Watchmen Puts the "Graphic" in Graphic-Novel Adaptation
- Friday, March 06, 2009
Rorschach is the most memorable character in this highly memorable, if messy, film. His diagnosis of human failing resonates with a biblical understanding of the Fall and its consequences, but divorced from any moral grounding, it leads to an absence of hope or belief in personal and spiritual transformation. In his thirst for justice, he reveals his own disordered personality, shaped by humiliation and persecution. A crippled figure driven by rage and bitterness, he’s tragic. He finds rest not in forgiveness, but in retribution.
The other Watchmen aren’t nearly as intriguing. Dr. Manhattan towers above the others in the group in knowledge and power, but he’s a distant, cold creature. Dan is an unassuming geek who longs for Laurie, and eventually wins her.The Comedian, whose death sets the story in motion, is a loathsome character who, in one particularly vicious scene, beats and tries to rape Laurie's mother (Carla Gugino).
The violence in the film is extreme, but it’s just one of the film’s problems. Laurie is treated more as a troubled sex object, with director Zack Snyder focusing on her responsiveness during extended scenes of sexual intercourse. This may be a way of showing Laurie’s sexual fulfillment in light of revelations about her past, and that of her mother, but the scenes play as merely exploitative. The film’s plot, which centers on Adrian Veidt, also known as Ozymandius (Matthew Goode), and an energy crisis, is so packed with characters and historical references that it’s easy to lose sight of where it’s all going.
To the film’s credit, it keeps you watching, even when the narrative bogs down. Some of the imagery is extraordinary, and the story is rich enough to be analyzed for years to come. Watchmen will surely spawn sequels, which may flesh out the buried themes that this film, even at running time approaching three hours, barely touches. But that doesn’t mean you need to see it.
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Correction: In the original piece we mistakenly stated the character Silk Spectre II was the victim of an attempted rape. It was actually that character's mother. We apologize for the error; it has been corrected in the text.
- Smoking/Drinking: Several scenes of both, and discussion of drunkenness.
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; loads of foul language.
- Sex/Nudity: Two women kiss; attempted rape; extended scenes of sexual intercourse; male and female nudity; sexual threats in prison.
- Violence: High body count with loads of realistic gunfire; bleeding bodies; men who are thrown out of windows and fall to their death; a man savagely beats a woman and tries to rape her; vigilantism; vomiting; man thrown down elevator shaft; dead couple in bed; a man commits suicide; soldiers’ deaths; limb snapping; prison riot; limbs from a corpse are devoured by dogs; a man’s arms are severed with a saw; a man is electrocuted; constant threat of war; bombs detonate.
- Religion: A character can see the future but says he is not omniscient, and rejects being called a god; a character thinks of a time when people will say to him, “Save us,” and he will reply, “No”; reference to a “Tijuana Bible”; someone says it rains on the just and the unjust; a character rejects a notion of heaven filled with weaponry; a man says life is in the hands of a higher authority, “and I hope He’s on our side.”
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