Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Watchmen must be watched!

Watchmen (2009)
(Directed by Zack Snyder)
With the upcoming Wolverine Origins you could be forgiven for thinking Hollywood still haven’t gotten over their superhero fixation. At least you could say they have grown up a little and are giving us no-holds-barred gritty versions with MA ratings, nudity and shocking violence not for the squeamish. This does not necessarily make for better films but it shows that they have realised that Superheroes do not need to be camp parodies of their comic book images, nor saviours of our crumbling moral codes. No, in this film the so called superheroes seek revenge, are sociopaths, are impotent or omnipotent, have ambiguous ideologies and make us question our entire fabric of society. Watchmen is currently receiving mixed reviews mainly due to its difficult to pigeon hole nature. Its less a superhero film and more a critique of human nature. A re-writing of history in order to let us take a better look at ourselves. The re-writing of history involves a 1980’s America after they have “won” the Vietnam war and Nixon is still in power, with the Cold War with Russia verging on the brink of nuclear holocaust. Cut to image of Castro and the Russian president grinning as hundreds of nuclear weapons are driven through the streets of Cuba. Scenes with President Nixon with his war cabinet reminded me of Orson Well’s classic Dr Strangelove.
The faults and failures of the characters that inhibit Watchmen depict the faults and failures in everyone around us including ourselves. This is a political allegory for human societies’ inevitable decline into total annihilation of our species. We had Wall-E last year remind us in pixilated beauty that if we keep going the way we are going we are going to destroy our planet and require a little robot to save the universe. Thereby enabling us, the Human Race, to avoid the responsibility of world salvation by anything human. In this film salvation comes from so called superheroes lying to the world in order to make the human race believe that they need peace and love to save themselves from an omnipresent god-like figure with judgement day on his mind. The lie in itself perpetrated after “killing millions in order to save billions”. Are these superheroes even on our side? As 9/11 brought the American nation together in mourning and the collective fight against a common enemy, Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novel of which this film is based, is perhaps hinting that such cultural disasters are necessary in order to wake people up from the dream like nature of life leading to our certain destruction.
Having not read the book I will not postulate on the unfilmability of its content or the multiple layered convoluted plot with politics at its heart. The film is convoluted and twists from past to present at exhilarating and dizzying pace. The depth given to each of the characters could fill individual movies on said heroes/anti heroes. Snyder has created a visual treat that does not waste a single frame. Yes, it’s a long film, but at nearly three hours every moment captures both a nations decline and its possible salvation in every breath, every line spoken, every song on the captivating soundtrack and every image in its gritty clarity and artistic visionary depiction of life.
Monsters Vs Aliens suggests the world needs to look to things which it would normally ridicule or abhor to save us from what we fear and The Incredibles showed us that our political correctness, beurocratical posturing and litigious nature is what is actually destroying the fabric of our lives – and they are kiddie films. With Watchmen we finally have an adult film which dares to criticise our way of life and put a shotgun squarely up the nose of political correctness and is not frightened to pull the trigger. Dr Manhattan has the ability to turn baddies into smoke and sand and instead he eviscerates them like a blender from inside out showering the damsel’s in distress with blood and globules or flesh and bone fragments. He expects thanks for his saviour like behaviour and instead he is feared and treated with admonishment and shame. This is a being who becomes so god-like that he even begins to act and think like God in the sense he allows atrocities to occur without interfering and appears to lack any real emotion for the human race. “Why should I save a race that I care so little about” he states when earth is on the brink of nuclear disaster that only he himself can stop. Perhaps the light at the end of the nihilist tunnel depicted throughout this film is the fact that after destruction and the death of millions of innocent people, a cathartic resurgence of life with a healthy dose of love is washed over the ravaged human race with hope for a renewed moral compass. Helped by the few remaining superheroes who get a kick out of helping people trapped in a burning building. Any links to Mr Incredible and his desire to be loved through helping and the apparent impending superheros in love ending will no doubt leave Alan Moore angrier then ever that Hollywood are still not able to translate his graphic novels, but I think Snyder has created a classic nevertheless.

Yesterday I saw a DVD for an extra story not dealt with in the movie but produced by the same people and created as a manga style cartoon with the actors from the movie doing the voice overs. Delving into that world again looked damn appealing. If I get it out I will let you all know how it was.

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