Watchmen oozes cool. The end is so punk rock it makes me want to smash a TV with an actual rock in a show of solidarity. It deconstructs the American hero/superhero and exposes all the gooey messed up insides that compel them. Zack Snyder, auteur behind the extremely watchable 300, doesn’t so much adapt the subversive graphic novel for the screen as directly lift scenes from its pages and bring them crackling to life. The result is a mess but it’s a wonderful mess that I find myself increasingly eager to romp in again and again.
The first time I watched the movie I was keenly aware of how poorly the pacing translates to the film format. This is because, like the novel, the movie sets the audience up with a central whodunnit, namely, who is killing former masked heroes, and then forgets about it. If you’re seeing Watchmen for the first time you will be annoyed by how long they step away from this mystery to explore deeper thematic threads. By the time the villain is revealed, between trips to Mars, characters knockin’ boots and a stint in the state penitentiary, you’ll have forgotten there was a villain to speak of.
Watch it again. Unburdened by the need to have the story told, the movie opens up and reveals a lush, dark, tingling universe, with archetypes for other well known comic book heroes drawn to their most unsympathetic extremes. How can Batman sleep at night knowing what he does about what dark feats man is capable of? How can Superman be expected to relate to us enough to save us when he’s not human at all? Why do those girls really wear such form fitting, revealing outfits? Watchmen is about human nature. It’s about need and power and what happens when you shift those things around.
Audiences had trouble warming up to it in the theater, but it deserves some more effort on our part.