by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)
Welcome back to the end of the world! Our resident Horror Villain, Pandora, takes a candid look at the movie Watchmen, six years after its initial 2009 release. Re-watching Watchmen these days, when all sorts of uncomfortable topics are raging and factions are forming throughout the geek world, reminds us to band together to prevent our world from going to hell.
There are some cons to the movie, yes, but they mostly center around the hype that was supposed to have come out when the movie first dropped. The popularity of the comic book source material had reached legendary proportions in the geeky underground, but the response when the film broke wide wasn’t nearly as epic as geekdom thought it should have been. We are, after all, talking about Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and, yes, Zack Snyder too, here. This makes all of geekdom look snobbish, and since geekery now rules about half the world, give or take, we are due for taking another look at the film for just what it is and not what it was “supposed to be.” And what Watchmen is, it turns out, once you get past the hype, is a pretty damned good movie.
We begin with the performances pulled from the actors. This is arguably one of Jackie Earl Hayley’s finest performances ever, as tortured hero Rorschach, that gravel voice could cut glass, and Rorschach cut straight into our hearts. Billy Crudup delivers a performance that virtually guarantees at least a sniffle or two, nevermind the whole “omg they showed his blue junk!” controversy, as the azure and awesome Dr. Manhattan. Matthew Goode as Ozymandius is a right Lex Luthor kind of terror, and actually manages to pull it off quite well. Patrick Wilson is quite possibly the hero for nerd-dom, being a huge nerd himself and yet at some point he dons the Nite Owl II costume and oh boy does he kick so much ass and be totally freaking badass! What nerd, man or woman, out there wouldn’t want to be that? Indeed, every single last performance, from lead actors to the random extra, is given care and thought rarely shown this side of Kubrick. Snyder really went to bat for this movie, legend has it because he loved the comic book source material that much, and it shows in every single frame.
The case for “being as true as possible to the source material” can be made both For, and Against, for Watchmen, based entirely on how “high-brow geek” you want to be. If you think the original legendary comic book was great, and the film is marvelous for sticking to that extra-meaning-filled collection of storylines, as much as director Snyder possibly could, is excellent – then, potentially, you are a geek snob, a relatively new creation of geekdom that no true nerd would ever want to be labelled. If you think some deviation from the source material is allowable, for any reason, mind you, you are potentially a sellout to your own fandom.
The soundtrack does have to be mentioned, too. Jimi Hendrix, Philip Glass, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and yet other greats as well, give stellar tunes that provide a gorgeous background to epic heroics and nasty deeds alike. Many of the songs are familiar from other artists, but done in a completely different manner, or sung by a different gender perhaps, and it is a treat throughout the movie to be able to go, “Hey, I know that song!” while Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II mow down the bad guys!
The storyline may be a tad convoluted, yes, and occasionally hard to follow, but this can also speak well for the movie, from the right perspective. A lot of what they’re saying is aimed at the more intelligent of geekdom, and not all of us are astrophysicists. That’s why the scenes interspersed with Rorschach’s gravelly voice and violent ways, like Batman flitting among the shadows while working with the Justice League, works like a champ stringing together a little something for everyone who is any kind of nerd throughout the film. We get the world-taking-over-villain epic speeches with Adrian, the grimy crime streets with Rorschach, the movement of time with Daniel and Laurie, even the horrors of war and the great unknown with blue god-boy Manhattan over there. Director Snyder managed to impart a timeless made-for-geekdom quality to the film, something that makes it appreciable years later, and I think, for many years to come.