It’s rare that I actually want to see a movie twice, but I sat through a second viewing of the Watchmen today and I was glad I did. The movie was honestly something I did not expect. I read part of the graphic novel as a kid, but more skimmed the surface of the material as opposed to actually really reading into what the story was really all about. In a way I am glad I didn’t reread the source material before watching the movie. I think it allowed me to take the movie in more as a work of film in and of itself and judge it more on those terms.
Watchmen is a much more densley layered movie than I expected and actually left me wondering and thinking more than the normal feeling of completion felt when taking in a relatively mindless blockbuster comic book action movie. There is spectacular visual effects in the Watchmen, so many in fact that you almost begin to disregard them entirely, and then you are either lost or completely absorbed by the story. I could definitely see how some people would determine that the movie feels disjointed in parts, but I think if the film had been forced into an easily digestible mold it would have been yet just more Hollywood bullshit. And I don’t think the Watchmen fits that mold. Besides there are plenty of those movies coming out this summer. I am glad the Watchmen came out when it did so it wouldn’t be lost in that drivel.
Many are saying the film lacks a solid narrative voice, but I think that narrative has to be filled by viewer interpretation. Translation: Watchmen just isn’t for everybody and some people simply will not like it. If the film had been overly linear, I think it might have threatened some of the raw genius of the movie and the story. I am sure though that some will end up really hating this film, but I think when something or someone reaches for the level of art they often end up being hated by at least a few, if not many.
Its hard really to even write a succinct review of the movie.Violence abounds and the violence in the Watchmen is incredibly intense and absolutely unapologetic. I wondered though, especially after the second viewing, if the violence wasn’t there to make a point that the world we currently live in is incredibly violent and most of us just like to pretend that isn’t so, when honestly, that’s an absolute fact. The greatest thing about the Watchmen though is where it picks at some very deep questions about humanity and society. Its really a fairly sincere attempt to try to realize what it would be like if there were superheroes and how they would see and judge this world. If there was a person out there who was in effect a God and could do anything, how would he or she view humanity and this world? Would they deem us worth saving or are we already a lost cause? Why bother with saving us when we do almost nothing to save ourselves? If you could see and truly understand that time is relative and therefore all time (past, present and future) were happening simultaneously, would it even matter to you if humankind destroyed itself? In the context of the entire universe, what difference would it make? If you refused to compromise your ideology and believed in absolute justice, could you even survive in this society?
Yes, if you look into it, the Watchmen does ask some of those questions and go that deep. I really do think it is a brilliant movie that reaches much further than it can probably grasp, but I also think that’s a great thing. Its a quantum leap for director Zach Snyder, and I hope he can continue into deeper material after this.
My only bone to pick was with some of the performances. There is some wooden acting in the movie and the most responsible culprit is the female lead, Malin Akerman. You can feel the energy and sincerity sucked out of several of her scenes just as soon as she opens her mouth and begins reciting her lines. Not to say that she is an absolutely terrible actress, but it would have been nice to see someone cast that was able to bring needed depth and conflict to her character. Especially in her scenes with the wonderful Billy Crudup (who plays the God-as-man true and only superheroe in the movie, Dr. Manhatten). Crudup’s character has some pretty profound things to say about the human condition, and it is hard to truely appreciate some of it when it is propped by Akerman’s sexy but empty backdrop.
Regardless, I still think the Watchmen is definitely worth a viewing. Yes it is long, weighing in just shy of 3 hours, but if you can hang in there and stick with it, there is a great movie there to appreciate. I think it will find a relevant place in film history and has definitely brought something new to the genre. Just don’t go to it expecting the normal mindless rollercoaster ride. And please, do not take your kids. This is a comic book movie made for adults and asks some serious questions that I think more people in this day and age should be thinking about.