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[personal profile] troyce
Just back from seeing The Watchman, and have a few thoughts. Warning: massive spoilers beneath the cut.

I went into the movie with low expectations. I'm not an Alan Moore fan. However, the movie proved to be very entertaining. The director has created a well-made film that tells a coherent story. Tone is always appropriate. This is not a piece of trash like The Spirit was. The cast, with one major exception, was quite good (the actor playing Ozymandias was very disappointing. Weak performance and bad diction). The major problem was the director followed the original source material rather than tossing it out like the garbage it was.

In short, Alan Moore is a dick.

For a man who's made his name in comic books, he sure hates heros. Moore refuses to imbue any kind of hero with competence. He seems to revel in presenting heros that are so flawed that they become impotent. [ profile] marthawells pointed out he wants to present super heros like they would actually be in real life. What Moore clearly doesn't understand is that we don't want heros as they would be in real life. Moore is just incapable of telling a story unless the hero is so fucked-up with his problems he can't function properly. Look at The League of Extroadinary Gentlemen. In the comic, Alan Quartermain was an opium addict who spent most of the first series dealing with going cold turkey. Thank God the movie version threw out the comic and did something better (yes, I know that's comic heresy, but I thought the movie was far superior to the first comic. Only the second one, dealing with the War of the Worlds, was interesting). In From Hell, the comic follows Jack the Ripper as the main character, thereby removing any hint of suspense. Inspector Aberline, a historical character, was thoroughly slandered as, guess what, an opium addict, something the historical Abberline was far from. But no, we just can't have anyone threatening to act with intelligence and without cippling neurosis.

Does this mean I think heros have to be perfect? Hell no. The most interesting one of all is Batman, especially when written to show he's an obsessive fucked up person. The thing that makes him so fascinating is that in spite of his myriad problems, he's still competant at doing his job. Batman is interesting when he's shown to be a repressed, emotionally fucked up person, Superman is interesting when it's brought out he's jealous of Clark Kent because people like Kent because of who he is, not because he has super powers (and yet, Kent at times riles at being treated as everyone's hapless schmuck just because he's a nice guy).

In the Watchman, most of the heros are jerks at best and range to sadistic murdering rapists. It's no surprise that my favorite character was Night Owl, because he was one of the few genuinely nice people. The best part of the film was when he and Silk Spectre decide to hell with the law and suit up and go for a late night crime fighting spree in Archie, Owl's flying ship. It was one of the few decent themes in the story: people remembering why they liked being super heros and once again finding joy in their life by doing what they have been called to do.

I do have to admit, there was a brilliant scene where Rorshach is in prison, and he yells "They didn't lock me up with you, they locked you up with me!" It's very reminiscent of Batman Begins when Bruce is in a Chinese prision. In fact, Nite Owl and Rorshach are very much Batman split into two characters: Nite Owl with a Batman style costume and all the gadgets, and Rorshach with that driven almost pyschopathic intensity to do the dirty work that others won't do.

The main theme of the film, which I'm sure isn't intended, is that all the problems are caused by Dr. Manhatten having the emotional maturity of a junior high kid. His girlfriend leaves him so he runs away to Mars to sulk. The ending is quite lame. Ozymandias should have been dragged back to stand trial for murder and genocide, and I pity the life in another galaxy that's created by whiny sulky Manhattan.

Watchman is touted as being a brilliant deconstruction of superheros and the genre, and yet, Frank Miller did it first with Dark Knight Returns starting in Feb 86, where Watchman premiered in Sept 86 (not that latter was a copy, as both had been in planning stages for a good while before being published). Watchman comes off as pretentious in it's attempt to delve into the gritty underlayer of of being a superhero. Batman: The Dark Knight is much more successful in it's look of realism and showing what happens to a society with a super hero.

Finally, the Watchman leaves us with an ending that's weak and unsatisfying, except for the lone glimmer of hope in seeing Night Owl and Silk Spectre continuing as a couple both as heros and in private (yeah, I'm a romantic. I like a happy couple at the end of a film). In Dark Knight, we are shown that Batman is a hero not because of his abilities or his special equipment, but because he is willing and able to make the personal sacrifice of not being seen as a hero so that Gotham can have a hope of survival.

Bottom line: well made film, quite entertaining at times, weakened by poor source material.

Date: 2009-03-08 08:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I also thought it was a well-crafted film. Your point about Rorschach and Nite Owl being different halves of Batman is a good one. I think the reason Dr. Manhattan leaves earth is a bit less shallow than you suggested -- he's afraid that he's causing his loved ones to get sick.

I enjoyed the original Watchmen comics a lot more than you did. Clearly Alan Moore's work does not appeal to your taste. It appeals to me and a lot of other comic fans a great deal. Alan started deconstructing heroes a lot earlier than Watchmen. His work on Marvelman, a serious take on a British version of Caption (Shazam!) Marvel, first got him noticed by American comics publishers in 1982.

I understand how tastes differ. I know this is sacrilege, but I've never found Tolkien's work to be all that engaging. If I had written a review of the Lord of the Rings movies, it would have read much like your review of Watchmen: well-made film based on source material I didn't like all that much.

I could recommend other Alan Moore work that I enjoyed more than Watchmen, but clearly you don't enjoy his approach so it would serve no purpose. I think V for Vendetta might have been the best movie adapted from his work.

And while I liked Frank Miller's work on The Dark Knight, I don't think it's Frank's best work. His long run on Daredevil, his work as writer (but not artist) of Batman: Year One, and the ongoing Sin City saga are all works I think hold up better.

Date: 2009-03-08 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, clearly Alan Moore does not write for me. I'm not his target audience. I do agree that V is quite good. The movie is one of my all time favorites and I cry at the end every time. Of course, Moore hates the movie version.

I'm sorry you don't like LOTR. I'll truly miss you when I become world dictator and have to send you to a "re-education" camp in Oklahoma ;) But Rory will be there too, so there'll be someone you know there :) Next time we're together you'll have to tell me why you're not a LOTR fan. I'm always curious why some folks can't stand it.

I agree that Batman Year One is better than Dark Knight Returns. I was disappointed when plans to adapt it into a movie fell through, though I noticed Christopher Nolan was clearly influenced by it in Batman Begins. I just think DKR is probably a more important series because it set the stage for a new interpretation of Batman. I never read any of Miller's Daredevil work. I've only read some of the older 60's Daredevil comics and was a never a big fan. The movie version was ok, even though Ben Affleck slept-walked through the role and didn't bother getting in shape for it.


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