in Films and movies, Geek stuff


I saw Watchmen last night and didn’t feel particularly inclined to review it. That said, it was getting late and I couldn’t think of anything else. As with all my reviews, it it is likely to contain ‘spoilers.’

When it comes to comic book films, the mark of success or failure is often whether it is compelling enough to make you stop asking questions about the unreality of what is presented. Judging by the conversations I had with friends after the film, this one didn’t quite clear the hurdle. While it was very strong visually, it lacked the originality of something like The Matrix or Sin City – both of which it clearly drew from. While some of the characters were interesting, most were either flat or very clearly derivative (James Bond villains, vengeful detectives, etc). The plot was fine, but not especially inspired, particularly in terms of ‘surprises’ that failed to surprise.

The central enigma of the film is the character of Dr. Manhattan, and I think that is where it fails most comprehensively. He isn’t compelling. He’s a dull kind of guy who likes the arid emptiness of Mars and has no special problem with killing Vietnamese soldiers for the American government, Apocalypse Now-style helicopters beside him. He is boring, rather than deep. In the end, he comes across as a kind of powerful dimwit, and nobody is emotionally affected when he wanders off. All kinds of things are deeply implausible about Dr. Manhattan, in terms of the plot, also. For instance, why the military research facility where he was actually created never tried to make any more supermen. Also, why the government seems to think he is able to stop 99% of Russian nuclear weapons, without any special system to inform him they that are coming or where they are. If he could do so without any outside assistance, he should presumably have noticed that the arch-villain had destroyed Moscow, during the climactic period of the film. The other enigma, which isn’t addressed in any way, is why some people who decide to become vigilantes have superhuman powers; it’s like X-Men, but with no premise of explanation. Presumably, the graphic novel version is more fleshed out.

One amusing thing I realized about the film is that, for at least some teenagers, it will be their first introduction to the music of Simon & Garfunkel, as well as Jimi Hendrix. The opening credits, which consist of an interesting montage of film and semi-ironic music, were actually the best part of the film. Second to those were the comic touches included from time to time. Third best was looking at Malin Akerman, though she looks a bit like a digital amalgamation of Kirsten Dunst and a few other recent female love-interest figures.

Watchmen is certainly an enjoyable enough film to watch. There are some cringe-inducing moments of violence, though they don’t have the same awful character as the ones in Sin City. It is not, however, a comic film good enough to make you forget its flaws. It will please those who are primed to appreciate it, but I doubt it will have a lasting influence on anyone.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

mek March 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I agree that the opening credits were the best part of the film. I recall thinking “if they keep this up for 2 and a half hours, it’ll be a hell of a movie” but it certainly didn’t.

I think the director had extremely poor comprehension of the source material, unfortunately. Dr. Manhattan was well-depicted but very poorly explained.

R.K. March 15, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I think this is the first negative response I have come across.

Milan March 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

It’s only getting 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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