Watching the Watchmen

It was a little weird watching the Watchmen this afternoon. There were only a few people there for the midafternoon matinee, a kid under ten among them. I don’t know why people bring children to rated R movies. They left early, but not before she saw some rough stuff. I can’t imagine how incomprehensible that film must have been to her.

More than a few adults who have seen the movie found it confusing as well as disturbing, and now that I’ve watched I understand their discomfort. I found the film to be breathtaking in the best sense of the word and as perfect an adaptation as could be imagined, but it’s not for everyone. The story is disturbing by design, crafted to haunt the viewer long afterward. Despite the gaudy colors, it is not escapist fantasy.

The casting was spot on in most cases, except for Ozymandias, who I pictured looking more like Robert Redford circa Great Gatsby. The guy they cast reminded me of David Spade. Otherwise, the resemblance to the characters from the book was eerie, even down to the most minor characters. The alteration to the ending actually ends up making more sense than the original story. The material that was cut made sense, though I would love to see an animated cartoon of ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’. I think that the loss of this story element was one of the reasons I felt unsatisfied with the Ozymandis character; the protagonist of the Black Freighter story believes he is doing the right thing when he perpetuates atrocities and thereby serves as a ‘backstory’ for Adrian Veidt. Still, it makes complete sense why such a subtle element wouldn’t have made it into the final movie.

The visuals were everything they needed to be and more; modern technology has made unfilmable stories into movies. I believed Dr Manhattan and Rorscharch’s mask was utterly convincing. More importantly, I believed the characters. I believed them as they caroused and careened through a 20th century deformed by the existence of a Superman. The use of the standard pop music cliches gave a surreal weight to the alternate history; the use of Phillip Glass pieces of music from Koyannisqatsi for the Dr Manhattan origin sequence was particularly effective.

The movie didn’t shy away from the tough questions presented in the book. The moral ambiguity of Rorschach’s moral certainty juxtaposed with the moral certainty of Dr Manhattan’s moral ambiguity never was so clear to me before. A master’s thesis lies in the final lines of dialogue between them. I am still haunted by it now. 

(yawn). K. That’s enough for tonight.

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