Watchmen: Open Geek Thread

As promised in the comments of my previous post, here's an open thread for Watchmen fans and/or viewers to discuss the film generally.

Please note two things: 1. This isn't the follow-up to the triggering thread. That's above. Go there to discuss about the sexual assault content. 2. There will be SPOILERS aplenty in both threads, so consider yourself warned. For that reason, my general review is below the fold.

Okay, so I haven't read the graphic novel, and I only had the vaguest outlines of the plot going into this film, due to my fiercely deliberate avoidance of most info about the film. I went into it with some pleasant anticipation and some dread about the sexual assault content, and I came out of it pretty dissatisfied.

The Good Stuff: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. I have loved JEH since I was a kid, when he was Moocher in Breaking Away and Kelly in The Bad News Bears, two films I must have watched 1,000 times each. He wasn't doing a hell of a lot worth a damn for a lot of years, until he showed up again in Little Children in 2006, a brilliant and deeply disturbing film in which he plays a convicted pedophile. He's fantastic in the film; he was nominated for an Oscar for the role, and it revived his career. JEH is one of the main reasons I wanted to see Watchmen—and he didn't disappoint.

The brief scene of the lesbian superhero (whose handle I didn't even catch, but I believe is called Silhouette—thanks, IMDb!) replacing the sailor in the iconic war photo was superb. (Too bad I didn't get to know fuck-all else about this character before it was revealed she and her girlfriend had been murdered by homobigots.)

It looked great. The special effects were above-average, and I quite like Zack Snyder's stylized direction. I really loved the look of 300, and Watchmen was pleasing to behold, too. Snyder's wildly ambitious, which, in terms of the film's visuals, is a big positive.

The Bad Stuff: Snyder's wildly ambitious, which, in terms of making this film at all, and trying to stuff the story into one installment, is a big negative. I'm reminded of Peter Jackson's steadfast unwillingness to do LotR as one film, holding out for a studio who would grant him at least two installments. Snyder should have done the same—because whatever social commentary Watchmen was trying to make was entirely lost on me, a relatively intelligent viewer who hasn't read the graphic novel. Aside from a few passing barbs at fat liberals, and the sledgehammered message about a common enemy uniting adversaries, I've got no idea what the fucking point was.

There was too much and too little going on all at the same time—too much plot, too many threads, too little character development, too few clarifying bits of exposition. Which wasn't for a lack of exposition altogether; it just wasn't the right stuff. Or something. For example, the aforementioned murder of Silhouette and her girlfriend was included in a historical montage without any commentary—and, because we were also treated to images of citizens demanding to know "Who's watching the Watchmen?" after government interference, the image of the two women seen brutally slaughtered obliquely suggested their deaths were just, despite the fact the bodies were found under the words "Lesbian Whores" scrawled onto the wall in their blood. It all felt…incoherent.

I can imagine that those who have read the graphic novel could fill in the blanks quite effectively, but whatever made this story compelling in the graphic novel, it wasn't in the film.

Ultimately, the alternative-universe, we-won-Vietnam, Nixon-as-five-term-pres stuff just seemed like a weird distraction and unnecessary complication. But, without it, Watchmen is just a middling superhero pic about trying to save the world, its only distinguishing feature from other middling superhero pics about trying to save the world being a huge blue dong.

The rest of my review, specific to the sexual assault content is here.

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