Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker weighs in on Watchmen, which easily snagged top box office honors this weekend in the nation's theaters, despite being a "political" movie.
No matter what you may think are the flaws in director Snyder's version of Alan Moore's book, it does one thing consistently and assiduously: It seizes upon Moore's long-standing sympathy for '60s-style politics, strips away much of Moore's bluster (that's one of the advantages of having to pare down the novel), and hammers at the idea that Nixonian politics don't work. Even the libertarian sentiments spouted by the movie's Rorschach, positioned in the movie as its most interesting figure (thanks to a combo of his CGI mask and Jackie Earle Haley's terrific performance) are viewed by Moore/Snyder as Walter Kovacs's one crucial character flaw.
Watchmen is the most "political" movie in theaters now, and will be seen by many people who'd never dream of going to a Michael Moore documentary or of Netflixing All The President's Men (I caught at least two shout-outs to Woodward and Bernstein in Watchmen). Pretty soon if not already, those who disagree with Alan Moore may start inveighing against the movie. They'll argue about the cleansing power of…what? Liberalism? (Let the "masks" coexist with ordinary citizens!) Anarchy? The nihilism some people (not me) believe is inherent in the movie's violence and sex? Pretty soon those people—mighty Rush Limbaugh, perhaps? explodin' Bill O'Reilly?—may come to see Watchmen as a ripe target. Me, I think it's just more evidence that pop culture works in mysterious ways that even its creators cannot predict.
I reread the original comic book (urm, graphic novel) over the weekend and I was surprised at how well I thought it holds up. And Tucker is certainly right that the meta-politics of Watchmen remains far more relevant to today's world than the ones rumbling around in Alan Moore's other big work, V for Vendetta does. The closely entwined dreams of hubris and world unity in the face of a (manufactured) existential threat in Watchmen track in a bizarre and coincidental way with that new man in the White House's overreaching and the worldwide banking panic/meltdown/depression/recession/you name it much more than did the relatively uncomplicated (read: retarded) paranoiac terrorism in V for Vendetta (funny how the 9/11 attacks made Guy Fawkes much less of a good-time guy).
But I still agree with Tim Cavanaugh that Tyler Perry is probably the most interesting filmmaker around today.