Watchmen (US, 2009)

Objectification with a difference?

Objectification with a difference?

I’ll ignore the question as to whether the film’s as good as the graphic novel and deal with it in isolation. It’s not a typical Hollywood action movie, though the shadow of The Matrix (1999) is still looming for the fight sequences, as it is infused with melancholy and the emotional punch is garnered through a woman coming to terms with her mother against the usual Oedpal narrative. While Malin Akerman is an unfeasibly scrawny action hero, whose dress is about revealing her body shape, Watchmen is unusual in showing the male protagonist’s cock. And it’s not just Hollywood that averts its gaze from the male member. True Dr Manhattan isn’t human but he does sport a six-pack and, I guess, an attractive arse so men are objectified too.

Dr Manhattan is also the locus of the melancholy, though the noir atmosphere that infuses the film (again The Matrix sprang to mind) is also grim. It’s unusual to have such a bunch of dysfunctional heroes. Night Owl’s sexual potency is questioned; Rorsach is borderline psychopath; Comedian a rapist; Ozymandias a megalomaniac. Silk Spectre is only ‘normal’ one. Of course all this difference is a result of the source material, Moore and Gibbons’ anti- super hero comic book.

Director Zack Snyder has does a good job in visualising Moore-Gibbons alternative world where the US won the Vietnam war and Tricky Dicky is elected for a third term. I don’t what audiences unfamiliar with the source material made of the film but, for the record, I enjoyed it more than the novel (which is not to say it’s better).

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One Response

  1. I think it is very average and for an extraordinary novel being turned into an average film isn’t really good enough. I think in parts it is well cast Rorschach, Nite Owl, The Comedian and Dr Manhattan are all very good in their separate roles particularly Jackie Earle Haley. I also like how they changed the threat from the giant squid to Dr Manhattan and that was kind of interesting and occasionally the visuals are absolutely stunning and the first 12 minutes are just brilliant. However the rest of the cast are rubbish, flat and wooden, particularly Matthew Goode who is not good enough for Ozymandias, I don’t believe that person is the most intelligent man in the world. I think the 80s setting leaves much of the films political leanings completely useless as they are talking about Vietnam, Nixon and threat of Nuclear War, which while contemporary for the novel strangely dates the film, and the scenes with Nixon in the Dr Strangelove war room with that awful stick-on-comedy-nose. There are also some terribly misjudged moments in both violence and musical choices (Sound of Silence over a funeral sequence?). Snyder is all about style over content, the slow-mo is rather irritating and the latex costumes are a bit naff. The big kicker for me is despite the inspired ending change, the writers stick too much close to the source material in their clear unrelenting love of it and most the novels’ dialogue falls flat on screen. It is a difficult novel to adapt but when directors like Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass have been beaten by the project, and ‘visionary’ director Zack Snyder has come in it really is time to throw in the towel.

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