At the insistence of fellow geek m.poulet, I finally watched the 2009 sci-fi/superhero epic Watchmen. I suppose that I am just catching up with my superhero movies but with reluctance due to the exceptionally poor quality of Iron Man 2 and Green Hornet. Actually, the last two have been good. I reviewed X-Men: First Class earlier this month and this one was also good. OK, so it is two years old but you know, once you have kids, keeping up with the movies becomes a titanic task. At least for me.
The story of Watchmen is pretty complex and, as I was watching the director’s cut, it was very long: 3 hours. The two things that separates this film from others of its genre: the ambiguity of all the characters and the alternative reality. The superheroes are presented as cynical, sociopathic, alcoholic, rapist…like I said, not your typical superheroes by any means. The action takes place in a parallel version of 1985, some might say nightmarish as the president is Tricky Dick with a massive nose. The Watchmen grew out of a group of cops that put on costumes during the mob wars. What is not really explained is their superpowers – basically they are all excellent fighters – or the ever changing mask of Rorschach. In any case, the costumes are outlawed but someone is assassinating the ex-heroes and that’s where the story starts.
What I liked about the film was precisely the all-too-human nature of the characters, the clever use of flashback to get background on each of the characters and the special effects. Also, there are no superstar actors here so there is no one standout character – well OK so Rorschach is the narrator to some extent, but he shares screen time with the Owl, Dr Manhattan, and the others more or less equally. The film does go off on some quirky angles but it all seems to work. Interesting similarity here to X-Men: First Class where we see the superheroes preventing all-out nuclear holocaust in both films between the Soviets and the US, but with considerable loss of life in Watchmen. I suppose this shows the psychosis of the mid-80’s when this was written with the threat of war with the Soviets and the awful Reagan period. Reading the wikipedia article on the comic book, it seems that the director Zach Snyder (of 300 fame) did a fairly good job of remaining faithful to the spirit and graphic chart of the books. Guess I know what I’ll be reading when I get to the bottom of my current list…
So, Watchmen is definitely worth the DVD rental on your large LED screen at home. And for once, you don’t have to wait for the sequel to see how it ends.