Saturday, March 7, 2009


A superhero known as "The Comedian" is far from being funny and humorous. A cynical and flawed man, he is a maniac and a killer. It's all a joke, he says.

But when one of the superheroes, Rorschach, finds a smiley pin with a blood stains on a gutter, his investigation of The Comedian's murder leads him and the other superheroes to something even bigger than themselves.

I haven't even glimpsed the graphic novel. But the hype and the visual effects I saw on the trailer was enough to make me watch the movie twice in the big screen.

Zach Snyder, Director of "300" did not disappoint. The movie started with a stunning credits, shot live action, but as if they were still pictures with one or two elements moving. The credits narrated the rise and fall of super heroes. How eventually, most of them were forced to retirement or silence.

Until the murder.

Besides a great soundtrack and ironic fight scenes, I liked the way the movie characterized each super hero. Watchmen deviated from the usual super hero movie. Superman as an alien who landed on earth, with bionic powers. Spider Man, a quintissential geek who gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. The death of his uncle taught him moral idealism with his last words, "With great power comes great responsibility."

In Watchmen, Rorschach is a psychotic, masked vigilante man. "A comic book villain," Ozymandias aka Adrian Veidt said. Nite Owl, known as Dan, is a weak, confused guy with "a school boy super hero act." Dr. Manhattan, the only super hero with real powers is god-like (not to mention being well-endowed, I can't forget its blueness!). He can kill and destroy with a flick of his hand, can see the past and future, but is slowly retreating from humanity, and ironically has emotional problems of his own. Laurie/Silk Spectre is caught between two heroes-- Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan and is finally coming to terms with the truth of her identity.

No one is super hero-like. They are real people, with real problems, only they have masks, costumes and heightened physical skills to distinguish themselves from the rest of us.

No doubt the material of the film is rich and by the story itself, is unique, something new-- a radical take on the concept of super heroes. Who's watching over them? Is it God? What are they saving mankind for?

"Are you kidding? We're protecting them from themselves," The Comedian said.

"Why should I save the world I no longer have any stake in?", Dr. Manhattan asked.

An in-depth analysis of the super heroes led to deconstructing of human nature itself. Man is created selfish and imperfect.

In the end, Dr. Manhattan's sacrifice, almost Jesus-like, led to the further extinction of super heroes. And the only one who was real and uncompromising ended up committing suicide. And mankind? Who knows if they will ever change?

Unfortunately, though Watchmen was rich with a unique story and has powerful effects and imagery, I couldn't help but think the good material was enclosed in a typical narrative, caught within the pressures of formulaic Hollywood.

It was supposed to be character driven, sadly the plot drove the characters instead. There were scenes that were "cheeky", especially towards the end.

I couldn't help but think that at the start up to the middle of the film, the director had a certain movement or treatment he wanted. But from the middle to the ending, he reverted to contenting himself with a typical story-telling.

Too bad for the heroes, who weren't trite and typical at all.

When I left the movie house the second time around, I wondered if super heroes will ever rise again after all that happened.

And if they do, what kind of super heroes will they be? Say in 2020?

My only hope is that a new Watchmen story is in the works. And if I'm still alive when the movie version is shown, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

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