Yes, I know it was released over 6 months ago, but I’ve just seen it. I don’t normally review movies on this blog – in fact, I’ve only done it once before: Man on Wire (refer The philosophy of Philippe Petit, Oct. 08), and that’s a completely different kettle of cinematic and philosophical fish.
But Watchmen is such a good movie on so many levels, and it encapsulates so much of the American psyche, especially the not-so-recent paranoia of the Cold War, as well as our universal infatuation with violence. And the cinematic references: Apocalypse Now and Dr. Strangelove being the most obvious; both relevant to the cold war era. I am an outsider, regarding
I think the violence in movies has had one tragic consequence in real life. In the last 5 years, in
One of the characters in the movie, The Comedian, is quite literally a psychopath, yet he is clearly tolerated by his brethren because he’s on the side of 'good'. He is an allegory for the darker side of the American psyche, in particular, what Dick Cheney referred to as the ‘dark side’ of foreign operations. There is a scene in a bar in
I’ve said in a previous post on Storytelling (Jul.09) that comic books are our equivalent to Greek mythology, and, like all mythology, allegory should be its core ingredient. In this regard, I felt Watchmen doesn’t disappoint, especially with the character, Doctor Manhattan. Named after the
One of the advantages of reviewing a film so long after its release is I don’t feel guilty about giving away the ending. Doctor Manhattan effectively becomes an allegory for God, especially when it’s his ability to destroy on a cataclysmic, even biblical, scale that finally achieves world peace. This is a particularly pessimistic view of humanity, exemplified by the Bible in my view. We are inherently self-destructive by nature and only a fear of a superhuman (therefore supernatural) force can stop us from achieving our genetically determined destiny (in biblical terms, original sin). So, in a way, it’s a cautionary tale – but the moral of the tale in my view is that paranoia is what will lead to our self-annihilation and not Divine vengeance.
There are 2 things that make Watchmen an exceptional movie. Firstly, it’s cinematic rendering is close to perfect. A combination of film noir and graphic realisation that sets the standard above anything else I’ve seen, including The Matrix and Sin City. But it’s the rendering of the characters that really sets this movie above the norm for comic book movies. The romance between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre is completely believable. Only Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns compares in the genre and Singer is a master storyteller. But all the characters, in particular, the deeply, psychically wounded Rorschach, have a psychological depth one doesn’t expect in these movies. Again, I would reference Singer’s original X-Men as one of the few comparable movies in the genre, and of course Heath Ledger’s memorable rendition of The Joker in The Dark Knight.
But it’s as allegory for the American psyche, in all its contradictions, that I feel this movie delivers. It competes with Apocalypse Now and Dr. Strangelove on that level, both of which it unashamedly honours, and that’s the highest praise I can give it.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the soundtrack - from Philip Glass to Leonard Cohen to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix - what more could one ask for?