As intended, over the weekend The Wife and I went to see Watchmen. I’m not going to review it in detail because I was going to like it no matter what, although after having really enjoyed the depth and complexity of the book. Perhaps The Wife will review it herself, in which case you might get a more objective view of the film.
A few notes, though. Technically, it was marvelous; its effects were fantastic and the set-piece images were precisely as the graphic novel visualized them.
Some of the acting was quite good; Jackie Earle Haley (as Rorschach) and Patrick Wilson (as Nite Owl II) delivered complex, emotionally-convincing performances. Other actors like Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan and Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre II, looked luscious but were not satisfying with their deliveries. (Crudup had a tough job, playing such an emotionally distant figure.)
The makeup on the actor playing President Nixon was a little bit silly. Nixon had a pointy nose, but it wasn’t that pointy.
I was midly disappointed at seeing a lot of the deeper layers of the story removed from the movie. But then again, I knew going into it that the movie could not get into that stuff — the pirate comic mirroring the action of the real story, and getting a better sense for what the older generation of costumed heroes had done any why they had done it — in any depth if at all. It’s a movie, for crying out loud, and even though the producers gave themselves two and a half hours, there was still a lot of story to tell, so some stuff had to be cut. Effectively losing the insight into the older generation of superheroes really did take some of richness out of the story; such portions of the 1940’s heroes that survived in the movie were so brief and oblique as to leave viewers like The Wife more confused than interested.
I did approve of some of the other changes they made; for instance, the mechanism of the villian’s dastardly end-of-the-world plot changed from the novel in a way that I thought made a good deal more sense, without all that squiddy ickiness.
The script left very little doubt about the ultimate plot. The Wife figured out the whole thing after less than half an hour. There was a bit more mystery in the graphic novel. But the overall plot is actually not the interesting thing about the movie — the psychological profiles of the characters in action is.
By all means, go see this movie. It’s good fun and there is still enough there intellectually to make you think a bit. But unlike some people who were there this weekend, for crying out loud, leave your little kids at home!
The movie is violent. Much of the violence is unglamorized, morally questionable, and brutal, even when it is perpetrated by the heroes of the film. You are aware, pretty much all the time, that the costumed heroes of the film are mentally right on the razor’s edge of being outright insane on the one hand and no better than the criminals they are attacking on the other. There is violence against the police. There is violence agianst women. There is a scene of one of the heroes attempting to rape another. There is literal mayhem.
This is not “comic book violence.” Particularly when the movie explores the transformation of Rorshach into his “mature” self, it’s quite disturbing. While this is entirely true to the spirit of the comic book, I would not want a small child to see this stuff. A teenager, okay. But to the woman who brought her four-year-old son, who started crying during that particular scene, I have to ask, “What did you think was going to be in this movie? The ‘R’ rating was there for a reason.”
Now, in my poll for this week, I asked what people thought should be the appropriate way to handle very violent movies with little kids. There is a significant diversity of opinion here, with many of you thinking that a movie theater should card the parent or guardian of a small kid going in to a violent movie, and many others thinking that this is just plain not the movie theater’s job at all. I can see both points of view. But what I can’t see is how this sort of thing is appropriate for a little kid at all.
If scenes of a man getting his hands chopped off with a circular saw, a woman getting raped, and people being set on fire isn’t enough for you to keep your kids away, then maybe the sex will. The movie will treat you to a scene of a women being pleasured by multiple partners (well, sort of) and a later scene with naked pelvises thrusting together with gasps and moans of pleasure, complete to climax. And of course, since we’re talking about people who dress up like superheroes, this is sexualized cosplay, which you’ll have to explain to the kid later. And then there’s a rather critical element of the story involving the would-be rapist and his victim. Again, it didn’t take long for The Wife, who had not read the comic, to quickly penetrate this plot twist, but it would still be a tough pill for an immature child to handle.
Watchmen is a movie for grownups. Its themes are very, very dark; it explores areas of the human soul that are uncomfortable to consider. Its content intrinsically involves the relationship between sexual dysfunction and graphic violence, things that are not appropriate things to be exposing little kids to.