Viking Night: Watchmen
By Bruce Hall
June 23, 2015
They used to say that Watchmen was “unfilmable."
Well, I own it on Blu-Ray. I’ve seen it at least three times now. Somebody filmed it all right, just like someone filmed The Lord of the Rings. And just like Frodo and Friends, Watchmen boasts a worldwide legion of borderline obsessed fans who are more emotionally attached to a totally made up story someone else wrote than they are to the person who gave birth to them. And trust me, they’re passionate enough that if you get Dr. Manhattan’s dong the wrong shade of blue, they’ll twitter you to death and hunt your ghost to the ends of the earth. So it’s not so much a question of whether Watchmen could be filmed, as it is a question of whether the film would do the subject matter justice.
And that’s where, whether you like what he did with it or not, Zack Snyder has already succeeded. He made the comic book film everyone said couldn’t be made. He made it with no stars. It’s rated R. It’s a period piece. It’s a soundtrack movie. It’s a relatively adult superhero story. It’s got a big naked blue guy who can see time. There are people who loved it, people who hated it, and people like me who are simply fascinated by the fact it even exists. One thing Watchmen doesn’t suffer from is apathy, unless of course you count Alan Moore. Watchmen is legendary just because it got finished. But you know what else it also is?
It’s also pretty good.
So, let’s pretend super heroes were really a thing. Real life, crime fighting, super powered do-gooders with their underwear on the outside and everything. Just like in the movies, they do a lot of good, and they do a lot of collateral damage. Watching criminals get locked up feels good, but knowing there are living weapons walking among us really doesn’t, and eventually the ancient art of super-heroing is outlawed. The ones who resist are killed off, and the rest go into quiet lives of seclusion - including the Watchmen. They’re kind of like the Avengers in this world, except instead of the Hulk they have that big naked blue guy, and Iron Man is German. But after years of suspicion and hatred, the public has turned against them, forcing them to retire.
Or should I say, forcing them to retire...except for two. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) was a brilliant physicist who accidentally cooked himself in a giant microwave and obtained total dominion over matter. Now, he works for the government, single handedly winning the Vietnam War, and keeping Richard Nixon in the White House well into the second season of Miami Vice (the film takes place at the denouement of the Cold War, the 1980s). The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is what would happen if Burt Reynolds and The Punisher had a son. He's a cynical, amoral killing machine. Both men work for the government and therefore at the pleasure of Tricky Dick.