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Missing the point

Will Collier comes down hard on Watchmen, mainly because he agrees with the critics who slammed the actors and the script, but also because as a conservative, he's offended by the plot.

One of the graphic novel's subplots had to do with the perceived instability of the MAD doctrine, which kept us and the Soviets from blowing each other to emcee-squared by guaranteeing that neither side would survive no matter who launched the ballistic missiles and bombers first. This instability was a popular line of thought in the New Left*, and spawned quite a few stories where the US and USSR teamed up against an alien menace, or are blackmailed into laying down their nuclear arms. Watchmen is one of those, and it sticks in Collier's craw.

I say he needs to grow up and learn to appreciate period pieces for what they are, or avoid them along with the consequent butthurt. I didn't see the movie as a repudiation of 300 in any way, and I think when you start seeing things in that light you need to step away from the computer, switch from Coke or coffee to 7-Up, and chill the fuck out. It is worth emphasizing here that the actual hero of Watchmen is not Ozymandias/Veidt or Dr. Manhattan, but Rorschach, the uncompromising vigilante whose "dead man switch" of a journal left at The New Frontiersman may unravel Veidt's plans despite its author's seemingly pointless death in the Antarctic waste.

It is what it is. Moore may have intended Watchmen as a slam on Ronald Reagan, who stupidly thought we could win the Cold War (see what I did there?) but if so, it's one obscured by the deconstruction of the superhero/masked vigilante trope and the parallel history presumably invoked when Nixon runs in place of Goldwater in 1964 and unleashes Dr. Manhattan on the recalcitrant Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies. Me, I don't care. It's a well done movie by my standards, which merely require that I get $8.75 worth of entertainment from a movie when I pay that much for it. A low standard, admittedly, but one I can live with.


* Who in retrospect were quite obviously using the trope as a stick with which to beat the anti-Communists in both parties, right up until the USSR collapsed in 1991.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
chocol8fiend
Mar. 11th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
"stupidly thought we could win the Cold War"

We lost it right? Thats what all my professors told me...
wombat_socho
Mar. 11th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
I was busy fighting it as a weekend warrior and missed out on the VU Day celebrations, myself. ;)

Edited at 2009-03-11 01:33 am (UTC)
chebutykin
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
I agree with Will Collier on most points except the political ones, though my grounds for disagreement are a bit different than yours. (Shocking. I know.)

I'd actually say that there are no heroes in Watchmen, not even Rorschach (regardless of how much I love the character). Likewise, there are no villains. All the characters are flawed and screwed-up human beings, thrown to extremes. Watchmen is first and foremost a deconstruction of the superhero fantasy, and a political statement second.

I think the biggest problem I have with the film (at least, as it was theatrically released), is that it was cut down to it's barest plot points, to the point where the film seeped only misanthropy. The comic is very clearly about the boons and downfalls of these humans, but that worked because Moore and Gibbons had a lot of paper to fill, and they crammed every inch of it full of character moments as told from multiple angles.

Also, Snyder is a very flawed filmmaker. His films are getting better as he goes, so I think he may mature into a fine filmmaker someday. But for now, he's a guy with broad vision but little depth.

Edited at 2009-03-11 02:38 am (UTC)
wombat_socho
Mar. 11th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
"I agree with Will Collier on most points except the political ones, though my grounds for disagreement are a bit different than yours. (Shocking. I know.)"

Unpossible! Us disagree about movies??? Who are you, and what have you done with chebutykin?

Seriously, though...it sounds to me like you agree with Moore that the movie shouldn't have been done because too much would have to be (and in fact was) cut. I understand that point of view, but at the same time I thought the movie worked well with what it had. I didn't see the "wooden" acting of Ms. Akerman that so many folks complain about, and while I see the misanthropy you're talking about, I also see hope and some other positive things.

I sometimes think I was lucky not to get too deeply into movie geekery. While it may have deprived me of the opportunity to better appreciate really good movies, because I don't have a grasp on all the off-stage stuff or homages to past movies, I think it's made it easier to appreciate average movies for what they are and not bitch that they don't come up to some Platonic ideal of [insert genre here] movies.
chebutykin
Mar. 11th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
Well, for as much as they cut down the plot, I'm quite impressed that it held together at all. And while I don't agree with Moore (as I believe it is possible to make a very good film out of that material), I don't think that film was the 2+ hour theatrical cut. That movie may well be the 5 hour cut planned for DVD release, but we'll have to wait to see how that turned out.

Watchmen felt plagued by the same disease that afflicts the Harry Potter films. It feels like it's a slave to the source material to an extent that it ceases to feel like good cinema. Certain storytelling devices that work well in literature don't work well on film, and vice versa; thus, an expert adaptation almost has to take liberties with the story in order to make it work best in a new format. This is a pitfall that the Lord of the Rings movies mostly dodged, because the Peter/Fran/Phillipa team aimed to capture the spirit of the books, instead of the letter of the law.

I don't think the theatrical release of Watchmen is a bad film. I just don't think it's very good, either. Yet most of the things that bother me about the theatrical release are things that might be fixed when the full cut comes out, so I'll happily give the film another go later this year.
wombat_socho
Mar. 11th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't mind seeing the full cut myself, but I think I'll wait for the DVD. The idea of sitting through a five-hour movie makes my ass hurt.
chebutykin
Mar. 11th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
I believe it's only being released on DVD.
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