My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Mar 9

Watchmen

Category: Opinions

First, I should say that I haven’t read much of the Watchmen graphic novel series, so I went into the movie pretty fresh. Anything I say here is strictly based on Watchmen as a movie.

My short description of Watchmen is this, it’s a long movie for such a simple story. The basic premise is that super heroes, particularly one god-like super hero, helped us win Vietnam and by 1985 America is a dystopian society in which Richard Nixon is our three term President. It’s decided that super heroes are too powerful, and congress passes a bill forcing them into retirement. Someone then begins murdering these retirees for heretofore unknown reasons. Meanwhile, America is on the brink of nuclear war with Russia.

The opening credits are a gorgeous alternate history montage that shows the rise and fall of super heroes, but after the first hour things start getting flat. Yes, the film depicts a morally bereft dystopian society. Yes, the “heroes” are broken, emotionally scarred. Unfortunately, a post Cold War dystopia is no longer a new idea, nor is it particularly scary these days. Unfortunately, we’ve seen fallen heroes and anti-heroes, but we’ve seen them done better. Watchmen’s heroes are very predictable in their disfunction. Visually, the film is definitely excellent, but again, it’s absolutely nothing new. If I’m going to sit in a theater for almost three hours, I don’t want a bunch of old ideas packaged in CGI I’ve seen a thousand times.

9 comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Chrisy March 9th, 2009 2:21 pm

    I agree. The start of the movie had my attention then it was gone after that. The visuals were great I thought, but it just lacked a good story line. Alot of new movies are just so boring and ordinary. Do you have any suggestions for new or old movies for me to check out? You seem to have good movie sense.

  2. Ziztur March 9th, 2009 3:09 pm

    I can totally understand this perspective, having not read the graphic novel. I think the existentialist ideas of god and the human understanding of time were the high points – the philosophy is what makes the novel and film great, but its easily lost if you haven’t read the novel.

  3. Strange Loops March 9th, 2009 3:46 pm

    *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT*
    For me, the biggest appeal was the ‘twist’ at the end. The twist itself was not novel (what is?), but the moral dilemma it presents is food for thought. We may not condone mass murder for peace, but we condone the same thing on a smaller scale every day by accepting the necessity of war actions in a realistic world (and countless other examples on an even smaller scale). We accept collateral damage (literally or metaphorically) in pursuit of a higher utilitarian goal of peace or stability or happiness for a larger number.

    It’s the moral greyness that gives it appeal to me, because life is so incredibly *not* black and white, and it appeals to me when media recognizes that.

    Do we condemn what happened? It’s hard not to do so, emotionally — but then if we give up the utilitarian underpinning of our intuitive morality, a lot of the traditional shared ethical system falls apart. Is Rorschach the hero then, with his similarly single-minded idealism? It’s nice because the movie doesn’t feed us an answer; we have to come up with our own.

  4. michael March 9th, 2009 4:14 pm

    Strange: I totally agree that those are interesting ideas, but I’ve seen them executed better in other works of fiction. I think Rorschach is a good example of “if you don’t bend, you break.”

  5. monica March 9th, 2009 4:46 pm

    you have to read the graphic novel.
    1) because i love it.
    2) because it truly is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than the movie. the movie is really for lovers not new comers. like that or hate that.
    3) the text is moving, and you miss it sometimes in the film.
    4) 🙂

  6. Alex Carnegie March 9th, 2009 5:38 pm

    Strangely enough the one thing that I didn’t expect to hear in a review of the Watchmen movie is that the story from which it was adapted has aged poorly.

    I haven’t read the graphic novel since my teens, sometime in the 90s I think, so it’d be interesting to read that again and see what it means to me now…

    It may no longer be a new idea, but the thing to keep in mind is that it certainly wasn’t done to death when the original graphic novel came out, and it didn’t seem that way when I read it either. To be honest it’d be sad if the slew of mosquitos that have drawn from Watchman’s lifeblood in recent years actually make it seem the pale imitation.

    I’ve never been entirely sold on the idea of this movie. I don’t really think it needed to be made. Going to see it in any case.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer March 9th, 2009 10:38 pm

    I’m still in love with the Dark Knight, so although I love the graphic novel Watchmen it would take a lot to dislodge the DK’s grit and insanity from the top spot.

  8. Christine March 13th, 2009 3:52 am

    Mostly what I got out of it is that I feel sexy in my Raybans again. Prancing around endlessly giggling “Who am I? SILK SPECTRE!!!” Ah, it never grows old.

  9. michael March 13th, 2009 4:27 am

    Jeff: The Dark Knight also had Heath Ledger being a fucking genius in every scene.

    Christine: You do that too???

Leave your thoughts