Watching Watchmen


Smooth as Silk: Malin Akerman in ‘Watchmen’

(Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

Nocturnal Proclivities

Watchmen: the most divisive film since they buried Kubrick.

By Richard von Busack

IN 2009, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ clock is set at 5 minutes to midnight; the famous graph is used to suggest how close the world is to nuclear war. Contrast this clock with another round symbol, a blood-daubed smiley face: the perfect emblem of the Reagan years.

This clock and this inanely grinning button were the twin logos Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons used in their twilight-of-the-comic-book-gods graphic novel Watchmen (1986). There’s nothing aged about Watchmen’s sturdy mystery plot, its questioning attitude to force or its yearning for comfort in childhood stories in the face of Armageddon. While being a first-rate adaptation of the most serious fictional graphic novel ever, the film itself is probably a new classic of science fiction, although science-fiction films that go this large don’t tend to be so morally complicated.

The action is set in a parallel world, where a group of costumed vigilantes became part of our national character right before World War II. Thus begins the rise of a brutally conservative America, which exists, in 1985, under Nixon’s fourth term.

The U.S./U.S.S.R. Cold War has been held in check by an American atomic Superman, an increasingly disassociative demigod known as Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). He can burst people with a glance or crush tanks with a gesture. But now the Cold War seems ready to flare up, right after Dr. Manhattan has a public meltdown in front of ambushing TV cameras. He vanishes, leaving behind his longtime companion, Laurie (Malin Akerman), a minor former vigilante.

Less noticed among all this narrative is the brutal murder in Manhattan of a 67-year-old former CIA assassin (Jeffrey Dean Morgan); he was once a sort of arch-sadistic version of Captain America. This murder is investigated by a dogged but disordered masked man called Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), and his former partner, the movie’s good cop, an essentially gentle figure who once bore the nom de guerre Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson).

Following this plot, and trimming the subplots, director Zack Snyder does a better job than anyone who saw 300 would have ever believed. The action scenes are as cleanly cut as Gibbons’ panels. Snyder’s real drawback is going rather too large with the violence. Yes, Rorschach’s David Fincher–style moments of violence fit the story. But Nite Owl should have been the kind of character who disables villains long enough to subdue them, not the kind that cripples them for life.

As I was writing last week, there are some people who will never take a comic-book adventure seriously (which is OK, considering the silliness of what they do take seriously). Certainly Watchmen is going to be the most divisive film since they buried Stanley Kubrick. The melancholy tone matches the burnished-looking uniforms, which have the gleaming soberness of funeral urns. Even the almost lunatic lines—I caught one that was something like “On Mars, you taught me how to live”—never sound campy.

The acting doesn’t fail Snyder. Wilson’s dweebishness, matched with the girlish salt of Ackerman, seen through a restaurant window during a dining scene, has some of the charm of the Clark and Lois romantic scenes in Superman II. (There’s a graphic tangle of limbs later on, when their alter egos have at it. This moment in bed is probably as close as Nite Owl gets to thinking of himself as larger than life.) Ackerman has a lush pin-up girl face—she looks as right in this movie haunted by the 1940s as Sean Young did in Blade Runner. But you don’t want an essentially untried actress having to plead the cause for the human race, as she must at the end of the film.

Crudup, who looks like an indigo Ben Kingsley, conveys all the power and remoteness of a deity. Snyder borrows some very heavy-weight film music to sum up the accident that unsticks Dr Manhattan in time: “Pruitt-Igoe” from Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi. This sequence has all the poignancy that was missing from Benjamin Button.

Haley’s fury and oddity is also just right for Rorschach, a character representing all the worst of a “mask” and something of the best in a man. It actually seems fair enough that the film’s final sick joke is on him; he would have wanted it that way.

Against this line up, Matthew Goode’s ambiguous genius figure Adrian Veidt comes in a bit wanting. Goode’s similarity to comedian David Foley becomes unignorable. Perhaps the most-missed scene from the book is Veidt scanning the world’s TV stations and using the data to predicting the nuclear war to come. We don’t get Veidt’s contemplativeness, his watchfulness.

But then there is another serious drawback to Watchmen: Snyder focuses so much on superhumanity that humanity gets the short shrift. This could have been remedied during a rescue from a burning building. But we get less onscreen than artist Gibbons had on the page. (Back in 1986, I couldn’t figure out how all of those rescued people could have fit in Nite Owls’ floating orb “Archie” either; maybe there should have just been a few of them here, with memorable faces?)

Incidentally, I saw Watchmen in a ratty urban theater, an old palace divided up decades ago and left to slowly rot. The 9:30am screening was proceeded by a lunatic movie ad for the National Guard. It insisted that a guardsman’s life was a combination of Speed Racer and Sgt. Rock. A “song” by Kid Rock belted out, claiming that Rock was a warrior “giving all of myself … and you?” Und du? Is the way the old Nazi propaganda poster put it. So Watchmen’s “relevance” was readymade, right during the inspired title sequence, establishing the limits and darkness of the parallel universe. We glimpse a girl sticking a flower into a National Guardsman’s rifle during a protest. The gun goes off, leaving floating petals in the air.

WATCHMEN (R; 163 min.), directed by Zack Snyder, written by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on the graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, photographed by Larry Fong and starring Billy Crudup and Jackie Earle Haley, plays valleywide.

157 comments to Watching Watchmen

  • Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  • Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • I have been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  • I’ve been surfing on-line greater than 3 hours today, yet I never found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It’s beautiful value enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you probably did, the web might be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  • I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

  • Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  • I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  • hello there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise several technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the website a lot of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  • Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  • It’s enormous that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as from our argument made at this place.

  • Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • Thanks for all your valuable effort on this blog. Kate loves managing internet research and it is easy to see why. A lot of people learn all of the dynamic ways you make helpful guidance on the web site and as well as welcome response from some others about this subject matter so our own princess is certainly discovering a lot of things. Have fun with the remaining portion of the new year. Your carrying out a dazzling job.

  • Hi friends, how is everything, and what you would like to say regarding this article, in my view its in fact amazing designed for me.

  • Thank you a lot for giving everyone remarkably marvellous possiblity to read critical reviews from this website. It really is so fantastic plus full of a lot of fun for me personally and my office mates to visit your site at a minimum 3 times per week to study the new issues you have got. And indeed, I’m also certainly pleased with the mind-boggling tips you serve. Certain 1 tips in this article are undoubtedly the most effective we have ever had.

  • What a video it is! Genuinely amazing and good quality, please upload more video tutorials having such nice quality. Thanks.

  • Hi there everyone, I be familiar with YouTube video carries less bytes of memory due to that its quality is bad, but this YouTube video has impressive picture features.

  • I simply wanted to thank you so much again. I am not sure the things I would’ve tried in the absence of these tricks discussed by you relating to such theme. Certainly was a very scary setting in my view, but observing a well-written way you treated that made me to weep with happiness. I will be happier for this help and thus trust you really know what a powerful job you have been doing training other individuals with the aid of your web site. Most probably you’ve never got to know all of us.

  • Assured proved men’s solutions

  • Confirmed proved male programs

  • man remedy development

  • My wife and i ended up being absolutely peaceful that Chris could complete his inquiry via the ideas he had when using the weblog. It’s not at all simplistic just to be giving for free helpful tips which usually others could have been trying to sell. And we also take into account we now have you to thank because of that. The specific illustrations you have made, the straightforward blog navigation, the friendships your site assist to create – it is most exceptional, and it’s really leading our son in addition to us reckon that the article is pleasurable, and that is unbelievably indispensable. Thank you for the whole thing!

  • These are truly great ideas in about blogging. You have touched some nice factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  • In favor of my learning reasons, I all the time used to get the video lectures from YouTube, since it is easy to fan-out from there.

  • Drunk Driving Countermeasures

  • We stumbled over here by a different web page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking into your web page again.

  • Very soon this web page will be famous amid all blogging viewers, due to it’s fastidious articles

  • Attractive element of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your weblog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing on your augment and even I success you get right of entry to persistently fast.

  • Nice replies in return of this question with solid arguments and explaining all on the topic of that.

  • Sweet web site , super pattern , really clean and apply pleasant.

  • It’s amazing to pay a quick visit this site and reading the views of all colleagues concerning this paragraph, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

  • Usually I do not learn post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice post.

  • Truly programming is nothing but it’s a logic, if you get grip on it then you are the professional else nil.

  • i am a fantastic drum up of carrie underwood. as a result i can assistance you in given that you carrie underwood wedding pics and videos. chance to the source used for the link.. and go to the situate and get carrie underwood wedding pics and videos free.. absolutely free

  • I am just commenting to let you and your family know of the remarkable experience my friend’s princess found using yuor web blog. He picked up lots of details, including what it is which includes to possess a wonderful giving mindset in which to make the rest without hassle understand several problematic things. You actually did more than visitors’ desires. Thank you for rendering those necessary, dependable, educational and unique guidance on your content that will Emily.

  • My partner actually desired to write down the latest small note to be able to say thanks to for these fantastic ways may well be posting on this site. Your time intensive home based lookup which has at the end happened to be rewarded in professional knowledge that will help talk about now with some guests. I really would claim we website visitors actually are quite blessed for you to dwell extremely perfect network that includes really outstanding individuals with interesting methods. I feel quite lucky to get afflicted with come across your entire website page as well as forward to many any more enjoyable minutes analyzing suitable. Thank you once again when everything.

  • Online sex cams and adult live sex chats are getting big! Everybody likes them!

  • Lastly, helpful purse accessories will round out a handbag purchase

  • great issues altogether, you just received a logo new reader. What may you suggest about your submit that you simply made some days ago? Any certain?

  • Nice blog right here! Also your web site loads a lot very fast! What web host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate hyperlink on your host? I want my site to load up as quickly as yours lol

  • An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this issue here on your website.

  • Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person’s blog link on your page at proper place and other person will also do similar in favor of you.

  • Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text
    in your article seem to be running off the screen in
    Opera. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know.
    The layout look great though! Hope you get the
    problem resolved soon. Cheers

    Feel free to surf to my weblog … fashion style (Lonnie)

  • I outweigh him. I hope he gets his po’boy and his burger soonReport this comment as spam or abuse

  • I like this web site very much, Its a rattling nice office to read and get info .

  • G’day, i really digg your website, my friend told me about it. I’ve bookmarked it for further reading. My webpage is: IT support Odense

  • Merci d’avoir partagé ce sujet.

  • You may opt to add milk or cheese to the spaghetti sauce
    for people to green tea moisturizer do that. So I pulled out a few things that were slowing down my Christmas cooking regiment.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>