Well, I do, for one.
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, for those of you who don’t know, translates, roughly, to “Who watches the watchmen?” And, yes, it’s been made more famous by popular culture and a little comic book series, later gathered into a graphic novel, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons titled “The Watchmen”
The story, in brief, is about a group of retired heroes. Well, more like masked vigilantes, since only one of them, Dr. Manhattan, really has super-powers, per se. The story opens with a murder. The victim is a brutal man who went by the name The Comedian, though he was far from funny. The rest of the story then is the quest of a fellow “hero”, named Rorschach, to solve this murder. Naturally, he visits The Comedian’s old friends and enemies and gets into quite a bit of trouble himself along the way. And, as he follows his investigation, he stirs up old memories, which we see as flashbacks. One thing I liked about both the comic and the movie is that it took Stan Lee’s idea of showing us a more human superhero to the limit. We see so-called heroes being petty and brutal and sad. We see them love and hate and argue, just like real people would. Except, of course, these people move in a very different circle than we do indeed.
The entire story takes place in an alternate history where Nixon is elected for a third term in office and many other things have been altered or influenced by the addition of masked crusaders, super-science, mad geniuses, and at least one God-like super-being. It’s an interesting world, to say the least.
I won’t ruin either the comic or the movie by telling you how it ends, but, let’s just say that there are twists and turns and global plots involved worth of the best comic books and handled as well as any superior fiction can handle them. Both, I think, are well done.
Now, that being said, I’ll probably be at odds with the fanboys on this, but I liked the movie.
The movie followed the graphic novel quite closely, though there were many things that had to be edited out for time. The running time was fairly close to a full two-hours and forty-five minutes, but my understanding is that there is a giant “director’s cut” version planned for the DVD release that runs a full FIVE hours. I can see how they might manage that if they filmed every scene in the book. It’s quite dense. However, one reason to actually read, or re-read, the graphic novel before seeing the film is that doing so will help fill in the gaps that exist, by necessity, in the film. For instance, there was just a brief mention of Rorschach’s origin and no explanation of how he got his ever-changing ink-blot mask, which confused the person I went to see the movie with who was not a fan of the comic. (Though, I think it’s important to note that he is a comic fanboy, just mainly the Darkknight and more mainstream books.) Also, I think they could have cut some of the sex from the movie. Granted, I’m sure the scene where the Silk Spectre and Nite Owl get their freak on in “Archie”, Nite Owl’s flying car, helped get them their R-rating, they still could have trimmed it down to make room for something else a little more germane to the plot. The attempted rape scene, though it may seem a bit gratuitous, does at least have a central focus to at least one sub-plot, so I can see having it in there, but even that seemed… Well, they seemed to linger a bit longer on some of that than the plot really required. Oh, and as a word of warning, you do see quite a bit of Dr. Manhattan’s giant, blue, glowing penis, so if that sort of thing bothers you, well, you’ve been warned. The violence is, at times, extreme, though no more extreme than what’s pictured in the graphic novel. Of course, seeing it on screen does make quite an impact. My friend is far from squeamish, but I noticed he flinched several times, as did I, at parts of the ultra-violence. As an example, there’s a bit with a meat cleaver that really drives home just how brutal and savage the world, and Rorschach, can be, not to mention another moment with a load of hot oil from a deep fryer that is startling to someone who’s not anticipating it. There are other moments of brutality, also, but many of them seem, well, rather like comic-book violence and have no more impact than any other action-movie violence.
And, I should also add that the soundtrack was wonderful. Lots and lots of Sixties classics. It was a wonderful companion to the visual aspects of the movie.
The fanboys will be up in arms, no doubt, about what was cut and the relatively minor change in the ending. I won’t reveal that here for anyone who wants to see the movie, but, personally, I didn’t find it all that distracting or even very noticeable at all. In fact, I had to come home and whip out the graphic novel to check was had been changed!
I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and I’ll happily being seeing it again with some other friends, I’m sure. Though, the next time, I’ll definitely pee first. I sat through almost two hours of this movie with a brick-hard bladder so as not to miss a thing. And, I guess that should tell you how good I thought the movie really was. Not quite a Darkknight, but still, one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m sure Watchmen will prove to be one of the better movies of the year, no matter what the crazed fanboys or the out-of-touch critics think. Well worth seeing.