Who watches the Watchmen? Me, unfortunately. But you can learn from my mistake and stay away, far, far away, from this viciously repugnant film. I cannot explain what is wrong with the movie without revealing key elements of plot, so if you are already determined to see the movie, DO NOT read on. At least you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Though a movie superficially about “super heroes,” these “heroes” are either brutal murderers, vicious psychopaths, or impotent sideliners.
I’ll get right to it. In order to get the United States and Soviet Union to start working together in a common cause, rather than blow each other up in nuclear war, Ozymandias murders some 15 million people in various cities around the world and lets the world believe Dr. Manhattan, another of the Watchmen, is to blame. Dr. Manhattan, who set up Richard Nixon for additional terms as president, “understands” this mass murder while neither condoning nor condemning it, right before splattering another of the Watchmen for threatening to tell the truth about what happened.
The theme of the movie, then, is that the ends justify the means, however barbaric, murderous, unprincipled, detestable, and horrific. (In reality the chosen means would achieve only suffering, tyranny, and death.) Notice a couple of things. It is the very existence of Dr. Manhattan and his support of Nixon that led to Nixon’s continued presidency and the continued cold war, and thus the “need” for Ozymandias to murder 15 million people. And Ozymandias is known as the “world’s smartest man.” The movie thus attacks heroism as such at the deepest level.
The film’s stylish artistry, along with its two characters of any virtue, serve only to mask the film’s basic indecency. Ultimately, though, those two characters — Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II (brilliantly portrayed, I confess, by Patrick Wilson) — serve only to illustrate the fundamental futility of true heroism.
Though Flibbert is basically correct about the film, he doesn’t get these characters’ relationship quite right. Owl can’t express his romantic interest in Spectre so long as he surrenders to fear. So he comes out of retirement and, with Spectre, first saves people from a burning building and then breaks a compatriot out of prison. Here these characters are tough, resilient, actually heroic, and very bad-ass. But these adventures do not impact the broader course of the movie. In the end, they accomplish nothing. Ozymandias claims that their greatest triumph is failing to stop the mass murders.
This disgusting film — which got a 65 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, leading me to question the sanity of movie critics — made $55.7 million opening weekend. It cost around $130 million. My only hope is that those of us suckered into seeing it tell all our friends to abstain from rewarding this monstrous film with additional ticket dollars.