Monday, March 9, 2009
A blue penis is still a penis. I could have done without the flaccid member flopping around the big screen for two and a half hours. One thing is certain about this graphic novel-based film…it is not the type of superhero movie you want to bring the kids to. I say that with utmost sincerity. I tend to be a bit liberal in what I allow my children to watch, but this particular film does not make the cut. I lead with this warning because I am one of those parents who enjoys brining his son to this type of film. I’m glad I did not bring him to this one.
Watchmen does not follow the traditional superhero mold. The characters have distinctly human sensibilities. The lines are clear in most comic books, with superheroes possessing abnormal moral direction and villains who are clearly guided by nihilistic tendencies. This stereotype is challenged in Watchmen, where the heroes seem to lack the sensibilities of their predecessors, with an almost anarchist view of morality. The edginess of these characters could not be better demonstrated than in a flashback scene where The Comedian attempts to rape Sally Jupiter. The Comedian has serious abject traits that surface throughout the film.
Watchmen takes a different tack on history. The series that this film was based upon was created in the mid-1980s. The graphic novel intended to take aim directly at the cold war being waged between Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev. Of course, this book was conceived at a time when the Berlin Wall was still standing and the Cold War was not perceived to be experiencing death throes. Yet a few short years later, Reagan’s policies helped bring down the wall. This book did not intend to treat Reagan nicely. It was intended to create a parallel…with the superheroes representing the government (who watches the watchmen?) Reagan was a popular President, so an alternate history was created with a multi-term Nixon (who won the Viet Nam war by employing the services of the Watchmen) filling the role as the government heavy. I found the idea to be cowardly (because it intended to divert backlash due to Reagan’s popularity). However, the alternate reality did create an interesting setting for extraordinary characters to exist.
Watchmen has a back story that needs to be presented in order for the characters to make sense. This is accomplished in a variety of ways. Much of the history of the Watchmen is covered during the opening credits, which tracks various eras dating back to the 1940s. I thought that the use of MTV and President Nixon was an anachronism until the story revealed the alternate history in which Nixon gets elected several times. The story takes place in 1985 at a time when the United States and the USSR attempt to resolve internecine issues. The United States has a major advantage, with Dr. Manhattan providing the equivalent of Strategic Defense Initiative. Dr. Manhattan was a nuclear scientist who was caught in an experiment which reduced him to atomic level. Dr. Manhattan reconstructed himself with strange abilities. Dr. Manhattan became the center of the United States defensive posture due to his ability to provide a nuclear shield for the United States (although it is revealed that he would probably not be able to stop the entire Soviet arsenal). Historical elements are picked up throughout the film through the use of flashbacks or memories triggered through a variety of methods.
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