Monday, March 9, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Alan Moore's Freudian doomsday scenario with superheroes in a parallel timeline has finally made it to the big screen.

Technically - special effects, sets, sound-wise, it was well done.

Dramatically?

Well, you have to be a fan boy to like it. You have to be a fan boy, 'cause nothing else will do.

Remember how Peter Jackson took an unfilmable epic called Lord of the Rings and mined that sucker, keeping the story but jettisoning everything that could NOT work on screen? He ended up doing a honest-to-goodness "film version" of the story.

Zack Snyder was not so brave, and it shows.

Now I'm not the only one who saw that. In fact, I was trying to find the right words to express it without being morally condemning of this "mature" superhero story.

Now if mature material means you have to be mature to even view it, I accept that.

But if you think you are mature FOR having seen it, you are nuts.

And films with explicit sex and gore without real emotional connection to the heroes comes off as a 14-year old boy's sick fantasy. A.O. Scott at the New York Times hit the mark for me and bulls-eyed it:
And the dramatic conflict revealed, at long last, in the film's climactic arguments is between a wholesale, idealistic approach to mass death and one that is more cynical and individualistic. This idea is sickening but also, finally, unpersuasive, because it is rooted in a view of human behavior that is fundamentally immature, self-pitying and sentimental.

Perhaps there is some pleasure to be found in regressing into this belligerent, adolescent state of mind. But maybe it's better to grow up.

In fact, "hero" is a non-existant word by the close of the film. The only 'hero' sticking to his moral guns at very real risk of life and limb is summarily executed by one of his own team members.

But you knew that, right?

Could we have gotten the same grit and gore and still ended on the right moral note?

Yeah. I think so.

My ending would have included Nite Owl pulling away from the arctic fortress in his owlship "Archie" and turning it around in a 180 -angry at his impotence, angry he had been deceived, angry that he had to keep his mouth shut and be complicit in mass murder and saying under his breath as he unloaded his main cannons:

"Dodge THIS, Adrian!"

-and Veidt's arctic fortress goes up in a small nuclear fireball, giving the architect of humanity's "salvation" a taste of his own damnable medicine.

With that, justice is satisfied, but the message changes from "Golly, you are just a helpless pawn before bigger powers, so shut up and play along." to "No one gets away with murder, especially not mass murder. And truth wins out in the end."

Jesus said that.
Matthew 10:26-28
"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell."

That's part of the superhero trope: the truth and what is right wins in the end.

Obviously, might does NOT make right. But, as Abraham Lincoln observed, "Right does make might."

I wish Alan Moore believed that. I wish Zack Snyder had seen that.

You may have to keep secrets to save souls (cf. The Dark Knight) but you do not have to murder.

At least it closed, as Moore's work does, with a shot of Rorshach's journal, leaving some hope that the truth will be revealed in the near future- but it was not quite enough to redeem the hours of violence and hopelessness and carnage I experienced.

I watched the Watchmen. Once was enough.

Amen.

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