johnlink ranks WATCHMEN (2009)

Finally got around to seeing WATCHMEN today. It was not a disappointing experience by any means. On the drive home I was trying to think about how I could discuss this film without spoilers. I don’t think I can. So if you haven’t read the comic, and haven’t seen the film, by all means stop reading! SPOILERS BELOW

WATCHMEN is the story of a group of heroes in an alternative reality 1980s who have been disallowed by law to continue crime fighting. They realize they must do something, however, when nuclear holocaust seems immediate.

To answer the question posed by the graffiti artists in the film: I watched the WATCHMEN (2009) on 3.30.09. I saw it in the theater, and it was my first viewing of the film.

NOTE: THIS RANKING UTILIZES THIS SITE’S ORIGINAL SYSTEMIC ARTICLE WRITING METHOD. THE METHOD BY WHICH THE RANKINGS WERE ARRIVED AT, HOWEVER, REMAINS THE SAME.

FILM

I did not hide my disappointment in Zack Snyder’s 300, so I was a little wary coming into WATCHMEN. I was afraid of getting that same sort of directorial masturbation I felt permeated 300. I’m happy to report that I found WATCHMEN to be a wonderfully shot, and beautifully executed film. Snyder does, perhaps, overuse the slow-motion action sequence here or there, but I won’t really begrudge him that. I felt like the attention to detail was exceptional, and it made me want to read the graphic novel immediately upon seeing it. I will say that I thought that some of the thematic choices gave me some pause, but I will save that for what I suspect will be a long section of this film’s writing. SCORE: 8

MOVIE

Not as much action as I suspected, and that is not a complaint. Despite the stylized nature of the fighting, I felt like the story built to the action rather than the action being the focus from which to hang a plot.  My one complaint is that the film doesn’t really show you how Dr. Manhattan really sees the world, mostly because the visual medium can’t fully grasp it. Some of that is in the editing, but I never got that sense of time meeting at one point. All in all though, a fun film to watch. SCORE: 7

ACTING

I think it was a wise choice to cast no immediately recognizable actors in this film (unless you love BAD NEWS BEARS). It allowed the characters to be bigger than the star. I had never even heard of Malin Akerman before, but I was impressed by her. Funny that the same people who had a big problem with Christian Bale’s Batman voice didn’t to take issue with a nearly identical voice utilized by Rorschach. Score slightly lower because, with few exceptions (i.e. Billy Crudup’s subtle showing of emotion as Dr. Manhattan), I don’t think anyone was really asked to do anything remarkable as an actor. SCORE: 6

WRITING

Okay, I’m going to go off on a tangent here, but I’d like to start it all out by saying that I applaud the writers (as well as the graphic novel itself) for making some bold statements about humanity. The last scene, with Laurie and Dan seemed a little bit too happy-ending for me considering what had happened. But the overall negative viewpoint the film has about humanity is a strong statement to make, and not an easy one to get put on screen.

I, personally, think that the film takes an overly aggressive negative point of view on what humans are capable of. I think that the good we can do can generally overwhelms the bad. I think that anyone would think that sacrificing 15 million people for the sake of world peace is way out of line. It makes sense that Dr. Manhattan would feel this way, since he is cold and calculating, but I can’t believe that Dan and Laurie go with it. For one, it is absurd to me to think that finding out that a human did these terrible things, and not Dr. Manhattan, would not have destroyed the peace. Why does peace have to come out of fear? Why can it not come out of seeing first-hand the sort of destruction that was created by the explosions. In that sense, I felt like the film doesn’t give humanity enough credit. We DID escape the cold war (and not just because we lost Vietnam, as the film loosely suggests), and it didn’t happen because we feared being totally destroyed. In fact, that sort of fear was what made it last as long as it did.

All that said, I like the way the film was written. I loved some of the sequences, and enjoyed the dialogue. While there were a few comic-booky moments which felt forced (“you know the kind of cancer you get better from? I got the other kind”), it held up as a whole. I loved Rorschach’s narration, but also loved the fact that we got other viewpoints as well. And I really pulled for Laurie and Dan to work out, which they did (albeit a little too happily considering the circumstances).

I’ve decided not to penalize the writing too harshly for my philosophical differences with its point of view. It made its argument pretty well, and it certainly did its job by making me walk out of the theater and think about what I had seen. SCORE: 7

FINAL TALLY:

FILM: 8; MOVIE: 7; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 7

8+7+6+7+0=28

FINAL SCORE: 7

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~ by johnlink00 on March 30, 2009.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks WATCHMEN (2009)”

  1. It’s so interesting how many facets of this story are so open to interpretation. I’ve seen Alan Moore called a left-wing liberal wacko and a right-wing fascist asshole. You just know he’s said something true about both of those groups if they’re both claiming he’s on the other side.

    Humanity survives by coming together when faced with a common (inhuman) enemy. Is that out of fear, or out of cooperation? Suddenly we’re allies with the Russians (a scenario that seemed nearly impossible at the time Watchmen was written). That doesn’t seem to take such a negative view by my standards. But again, he leaves plenty of ambiguity by which people can find their own interpretation (sort of like a Rorschach test, isn’t it?). Then again, I REALLY want to get your view on the original ending vs. the movie’s ending. I have an overall positive view of the movie’s ending, but I don’t think it means the same thing. That’s a discussion for the show.

    As for the argument that peace can not be attained through fear… I remember duck and cover drills in elementary school. At the time this story was written, that fear was the only thing that kept us from wiping ourselves out during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the like. Ask your brother about near-miss first strike recalls… we were 15 minutes from extinction, and on more than one occasion. It was only the very real fear of extinction that stopped it from becoming a real war as opposed to just a Cold War. Perhaps the point/warning may seem a bit strong in retrospect, but at the time it was fully justified in my view. Alan Moore is guilty only of not being able to predict the future.

  2. One more point – I keep reading about comparisons between Rorschach’s voice and The Dark Knight’s. I found the difference to be pretty significant. Rorschach’s voice is his own, and not some digitally enhanced silliness. Essentially, Rorschach’s voice never irritated me, unlike Bale’s Dark Knight (you know the scene that really gets me, at the end with the Joker hung upside-down). Just my 2 cents.

  3. John you said…

    “Humanity survives by coming together when faced with a common (inhuman) enemy. Is that out of fear, or out of cooperation? Suddenly we’re allies with the Russians (a scenario that seemed nearly impossible at the time Watchmen was written). That doesn’t seem to take such a negative view by my standards.”

    I understand that argument up to the point where it has to be an inhuman enemy. It must be fear, because otherwise why are Manhattan and Ozymandias so sure that the former must be the fall guy. See, that’s the part that seemed off to me. If it was just for the purpose of cooperation, then there would be no need to fear that Manhattan could do it again at any time. Maybe Ozymandias is just trying to not take the blame, but Dr. Manhattan certainly feels as though it is the only choice.

    I do understand what you mean about things being diferent in the 80s. However, I can only look at the reality the film gives us, and in that sense (to me anyway) it seems as though this film says that it is fear which leads to the unity of the world.

    I like what you say about it commenting on both liberal and conservative viewpoints. Great point by you, and something I entirely agree with. This movie doesn’t pick a side in that regard.

    Lastly, I have no problem with either of the voices, so in that sense I can’t argue with what you say. However, if we had heard five or six actors doing Rorscharch’s voice (likew we have with Batman) before this film, then maybe the gritty growl would feel off in Watchmen as well.

  4. John, you have inadvertently hit directly upon the flaw in Zack Snyder’s change. And kudos for doing so without even having read the book yet!

    We’ll have to table this discussion for now and hopefully resume it on the show. In light of your comments, I suspect you’ll find Alan Moore’s version of things to at least make more sense, though you may disagree with his version of things for other reasons.

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