Wednesday, March 11, 2009


"You need people like me so you can point your f*cking fingers and say there's the badguy." -Tony Montana/ SCARFACE

The above is a theme that also runs through THE DARK KNIGHT, and it is present front and center in THE WATCHMEN. The difference between SCARFACE and these two newer superhero films is that there are no real lies and deceit in Tony's presentation of self. Everyone knows Tony is a sociopathic drug-dealer, and they feel better about themselves by seeing him self-immolate. The societal implications of the new scapegoats presented in both THE DARK KNIGHT and THE WATCHMEN are offensive and nerve-wrackingly true. The argument has been made in both of these films that the plebeian masses need something to believe in, and a few elites must manufacture a lie to sate them. In the case of Batman, The Dark Knight is made into the sacrificial lamb and takes the sins of Harvey Dent upon him. It is presented that the public can't handle the knowledge that their hero (Mr. Dent) has actually become a murderous lunatic rolling in tandem with the Joker. The public is fed the lie, and the movie ends on a grim yet hopeful note.

There is a similar outcome in the third act of THE WATCHMEN which in ways echoes events in recent American history.

THE WATCHMEN is beautiful to behold. Just about every frame of film has some form of CGI going on. The plot is solid and ripped from the comic series as well as it could be ripped.

The opening scene is the brutal beating and death of a character called The Comedian. As the movie continues, you learn he deserves every crunch to the face. The murder of the Comedian is what jolts the plot machinery forward. Who killed The Comedian and why? The rest of the film plays out like any number of mysteries and ends with someone close to the center as the main culprit. This isn't a spoiler; this is a common genre pattern, and it is so obvious you could see it coming if you were standing on Mars.

The credits then begin, and in a FORREST GUMP fashion, history is re-written to show us how the superheroes figure in history and how they are made obsolete. In some ways THE INCREDIBLES does this better. However, THE INCREDIBLES is about "real" superheroes. THE WATCHMEN are a bunch of human crime-fighters with the exception of Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan is a scientist who has suffered a science mishap on par with Bruce Banner in the INCREDIBLE HULK. Dr. Manhattan has become a god among men, and his powers are being used by the government to keep world peace. Manhattan spends most of his time without pants on. So prepare to focus on his light blue, glowing penis because it gets a lot of screentime, and it is fascinating. The only character in this film that is truly interesting is the troubled Rorschach who wears a morphing ink-blotch mask and is hot on the trail to solve the mystery of the death of the Comedian.

Through the differing perspectives of the six main characters (the Watchmen) the film asks us to look at our species and wonder what is really wrong with humanity. The violence is over the top, the sex scenes are explicit, and the women tend to dress like CG effects are keeping them in their clothing. This is a complete comic book movie. In addition to all of these over-the-top comic book elements, THE WATCHMEN makes a crippled attempt at allegory. The story being told was more honest when it was delivered by Tony Montana.

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