Beatle, Ozymandias–Thunderbolt, Rorschach—The Question, and Silk Specter—Phantom Lady and Black Canary (not Charleton characters).
I mention the characters’ source material because most movie-goers will see the Nite Owl as a Batman-like character. He’s a wealthy character with lots of neat crime-fighting toys, and he’s got the cloak and cowl. Still, I can say without doubt, that the modern incarnation of Batman has more in common with Ozymandias. Ozymandias is super-rich, a metro-sexual, orphaned, and has honed his abilities to the peak of human ability. He is also cunning, arrogant, and the so-called smartest man on the planet. Sound familiar? Ozymandius/Adrian Veidt simply could be Batman/Bruce Wayne.
There’s a lot material to cover here. In many ways, if this was the last superhero movie made, that would be appropriate, and Watchmen could cap the genre off. Honestly, it’s hard to even compare Watchmen with other superhero movies, such as the Spider-Man, the Hulk movies, or the recent Superman movie, because the layers of depth and context are not comparable. The Incredibles, for example, is a truly wonderful movie, and one of my favorites of all time, but finding the commonality between it and Watchmen seems forced. Sure, there are elements in common, but…
I give this movie and unqualified A+. There are no dead spots, almost no moments where the dialogue felt forced. This movie propelled itself along beautifully for more than two-and-a-half hours, and the entire experience was elevating.