WATCHMEN

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Overall Impression – A fascinating portrait of the minds and motivations of costumed heroes.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – The film divides its focus among six main characters, but it’s Rorschach who links them together and drives the movie.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: find out who killed the Comedian, and why.  Personal: figure out his place in the world now that the Watchmen have been disbanded. Private: rediscover and understand why he become a costumed hero.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Ozymandias, the police, the personal issues of the former Watchmen, and anybody who regards costumed heroes as a menace to society.

What happens if he fails? – Millions of innocent people will be killed in Ozymandias’ “ends justify the means” scheme to create world peace.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – The Watchmen have disbanded and live as outcasts in society, unable to relate to ‘normal’ people.  Specifically, Rorschach is operating alone, Dr. Manhattan exists on his own plane of existence and is receding from humanity, Laurie feels isolated in her relationship with Dr. Manhattan, Daniel never quite let go of his crime-fighting days and can’t get on with his life, while Ozymendias exists alone in the public eye after revealing his identity.

Wanderer – Rorschach investigates the mysterious murder of the Comedian, interrogating past enemies and allies alike, which brings the Watchmen into contact again.  As old friendships reignite, each of them remembers the events of the past and considers how their lives have turned out. Dr. Manhattan questions his place among humans, Laurie questions her relationship with Dr. Manhattan, while Daniel questions his decision to quit being a superhero.

Warrior – The police capture Rorschach after he’s framed for murder, forcing him to survive in prison with his enemies.  Laurie leaves Dr. Manhattan and begins a romance with Daniel, and together, they don their costumes and relive the rush of being heroes. Dr. Manhattan is accused of giving cancer to his former girlfriend and colleagues, and exiles himself to Mars to ponder his relationship to humanity, abandoning Earth in the face of nuclear war. After Laurie and Dan free Rorschach, Laurie tries to convince Dr. Manhattan to return to Earth, while Daniel and Rorschach discover that Osymandias is behind everything. 

Martyr – Osymandias secures world peace by framing Dr. Manhattan for a global attack, sacrificing the lives of millions in order to unite the world against a common enemy.  Laurie, Daniel and Dr. Manhattan sacrifice their morals and hold their silence, realizing that exposing the truth would destroy the peace so many died to create. Rorschach, who never compromises, serves as a literal martyr by forcing Dr. Manhattan to destroy him, lest he expose Osymandias’ plot.

AND, IN THE END…

WATCHMEN was both thoughtful and entertaining, and there’s tons to enjoy. Rorschach’s mask is just plain cool, and seeing the graphic novel come to life is fascinating. Indeed, it seems to have served as a literal storyboard for some parts of the movie.

As with any movie adaptation of popular literature, you can’t please everybody.  There’s always something missing, something done wrong… which is a challenge to overcome because everybody reads and interprets literature in a different way.  Combine this with the fact that the Watchmen graphic novel is so rich and abundant in content, and it becomes one heck of a task to turn it into a movie.

While I think they succeeded, it’s not without compromise.  To use all of the graphic novel may have been impossible.  It may not even have worked.  This means that some beloved parts of the story didn’t see the big screen.  Naturally this is a shame, but it’s also a necessity. Besides, if it took twenty-odd years to finally make the movie, I’m sure they considered every angle. Personally, I liked a lot of the decisions they made.

I wasn’t too sure, however, about the style.  In the movie, characters occasionally punch through walls and flip people end-over-end with a kick.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this approach in and of itself, it just felt a little less like they were ordinary people in costumes. I like the graphic novel because it made me think that anybody could be a superhero  if they had the drive.  In this respect, I missed that element of gritty realism in the movie.

That being said, WATCHMEN did so much right that it feels like I’m looking for something to criticize.  I can’t help it… it’s an adaptation.

Dan Pilditch

2 Responses to “WATCHMEN”

  1. Dave March 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    I think they tried to fit in too much story into 2.5 hrs.
    They should have split it up into a 2 or 3 part series.

    I also didn’t need to see so much of doc Manhatten’s big blue “member”. lolol.

    at the end of the movie, i was just… i didn’t care what happened, and it was probably because they tried to fit in too much into 2.5 hrs that the viewer didn’t have time to invest into each character.

    Though, i’ve heard that if you read the comic first, you’ll really enjoy the movie.

  2. Vnend December 30, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    The biggest problem with the movie is hinted at in your answer to Q1. Is it really possible to do a good movie with six main characters? You settle on Rorschach, but…

    I spoke to people who had seen the movie who had not read the original, and to those who had (I read it as it was coming out, and was part of the crowd on rec.arts.comics who were studying it in detail from month to month). Consistently, the opinion was that it was beautiful to look at, but did not engage them, resulting in an ‘eh’ reaction overall.

    This is where the seemingly unrelated subplots of the book show their value. All the bits with the newsman, the taxi driver and her girlfriend, and the kid reading the comic, plus the Black Freighter comic, all serve to give the reader an emotional link to the story. And, by transference and interaction, we then identify more with Rorschach and come to understand him better, which makes his sacrifice at the end mean more to us.

    The movie, an incredible example of bringing a comic to the screen faithful to its art, dropped the ball when it came to giving the viewer and emotional link to the story. A little less action and fighting and a little more work providing that link could have made this a great movie.

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