In the spirit of full disclosure, I should be upfront about my feelings on the whole Watchmen hullabaloo: I wanted no part of it (and not just because I used to cohabitate with a seriously rabid Watchmen fan … you know the kind who keeps the book by the bedside table, babbling about dystopia and deconstructing-the-superhero and government unease and who-will-watch-the-watchmen and shut up it’s 3.a.m. and etc). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good comic-book movie, but there was just something about this one that made me deeply anxious. Alternate reality? A doomsday clock? By the 300 guy (Zach Snyder)? Ack! But once I settled down in my seat and the opening credits rolled, I started to think that maybe I had it all wrong. Because, honestly? Those opening credits were just about the coolest opening credits I’ve ever seen! But the problem is that after the opening credits were over, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about.
As someone unfamiliar with the Watchmen universe, it’s a little hard to catch up with the mythology of this thing, which frankly seems a little complicated! The basics: there’s a gang of costumed superheroes walking around in a 1985 America that still has Nixon as president, and the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union is imminent. We have Little Children’s Patrick Wilson as Night Owl—a rather wussy man with lots of expensive toys; Jackie Earle Haley as a redheaded sociopath named Rorschach (sounding like Christian Bale in Dark Knight); dead Denny from Grey’s Anatomy as the violent and not-so-funny Comedian; Malin Ackerman as some weird long-haired thing we couldn’t figure out (and who earned the funniest of slams in a particularly awesome Anthony Lane review in this week’s New Yorker); and our would-be-boyfriend Matthew Goode, almost unrecognizable in blond hair and kind of doing a David Bowie circa Labyrinth kind of affect. Oh, there is also a giant blue naked man named Dr. Manhattan who used to be Billy Crudup, but now glows and smiles serenely and often forgets to wear pants and can vaporize just about anything. His giant blue flaccid penis is very distracting.
Here’s the good news: the movie is lovely to look at in an incredibly stylized kind of way (though really, it can’t rain all the time like a November Rain video, right?). If there’s one thing I’ve heard, it’s that the movie is faithful to the book—perhaps too faithful? It wasn’t that I wasn’t engaged in some of the (many) story lines, it’s just that there was never enough time spent with any particular one to so as to become emotionally involved … which seem strange to say about a movie 165 minutes long. That’s right, 165 minutes long! These are three hours I will never get back.
In addition to the length, I truly did not enjoy what seemed to be the over-the-top violence. Do we need to see dogs ripping at a little girl’s leg (read: no)? Same goes with the rather oddly staged sex scene … too much and too weird and it all left me feeling was that this movie did not intend itself to be seen by someone like me. I’m the wrong gender and about fifteen years too old.
I am quite curious to see what people will think of this movie. One thing is for certain … I can’t imagine seeing Dr. Manhattan in all his naked glory in IMAX!