Saturday, March 07, 2009


It's a time of Nixon, a time of paranoia. If you're not afraid of the atomic bomb threat from Russia, you're frightened of the crime on the streets and the degradation the United States is surely headed towards. It's 1985.

Super heroes have been banned from cleaning up any of this, even though they helped end the Vietnam War in our favor. Our story follows these superheroes, once known as the Watchmen, in their lives when one event propels several of them towards the truth. The Comedian has been killed.

As I sat there and watched this movie through all 2 hours and 45 minutes, I couldn't help but marvel at the skill in which a very complex, overlayered graphic novel was reduced to something less than 10 hours. The graphic novel -- story by Alan Moore, drawings by Dave Gibbons -- is thick, encompassing 12 comic books. The straight tale of what happened to the Comedian is interlaced with back-up stories of many of the Watchmen, a love story or two, a story about a Black Freighter straight out of a comic book being read by a kid on the street corner, and as you're reading, it's really hard to keep straight what's happening in this city modern time versus what happened before and what's "fiction" from that comic book within a comic book. It's utterly fascinating and genius material.

Director/producer Zack Snyder chose to leave most of the extraneous, especially the comic book stuff, behind, only featuring some back-up material -- for instance, some brief scenes of Rorschach in prison -- much to the benefit of the story. It's a lot easier to follow.

The characters are fascinating. Only one of the Watchmen has any super powers at all, Dr. Manhattan, who's big and blue and mostly naked. The others seem to either have great fighting abilities or just a stubbornness beyond being injured. Rorschach is especially interesting; you've never seen a character like him. He's a do-gooder, trying to erase the evil in the city for the betterment of mankind. But he doesn't care how many fingers he breaks to find the truth. The movie softens up this portrayal of Rorscach (called that due to an ever-changing blot on his mask), opting not to tell you that he'll beat up 13 guys to find the one in the bar who knows something about something. The Comedian is another not-so-nice hero; he's sadistic, plain and simple. War and 'Nam will do that to you.

So why should we care about The Comedian? Why should we care that he's dead from the opening scene, especially that he's dead before we even meet him? The story weaves around his character so that we see bits and pieces, sometimes literally, of him in the past. And this story is all in the details. The photos on his dresser. His moments of despair. When he asks for forgiveness.

There's violence -- I mean, limb-tearing, bone-shattering violence with blood oozing everywhere, there's sex -- who knew that superheroes had sex? Superman never encountered that "issue", there's a long, hard look at the city's underbelly. This movie ain't for kids. For that reason, and many more, it's not as easy to get into as Spider-Man, but it shows much more.

At close-up, it's a story of these very-human do-gooders. You learn to care about them because of what they do and who they are, the odds they're against. At far-away, it's a story of humanity. And, at farther-away, it's a story of modern times, of how we need to deal with our paranoia and the sickness within us.

Watchmen is a fascinating triumph. Thumb's up.

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At 10:10 AM, Blogger Melinda said...

Okay, I would normally not be excited about seeing a film like this one because of the blood and violence, but after reading your review, I do want to rent this one! In Blue Ray! Sounds fascinating.


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