Politics

Who Watched the Watchmen? Lots of People.

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You want a piece of me?

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.

More here.

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.

Reason's Brian Doherty on Rorschach's Randian worldview here. Peter Suderman pans the flick here. And Todd Seavey says he's take Dr. Manhattan here.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Nick Gillespie on 19th Century Porn Prosecutions

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  1. I’ll reiterate what I said in the last Watchmen topic:

    *Spoilers*

    The movie definitely hilighted the fact that Rorschach was an unstable sociopath (let’s be honest though, none of those characters were very heroic, they did what they did based on some sort of neurosis). Also I think the movie pointed to HL Menken’s quote “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” Honestly, was Ozymandius going to give up “control”? If anything, he was probably intent on expanding his empire to “save the world”.

    I didn’t really get anything Randian from it. It was almost like a parody of what Moore would have deemed Objectivism to be, except he forgot the point about non-coercion. Everything these heros do is coerce humanity to their beliefs. Rorschach acts as his own judge, jury and executioner based on his own moral premises (which may or may not line up with any laws the “state” may have). The only thing even remotely seen as objectivist was his walking out to reveal the “truth” at the end. Even then, his motives for that path aren’t quite square with any objectivist. He seems quite intent on punishing Ozymandius for his crimes than any thought about the “right” path. He views them all at that point as “compromised”, “weak” individuals.

    While I would approve of revealing the truth to humanity, because these sorts of lies tend not to be overly effective in any case (give it another 20 years and another few world leaders and conditions will probably be ripe again for nuclear holocaust), the “Watchmen” were just fucked up individuals with good fighting skills/technology with Dr. Manhatten being the parody “God” figure who lost all credibility with me after the Mars scene with Lori (when I read the book, not watched the movie).

    I know alot of people are going to come away missing the dark bitter irony Moore was putting forth because things move too fast in a movie to absorb enough of the details, but that’s what made the book so good. The redeeming features of the characters aren’t nearly as good as their flaws and to a young cynic like myself, its the ultimate last laugh on the idealistic superhero fans, a “fuck you” from Moore that makes “Watchmen” as good as it is.

  2. libertarian sentiments spouted by the movie’s Rorschach

    Huh? I liked the movie a lot, but Rorschach was more like an unleashed Sheriff Arpaio IMO.

  3. I’ll reiterate what I said in the last Watchmen topic

    Jeez, even the comments are reruns.

  4. No wonder people think we’re wack jobs — we point to comic book charecters as our libertarian avatars…

  5. They’re (cough) Graphic Novels (cough).

  6. Personally, I see the movie/comic as a condemnation of Progressivism and paternalistic leaders.

  7. Can you please stop using “Who watches the watchmen” puns? Its been done. A lot. Move on.

  8. Even a stopped Watchmen is right two times a day.

  9. As an aside, at the Iacocca/Veidt scene, in the theater I was in, every single person snickered at the “socialism” line. It was not, by any stretch, a polite chuckle.

    It should give you an idea of how effective the current “but it’s socialism!!!” rhetoric is playing amongst the population.

  10. 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.

    People keep saying this shit, yet I have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. What did Rorschach do/say that was “libertarian”?

    Regardless, Kovacs was far and away the most interesting–and sympathetic–character in the movie. Every person I saw it with, several of whom were fans of the graphic novel, agreed.

  11. Ele,

    Maybe they were laughing because the notion that free energy = socialism is laughable. That does not indicate whether they understand that quasi-nationalizing the banking industry and massively redistributing wealth is socialism as it is commonly (mis)used to label a welfare state ballooning out of the bounds of reason.

    Also, and this might be a local phenomenon, did the rest of you have like 20 or 30 7-12 year-olds in your audience? WTF? About half of them left after the ?erenkov Penis swung past a few times. Why do we even have ratings if no one is going to read them?

  12. People keep saying this shit, yet I have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. What did Rorschach do/say that was “libertarian”?

    Rorschach is an analog of an explicitly Objectivist character (two really) that was created by Steve Ditko. Just another part of the Objectivist=libertarian=moral absolutist=psychotic blood libel.

  13. About half of them left after the ?erenkov Penis swung past a few times.

    The MPAA goes apeshit over full frontal dicks (“Too many dicks on the dance floor…”), yet they let Dr. Manhattan walk around like Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. Why?

  14. Also, and this might be a local phenomenon, did the rest of you have like 20 or 30 7-12 year-olds in your audience? WTF? About half of them left after the ?erenkov Penis swung past a few times. Why do we even have ratings if no one is going to read them?

    I saw it in downtown Detroit on Friday, and not only were there a few dozen kids, but many were much younger than 7, including three babes-in-arms that I spotted. I overheard one dad asking his five(ish)-year-old son if he was excited to see “Watchman.” None of them left at any point.

    Then again, this audience also laughed their asses off during the entire rape scene. A handful of people clapped, and several shouted encouragement to the screen. A pre-pubescent boy yelled “don’t take shit from her!” There was similar laughter and encouragement during the scene in the Vietnamese bar.

    I no gender feminist who gets the vapors at the mere mention of sexual violence, but as a solitary female in a city with a pretty high violent crime rate that was scary as hell.

  15. That should be “I’m no gender feminist..”

  16. And BTW: “Your fingers taste like licking a battery.” Up there with worst pillowtalk ever. Dr M could give her a shame-free DVDA and she gets fussy because he’s saving the world at the same time?

  17. Wow, my comment under lola’s makes me feel dirty.

  18. So does the EW critic think Nixon was a libertarian?

  19. lola, I was in Boston for the showing and there was no laughter at such scenes. Everyone was very serious, there were no children, and the theater was full. Maybe Detroit is just a shithole.

    FrBunny, never feel bad for making an offensive, sexually graphic statement. It’s that much the better for following lola’s.

  20. Then again, this audience also laughed their asses off during the entire rape scene. A handful of people clapped, and several shouted encouragement to the screen. A pre-pubescent boy yelled “don’t take shit from her!” There was similar laughter and encouragement during the scene in the Vietnamese bar.

    Even a Kentucky audience didn’t do any of that. That’s not a male/female difference of perspective, that’s a human/whatever the fuck they’ve got in Detriot difference of perspective.

  21. Then again, this audience also laughed their asses off during the entire rape scene. A handful of people clapped, and several shouted encouragement to the screen. A pre-pubescent boy yelled “don’t take shit from her!” There was similar laughter and encouragement during the scene in the Vietnamese bar.

    No similar reaction here in RI. Maybe the people near you are just fucked up (not that that’s much consolation). There also were no children at my showing under fifteen or so.

    On the other hand, I did see a number of five-to-seven year olds at The Dark Knight screening I went to, which I thought was pretty inadvisable. And my personal favorite filmatic child abuse moment was when a friend and I went to see The Passion of the Christ in the theatre and the entire front half of the room was filled with Christian youth groups.

    As to the Socialism thing, no the snickering here seemed to be in direct proportion to people’s reaction to how *ominous* Iacocca was trying to make it sound. As if socialism is the bogeyman, a conversation ender, an argument winner. The invocation of the devil himself.

    That shit just makes people laugh. I think it has to do with the obviously distorted equivalency it tries to make, namely that Soviet communist socialism was horrible, and therefore all socialism will lead to Soviet horror. An equivalency which is absurd and idiotic and makes people think those who espouse it should by no means be taken seriously.

  22. Epi – Not “bad”, just dirty.

    And if lola’s description was portrayed in a movie, I would call the director a ham. If true, Detroit is fucked up.

  23. No such reaction here in North Carolina. Dead silence, except for the noise of a few people leaving the theater. There were no children or anyone under 16 that I saw. The theater was at 70% capacity.

  24. Epi – Not “bad”, just dirty.

    Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

  25. What’s retarded about blowing up the Parliament building to sow anarchy?

  26. And furthermore, as an avid game player uncomplicated plans are usually the most effective. Calling uncomplicated plans retarded is itself greatly retarded.

  27. When are they going to adapt Betty and Veronica graphic novels to the big screen?

    It could be dark and edgy: Jackie Earle Haley as Jughead; long think pieces on Mr. Lodge as an avatar of Misesian praxeology; the fate of Archie’s jalopy vs. the future of a reduced-emissions environment. Reggie’s moral code may be shocking and twisted, but dammit, he lives by it, and you have to admire that!

  28. “The MPAA goes apeshit over full frontal dicks (“Too many dicks on the dance floor…”), yet they let Dr. Manhattan walk around like Harvey Keitel ”

    I never did understand why nudity is something people freak over. We are far too puritin (though thankfully not as Puritanical as Saudi Arabia). Do Bonobos suffer psychological problems because they see nude Bonobos all the time? Has there been a study of rainforest tribal peoples that proved they are all suffering because everyone walks around nude? C’mon give me a break.

  29. The blue man’s little man was in too many scenes. They could have cut it from two of the scenes and that would have been a more appropriate amount. At the current level, it’s almost like a drinking game.

    I imagine parents and kids walked out due to the violence. I liked it, but would not recommend the movie for anyone under 13.

  30. I really wanted to like this movie, but they seriously tried to pack too much background in. It reminded me of LOTR:The Two Towers in that way; there were periods where the main plot was thrust aside for 20 minutes or so while the director thought it was a good idea for us to sit through a character study.

    The parts with Rorshach were awesome; the parts with the Comedian and Ozymandias were pretty well done and in any case necessary to the plot. But seriously cut out the pointless and insipid romance between SS and NO, as well as Dr M’s quantum explorations.

    I didn’t notice Manhattan’s membrum virum during his first few scenes. When I did, it didn’t bother me except that it seemed awfully small. Did it get shriveled up by the “Intrinsic Field” accident? Note to self: immediately purchase tachyon-proof athletic protector.

  31. About half of them left after the ?erenkov Penis swung past a few times.

    Thanks for RUINING the entire movie! Jerk.

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