Monday, March 16, 2009

Who watches the ‘Watchmen’? Everyone should – over 17 that is!

Ok – I admit it, I am a fanboy! I have thousands of comics stored lovingly in sealed Mylar bags, pressed gently against acid free cardboard.

I was raised on the ‘Golden Age’ of comics – Batman, Flash, Superman, Spiderman and Captain America. Throughout college I gorged myself on the darker images and storylines that comics had evolved to. The bigotry and racism illustrated in the tales of the X-Men; the dark side of humanity as illustrated in Frank Miller’s version of Batman (so skillfully bought to life by director Christopher Nolan in the last two Dark Knight films) and then late in 1986 DC Comics published ‘The Watchmen’ – a graphic novel series that Time Magazine hailed as on of the top 100 novels ever written.

‘’Watchmen’ was not your typical superhero story – in fact only one, Dr Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup) was the only character with ‘powers’ – so God-like that he exiles himself to Mars. Rather – the story is one of the human conditions and a reflection of the anxieties that were occurring at the time – more of a deconstructing of the superhero metaphor.

Director Zach Snyder (300) skillfully brings the novel to full visceral life. With stunning visuals and a very true adaptation to the original graphic novel – Snyder creates a film out of what was once thought impossible to do. Set in an alternate version of 1985, the world rests on the brink of nuclear war, Richard Nixon is the President and costumed heroes have been outlawed save for those that have been sanctioned by the government.

A hero is murdered; The Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan) is sent reeling from his high rise apartment, an act that brings the heroes together as it seems they are all targeted for elimination; seemingly a part of a larger plan to ultimately destroy the world.

This is not a traditional superhero movie. In this films the heroes are flawed, lost and often far too human to posses the power of gods. We see the heroes struggling to live a ‘normal’ life – but forever fated to serve humanity. Snyder fills the screen with rich colors and images flooded with symbolism; this is a violent film and some of the acts of the heroes may surprise you. But those acts only reinforce the message that we are all only human after all. This is a film that deserves a second viewing (preferably at an IMAX theater). If you have not read the novel yet – I recommend doing so – even if you see the film first. It is a work that stands on it’s own.

4 Stars

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