Watchmen [2009]

It may have a name, but most of you will just remember it as the "NiteOwlMobile".

It may have a name, but most of you will just remember it as the "NiteOwlMobile".

One of Watchmen's happier moments.

One of Watchmen's happier moments.

Fortress Takes is not afraid to go against the trend.  In fact we enjoy being an outlet for those who want a confirmation of their against-the-grain opinions.  We thought our take on Watchmen was going to be counter-trend, but as of this writing it is only hovering at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.  So it seems a number of others felt as we did (or the local CVS pharmacy was out of Prozac).

Watchmen is not a superhero movie.  It is gritty political satire in an alternate world with super-powered people.  In fact it is satire wrapped in sarcasm tied with a bow of cynicism.  The layers of overlapping symbolism grew so deep that at times you might wonder what message the filmmakers were trying to send.  “Okay, so this guy who you thought was bad might be good for the alternate America.”  Later, “No wait he is bad.”  Later still, “Huh?  Wait a minute, now we are supposed to think he is good again?  &%#@*!”

Watchmen

Americans should not feel too bad about the anti-American bent to the satire, because beyond that there was an anti-human message.  Yes, one key message with which you can easily walk out of the theatre is “humanity is horrible”.  Disgusting, warlike, deviant, perverted wretches living in constantly rain soaked squalor.  Nihilism.  Look it up.  That was the un-fun message.

However when making an interminably long and self-serious movie (2 hours 43 minutes) with characters that have potential you are bound to entertain in at least a few scenes.  When Batman, er Night Owl and Silk Stalkings, er Spectre fight their way down that prison corridor, it was fun.  When they destroyed those predatory thugs in the alley you appreciated the irony.  Unfortunately these scenes were too few and far between.

Hawkman and Black Canary are a devastating team...

Hawkman and Black Canary are a devastating team...

One character the movie goes to great lengths to get you to behind is Rorschach.  (Yes, he is over the top and crosses the line against bad guys.)  As the narrator of the film when it was trying to be noir-ish, you followed him as he investigated his unlikely but true conspiracy therory. When unmasked and alone in prison, you wanted the little guy to survive against the criminal vermin.

Half noir detective, half Punisher, and... ahh, half Batman.

Rorschach: Half noir detective, half Punisher, and... ahh, half Batman.

He was uncompromising regarding the truth.  That is why we suppose the completely unsympathetic character Doctor Manhattan explodes him in the film’s second to last minute.  “Huh?  Did that just happen?”  Oh do not worry.  After 2 hours and 42 minutes of holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society, we get 1 minute of saccharin.  Yup, that fake, out of place, sunny-for-once moment is supposed to somehow overpower the sour taste in your mouth.

Additionally, at the risk of being puerile:  We know Doctor Manhattan has become a (boring) energy being and has indifference for all things human, including the quaint notion of clothes.  But still, he did occasionally wear a little black speedo for the sake of others.  Sadly it was only occasionally.  Some of us got tired of seeing his glowing blue dork in many a scene.

There were some decent special effects, but not extraordinary.  The costume designs were inconsistent in quality.  Watchmen is not terrible, but know what you are getting into.  Readers of the graphic novel knew; the rest voted on Rotten Tomatoes.

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13 thoughts on “Watchmen [2009]

  1. I agree with your evaluation of the movie mostly, but it is precisely the things you don’t like that made it such a good film for me. The one character in this that didn’t really engage me was Rorshach, and that was because he followed the uncompromising superhero role, although taking it to some gory/evil extremes. All the others are deeply flawed, and therefore more real to me, human beings.

    I always got annoyed when the bad guy made Superman choose between saving Lois or Metropolis, and he somehow always managed to save both. Watchmen never copped out on the hard decisions, some must be sacrificed so that all might be saved, and that is what makes me love the film so much ultimately.

    It isn’t perfect by any means, and the “joke” references running through the film only made sense after I read on wikipedia what the original ending to the book was. The ending in the film isn’t really a joke to me, while the book one certainly is.

    I have to say, though I disagree with it, your review was really nicely presented. You’ve inspired me to start taking more care and placing some images in my own blog, and try to reduce the infodump tendency I have.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the intelligent well-thought-out comment. I think the two of us see the facts of this movie in a a remarkably similar way. The real differences can be chalked up to taste.

      I was looking for a superhero movie in the conventional sense. I think a lot of disgusted parents were shocked and had to walk out with their kids. It was the expectations game. The movie was marketed to cash in on the “superhero” thing when it was not a “superhero” movie at all.

      I understand the flawed people message you speak of. There were more flawed people in that movie than in a Hollywood rehab clinic! I just normally would not go to such a film.

      Thanks for the props on the presentation. You hit exactly what I was going for on the head. I am looking to entertain and inform in a quick, humorous, and digestible way. (And everybody loves pictures! Ha.)

      I hope we can have such intelligent exchanges on future posts!

  2. After dragging my feet for months, I gave in and watched this movie, for the sake of just wanting to find out what all the outrage was about, and because a few friends were egging me on. Well, yay. I watched it. Sometimes you just have to watch the bad ones to appreciate the good ones. In that Watchmen succeeded. It definitely makes so many other movies more pleasing to watch. If we didn’t have bad movies, what would we rate the good ones against, right? 😉

    “In fact it is satire wrapped in sarcasm tied with a bow of cynicism.”

    Very nice description of what the directors, and probably the author of the comics, were aiming for–so much negativity toward the human race. Which, don’t get me wrong, works on a number of levels in good plots, but when the whole movie is run rampant with negative feelings on top of more negativity on top of a pile of bloody spaghetti…I just forgot my point–similar to how the message may have gotten lost in the movie? Ha ha.

    I don’t know if this goes against the norm, but I was interested, and perhaps even liked Rorschach’s character. He may have been the only one I hoped did not end up well…splattered. He was a tragic character, became warped, and still tried to do the right thing, only in, ah, disturbing ways? I think he is definitely a more compelling character than say Hawkm–er, Night Owl, or Silk Specter. At least some of the fight scenes with other characters were indeed fun to watch. Like the good ‘ol times from other super hero shows we’ve come to love. Dr. Manhattan soon lost my favor as well. I thought he would be my favorite character, but as you so clarified, that was highly convoluted.

    A word of caution for those who dislike seeing graphic images, I would not suggest this movie. I was rather disgusted by the number of bloody, gaping, open-wounded acts of vengeance that occurred. Not that it was too much to take it, more so I’d rather not have to watch those scenes a second time. Heck, I didn’t even notice a certain blue object for the entire movie–next to the gore it didn’t even rate at all.

    The movie was indeed dark, depressing, dangerous, duplicitous, dismal, decrepit,–*end “D” words there*. Only a little bit of sunshine at the end, very true. As humans (and having–most of us–good human nature), we need a little bit of inspiration and positivity to keep ourselves buoyed. There are methods to make dark stories more encouraging. Stories that do nothing but depress us and nothing else worthwhile seem to hurt more than they might help. Those who go into watching it with a good head on their shoulders shouldn’t fear the twists and turns in the story, nor the sad message of the plot, but those with weaker constitutions… There were parts I disagreed with and parts I noted to be very ironic. Overall, I would not want to continue watching or reading about such a universe, but for the quick flick (uh, 2 hours and 40-ish minutes?) it wasn’t terrible. The message was clear-ish, and I just take it as a warning. Don’t let society sway so far that we prey on each other, or something like that? Just keep humanity (yourself) in check, as in don’t become callused or hateful. (And perhaps the whole “no hero is truly perfect” theme.) Well, I know I’m hitting near the fuzzy bulls eye anyway.

    Thank you for your insight Fortress Guy, it’s always appreciated after conquering one flick to the next.

    • Interesting and telling Zhanneel. First let us say that if you have friends that recommended this movie, you need new friends. 😉 We understand your logic that bad movies at least act as a contrast to the good. But that logic taken too far would have us drinking sour milk so ice cream could be more appreciated.

      We understand where you are coming from regarding Rorschach (the movie version only). Something about his quest to eradicate evil was something to which we could relate. At least he had passion.

      We vary a little on your take regarding the movie’s message. You think it was a “beware you do not go bad” to humanity, we think it was “you are already bad” to humanity. In our opinion life is too short to burn 3027 minutes (or whatever) watching this self-important slop.

      PS – Are you saying that Hawkma -er, Birdman -er, whats-his-name was not compelling? Heh. Thanks for the great comment, now immortalized forever in the Fortress.

    • Wow. That sounds grisly and unappealing to us. However that should be no surprise considering we did not care for the Watchmen film and its misleading marketing. People who actually know what Tales is also know what to expect. At least, or hopefully, there will not be too many young kids seeing it.

  3. hmm, sounds like you guys are interested in much milder entertainment than Watchmen. That’s okay I guess, I didn’t care for the movie either. The book was much better, (but isn’t it always?)

  4. I like the few reviews I’ve read and will certainly agree that a lot in a review can be chalked up to taste. However, I think you may have missed the point about Watchmen. Although I especially didn’t like it either, it’s definitely a film for adults (as opposed to an adult film) with some very serious ideas. After all, it’s drawn from a graphic novel, not a comic book. The hyperviolence and sexuality (quintessential Frank Miller) are clearly aimed at mature audiences, and parents who take their kids to see this are badly uninformed. They wouldn’t take kids to see The 300 or Sin City, would they?

    I regard the film as a series of character studies about people struggling to make sense of their reality in unusually difficult and disorienting circumstances. The superhero angle provides a heightened reality that fits both graphic novels and movies. The Watchmen all attempt to serve good ends but are eventually overtaken by age, cynicism, or the Comedian’s sense of existential absurdity. In the end, they’re all misanthropes, though still quasi-benevolent or perhaps patronizing, except for Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach. Rorschach embodies pure, unforgiving (avenging even) idealism in his believe that the people deserve to know the truth however ugly. His approach is honest and direct, unlike the dithering or nuanced strategies of some of the others. Dr. Manhattan functions as a metaphor for what happens when man (read: mankind) acquires god-like power, namely, that he loses touch with his own humanity and empathy for others’ suffering, becoming indifferent to it or bored with it.

    The film had a weird vibe, I thought, being a rather unholy mix of several genres, including crime drama, superhero flick, murder mystery, science fiction, and historical fiction. The only clear central theme or through line was uncovering The Comedian’s killer. Numerous secondary stories really served only characterization, which is why I regard the entire flick a collection of character studies. As entertainment, there was both lots to like and lots to hate but too little to make the audience feel invested in outcomes. The characters were too remote from us, and we were relegated to mere watching instead of identifying, which is our usual cinematic response, since movies are all really just stories we tell about ourselves.

    • What a fascinating and thought-out comment. More like a mini-review in itself. Well done.

      We do not think we missed the point regarding the deepness of Watchmen, we think the marketing effort for the movie did. It was a blatant attempt to sell this “film for adults” to the mass market. Yes, people should have been more informed, but many were fooled and got the shock of their year – with their kids.

      Your second paragraph really fleshes out what we summed up in “nihilism”. As you imply, none of the characters were particularly likable. “Misanthropes” indeed. We remember something about the graphic novel author Moore being displeased with people connecting with the movie version of Rorschach.

      We mostly agree on this film, and definitely on the point that it “had a weird vibe”. We in the Fortress do not care for serial killer movies, films like the “Saw” series, or others that bring out the worst in humanity. We want the entertainment experience you talked about in your third paragraph. Where you can relate to a character and sort-of invest yourself in their movie future. And maybe even feel good coming out.

  5. I am so surprised you guys didn’t mention the sex scene in the owl-mobile, in this review. Not only was I completely unaware that any version of that song could sound bad, but… oh god, -that sex scene-. Talk about unecessarily long and awkward and…. grrrh. So many things.

    I appreciate your opinion of the film, however – have you guys read the comic? Apart from certain specifics of the ending, the movie is pretty similar and true to the world portrayed in the original graphic novel, apart from the changes in costume. It is a gritty, dirty and horrible story of politics and the dirt of humankind, that pretends to be a superhero story, and that is what attracted it’s initial audience. In that case, it’s probably unfortunate that the trailer depicted it as a full-on superhero movie. Or, maybe that was the director’s intention? Who knows.

    And finally, I too would have appreciated the good Doctor wearing his little blue speedos more often. 🙂

    • Insightful. You summed up the movie very well in one sentence: “It is a gritty, dirty and horrible story of politics and the dirt of humankind, that pretends to be a superhero story…” That is indeed exactly so!

      Super heroes movies were the rage at the time. They wanted to cash in. We believe if they had advertised the movie as you accurately described, it would have done even worse. That is the case with so many similarly biased Hollywood political films. They do poor at the box office but still somehow get produced.

      We did not read the Watchmen comic, and after seeing the movie are glad none of us ever did. There is a place for grit and darkness, but overall we here in the Fortress like to focus on the best parts of humanity. You humans are created with such potential. Though you come into this world naked, there is a big difference between a baby boy and Dr. Blue Boy. 😉 Wear the speedos.

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