Who Cares Who Watches The Watchmen

Happy Shootin’ DudeI love superhero movies. And I like them dark. I’ve really enjoyed the recent Batman movies starring Christian Bale. So when I saw the trailers for The Watchmen, I was excited. I’ve never read the comic book the movie is based on, and loved the idea of being introduced to a brand new world of brooding, slightly flawed superheroes.

In the recent surge of superhero movies hitting the big screen, it hasn’t been necessary to have any background whatsoever to enjoy these movies. And in fact, the biggest flaws these movies often have is spending too much time on character backgrounds, and not enough time  on the action we crave. It’s a forgivable offense, they’re trying to make sure we’re all on the same page. Even the folks that are a little slow on the uptake.

Spoiler alert. What is written below may ruin the movie for you, or even convince you not to waste your time seeing this deep-dish slice of Suck smothered in a rich sauce of FAIL they call “The Watchmen.” You have been warned.

The character background was my first clue that The Watchmen was going to be a dreadful movie. Early in the movie there’s a montage that serves to give viewers the scoop on where we are in the movie. A moment or two into this scrapbook-y tour of the past I’m thinking, “Cool, it’s gonna be based in the 40′s or 50′s.” But pages keep turning and character quirks start appearing. OK, one of the heroes is a lesbian. That’s unique. Another is has Bruce Wayne riches, OK, that explains how they buy their nifty super-gadgets. The pages keep turning, and characters we’ve only just been introduced start being killed off or institutionalized. What the hell? By the end of the lengthy slide show, I’m more confused than I started. Who the hell is still alive in this show?

When it’s done, the introduction to the current characters is at best incomplete. You’re in for another long introduction to the “heroes” who are still around. They spend their time bitter and moping or wistful about a times past. And to make things even better (and by better, I mean much worse), almost none of them are active in any sort of heroism. Not only that, as characters, they are completely devoid of any of the altrusim and idealism you expect from even the most flawed heroic characters. Well before any real action takes place in the movie (aside from a fight with “The Comedian” early on), I came to the realization that I just don’t care about any of these characters, and hope that they meet the same fate as the Comedian. Sadly, even this wish is not granted.

The only character I came moderately close to liking was Rorschach. He was the only character who actually did anything for the first half of the movie. But soon, even he started to irritate me. His lengthy meandering bitter monologues, made me want to shout at the screen, “Shut the F*ck up already! We get it, you’re disturbed, dark and angry!” Thank god even this was inconsistent, Rorschach’s narratives were like much of the movie, just randomly placed and useless.

Dr. Manhattan, the only character with actual superpowers was completely unable to rescue this flop of a movie. And it’s clear from his long-awaited appearances in the movie that he didn’t much care either. He’d far rather look down his nose at humanity while doing some incredibly cliche hovering meditating on Mars. It’s just a shame he didn’t stay there, it really would not have made a bit of difference if he had.

The final insult was the end of the movie. My wife, who is still bitter that I brought her along, was nearly vomiting at the forced melodrama and complete ridiculousness of the premise. (Her tastes in movies are much more refined than mine, and this blow may send us to marital counseling.) I really didn’t care that many major cities around the world were obliterated. This Watchmen reality sucks, it’s just a shame the whole planet wasn’t blown to bits, ala Star Wars. What annoys me is that Rorschach was obliterated for sticking to his principles and the villain is embraced by the remaining super-zeros in an intelligence-insulting ends-justify-the-means rationalization. My guess is their next super-deed will be to enforce Eugenics and Euthanasia on people older than 50.

My guess is that the people who dropped this steaming, fly-covered pile of film on the public think they’ve authored a dark, complex masterpiece that imparts knowledge and inspires thought. I hate to break it to them, what this is is an adolescent, self-absorbed, meandering monstrosity. The only lesson to take from this nearly three hours of pain is that never hurts to read movie reviews before you part with ten bucks.

So to answer the question posed so many times in the movie by graphiti, who watches the Watchmen? People who have just been ripped off, that’s who. If this review gets to you in time, I’ve done my own bit of heroism in saving you ten bucks.

What do you think? Have you seen this movie? I’m curious if people who were already fans of The Watchmen comic book found it a more enjoyable experience than I did.

9 Comments

  1. Dinhilion said,

    March 9, 2009 at 11:26 am

    All I can say is, read the book. It made it onto Time magazines 100 hundred greates novels of the 20th century for a reason. Honestly, unless you read comic books you can not really respond to this movie or book as well BUT the graphic novel is very accessible. If you expected it to be like the Dark Knight, then I am not surprised you were shocked. This is a different kind of comic book. I liked the movie, but, I liked it because of the book. I suggest you re evaluate it from a different point of view, you may be surprised what you trip over.

    Also- Ozzymandius was not embraced in the movie (imo) but it is MUCH more grey in the book. In fact you anger at that Ozzy means you do care “Who watches the watchmen?”. (Though who watches the watchmen loses its importance without the keehn act- one of the very few notable omissions) This novel and this movie is about who has the right to make decisions and how far are they allowed to go. It explores the concept of the means justifying the ends and human rights in a way no novel ever has.

    This is a dark, horrible world in, but as Jon discovers Life is worth saving even in what seems to be hell.

    Also, I read very few comics, so this is not comic fanboyism. I am a Literature student who is much more likely to wax poetic over F. Scott Fitzgerald. I really do suggest you read the comic

  2. iptvforum said,

    March 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    very informative article, thank You

  3. Brian said,

    March 9, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Dinhilion. I figured I wasn’t gonna get any comment love at all!

    It sounds like it is as I’ve heard, there is some entertainment value to be had here if you already have some background with the storyline and characters. However, I think a movie should stand on its own, and this one simply doesn’t.

    I think it’s a stretch to say I care now, or ever did care about any of the characters in this movie. (I know the movie thinks it’s that clever, but really, it isn’t. Knowledge was not imparted, disbelieve was not suspended.) What the final scenes were to me was a ridiculous and unbelievable ending to a story that never congealed into anything coherent. Kind of the olive on a toothpick stuck in a turd sandwich. I kinda liked watching the swirling patterns on Rorschach mask, which was arguably as deep as this movie got.

    I spent most of the movie looking for that hook that would bring me along for the ride, and it simply wasn’t there. The characters were flat and contradictory. It seemed like every time I started to get into the movie, something ridiculous happened that dumped my back out in my chair. I didn’t care when the big blue prick (that works on so many levels LOL) left his girlfriend, and I didn’t follow why he came back. It looked like a completely random and arbitrary whim. The events shown on screen didn’t support the decision.

    There was also nothing I saw that supported anybody’s fond feelings for “The Comedian”. He seemed like a pretty good candidate for a villian though. Of course, he was dead inside 15 minutes, so no dice. Apparently we were supposed to believe there were lovable things about the character, but the movie never showed us anything like that.

    I really didn’t get why Rorschach bitched so much about “damn liberals” when a corrupt Tricky Dick Nixon ran the show. His party isn’t known for embracing and encouraging the proliferation of strip clubs. You’d expect to see churches full of shifty-eyed, judgmental people on every corner. It just didn’t add up.

    And of course, the movie spent a lot of time killing off interesting characters immediately after they were introduced. Had that hello-goodbye slideshow hit the cutting room floor, I suspect the movie may have been considerably improved. Though not enough to be good.

    I may one day have a look at the book (waiting for the bargain bin), but this movie hasn’t earned my further pursuit of any meaning that might have been embedded in it. I have a feeling that you could supply, and argue convincingly any sort of message you want with this picture, which might make it a great topic for a college paper, but still not a good movie.

    You know, it’s been fun discussing the merit of this movie (or lack thereof). More fun than the movie was by far.

  4. Alisa said,

    March 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I totally agree. I spent three hours last Saturday not just at the movie but at the IMAX version. So I saw this very bizarre film on a very big screen with a very loud sound system. At the end of the movie I just sat in my seat and thought “what was that all about?” And realized I didn’t want an answer to that question.

  5. Bian said,

    March 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    You have to remember the movie tried to stay true to the graphic novel. In order to understand the graphic novel, you have to be aware of the author, Alan Moore’s, bizarre political beliefs. He embraces anarchy and despises religion (which is why Rorschach was murdered for having principles). As opposed to American Liberals, who are statists, he believes in self-regulating and absolute freedom; completely ignoring basic human nature that needs faith in a greater power to self-regulate behavior. He seems to believe humans need to throw off the yoke of both government and God, which is why he was shocked Rorschach became the most popular character from the Watchmen when Ozymandias was supposed to be the hero of the story.

  6. James said,

    April 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    So ….

    You’re saying you *didn’t* like the movie? :D

    I haven’t watched it (yet) – was planning to – but I guess I’ll hold off until it hits the DVR (which will give me time to read the novel – which is obviously prerequisite to watching the movie) – that or I may not even waste my time – as, IMHO, a movie shouldn’t have a prerequisite of reading a book or novel in order to understand the movie – that’s the whole point – isn’t it? If anything, the movie should make you *want* to go read the book if you haven’t already…. Sounds like this adaptation ultimately failed in that purpose…. Ah well – too bad.

    In most instances – when I read a book/novel and then go see the movie based on it – I’m actually *disappointed* in the movie as, nine out of ten times, it doesn’t hold true to the book (with the exception of the LOTR trilogy – and even then – *it* moved pieces around and even removed certain pieces – but still is the *best* movie adaptation of any book, ever (IMHO) – but that’s another story.. :) )

    Bah – I’ll just wait to go see Wolverine.. :)

  7. Brian said,

    April 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Wow Bian-

    Ozymandias was supposed to be a hero? I clearly “got it” less than I originally thought. (Not being sarcastic here.) The impression I got was that he was evil, of the “necessary” kind. (Though the movie doesn’t do a very good job of establishing how he was necessary.)

    Ordinarily James, I’d say don’t bother. But since you are James, there is something satisfying about the idea of you blowing 10 bucks and walking out of the theater irritated. LOL

    I couldn’t agree more, a movie should stand on it’s own. Without knowing the comic, this isn’t much better than eavesdropping on a conversation half way in about people you’ve never met. Don’t waste your time or money. And if curiosity gets the better of you, find a way to NOT pay to see it. This movie was a big finger to us non-fanboys, and I say you show ‘em a finger back.

  8. Dermajuv said,

    February 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I did enjoyed the movie, but I cannot say, it is a blockbuster.

  9. Michael Hureaux Perez said,

    February 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I agree, the movie was a stinker. As to the posting that Ozymandias is the hero, nonsense. The story has no hero. What Alan Moore was trying to do was write a story that framed what he thought the natural conclusion of the super hero story has to be. In that sense, it’s an ornate satire, As to Moore’s allegedly bizarre politics, yes, right now he identifies with anarchism, But his first interest is magic and the imagination, and if he has any solid politics, they are rooted in a militant defense of the imaginative capacity of humanity.

    And this is why Watchmen is, as Moore said, “unfilmable”. Terry Giliam of Monty Python tried to take it on a few years ago and ended up throwing in the towel. It’s not really a super hero story, it’s more of a book that requires its readers to take an imaginative leap— which is what most of Alan Moore’s work is as a writer in the comics medium. He is constantly working to get the comics audience to re-think their ideas about comics as a medium, and this is what makes Watchmen a worthwhile read. It doesn’t matter if Time Magazine thinks it’s one of the 100 best novels of the century. Such categorization is not for agencies like Time Magazine or DC Comics to make. Alan Moore is aiming to upset the applecart, and it’s long needed upsetting. Good on him.


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