Sunday, March 29, 2009
I went to see Watchmen today, so here's a pathetic imitation of a film review.
I took my son along to see it, as he's read the comic and was keen to go (and it gave me an excuse to go). He's only 13, so the poor girl taking tickets had to ask him for ID and then be browbeaten by me into letting him in on my say-so. I felt a bit ashamed of myself for it, but fuck it - if I ever want Bill Hastings to tell me what movies are OK for my kids to see, I'm capable of asking him myself, thanks.
I was more impressed with Watchmen than I expected to be. It's a long time since I read the comic, so can't really comment on how closely the film followed it (pretty closely, according to my far-from-photographic memory), but it did do a reasonable job in capturing what the book was actually about, which was the surprising thing. If there's one thing Hollywood hates it's moral ambiguity, and that's largely what Watchmen is about so it was a bit of a surprise to see that ambiguity survive the production process intact.
Hollywood isn't the only place that hates moral ambiguity, of course. I read a hilarious review linked to from Not PC, in which an Ayn Rand enthusiast finds the film "evil" exactly because of the way morality is anything but black and white in it. If there's anything an ideologue finds more offensive than the concept that morality isn't explained by a simple formula, I've yet to encounter it. Lotsa laffs if you have time to waste.
The crowning ambiguity of the movie is of course the climactic scene where our heroes confront the super bad guy in his secret base and discover that they're not only too late to stop his evil scheme, they're going to have to let him away with it if they don't want to return the world to its nuclear Mexican standoff. Disappointingly, my favourite line from the comic wasn't included in the movie: "All we did was fail to stop him saving the Earth."
Also disappointing: despite one of the points of the thing being to consider costumed crime fighters as ordinary people, the director couldn't resist giving them superhuman strength and reactions and making them impervious to damage or pain. I kept waiting for him to offer some plausible explanation of how a puny guy like Veidt has such inhuman strength and agility (not to mention how the portly Dan achieves barely inferior capabilities), but it never came. I guess the special effects arms race has a lot to answer for.