Regular readers of the blog will remember that I was quite eagerly looking forward to catching “Watchmen” when it hit the silver screen, and man, did it live up to my expectations or what. Moving away from the norm of pitching the good guys versus the bad guys, this is one superhero movie which goes down the less taken path of exploring the inherent difficulties of being superheroes, ordinary peoples’ perceptions of them, how society reacts to them, their regular lives, and the such. And this to me is what sets Watchmen apart from most other superhero movies that I have seen, with a few exceptions of course.
The opening credits of the movie chronicles the rise of the Minutemen, a group of vigilantes who came together to “finish what the law couldn’t” and their subsequent demise due to violent deaths or insanity. It also shows how decades later, the Watchmen are formed and are involved in various historical events such as JFK’s assassination, Vietnam war and how the Watchmen prove to be the decisive factor there. Richard Nixon, US President during the 1980s however outlaws superheroes and all but 3 of them are retired. 2 of them, Dr Manhattan and the Comedian are operating under government sanction, and the masked Rorschach who remains active illegally.
The movie begins with the sequence where the Comedian is killed, and Rorschach sets out to warn the other Watchmen of a conspiracy to eliminate all of them. When Dr Manhattan, who now lives with his lover The Silk Spectre disbelieves him, and the Nite Owl doesn’t quite take him too seriously, Rorschach realizes that he is probably the only one who seriously believes in this theory of his.
As events unfold, Dr Manhattan is publicly accused of having given cancers to his former girlfriend and former colleagues, which forces him into exile on Mars. This provides the Soviet Union the impetus to invade Afghanistan, thus prompting escalation of nuclear tensions between the US and the USSR. What happens forth forms the rest of the movie.
While the above in itself can be called a ‘nutshell review’ of the movie, this is one movie which has to be seen at least 2 or 3 times to get the full import of. Notwithstanding the fact that this is an adaptation of a seminal comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore, stand-alone the movie is a work of art in itself. I am not even talking about the graphics and the CGI parts, which are well, present in almost every action movie today, but the handling of the subject and the script by Zack Snyder gives us a glimpse into the simmering genius that this guy actually is. The careful handling of the Comedian’s character (who by the way turns out to be something that most of us realize he isn’t), and the brutally truthful character of Rorschach when he is unmasked and the sequence in which he describes his origins, make for the most fascinating sequences in the movie.
To me, one put off about this movie was the fact that it tries to merge almost 4-5 parallel stories together in a playing time of barely 160 odd minutes, which means that the director has taken some liberties with the original storyline. But then, if you are making a Hollywood Summer Blockbuster, and more so, one that is so heavily anticipated, I guess you have to take some liberties.
All said and done, this movie is a must watch for any serious cinema afficionado, more so if you enjoy ‘serious superhero’ movies which delve deep into the superhero psyche so to say.
My LAMB Score for this movie –