I have finally seen a “Watchmen” movie – an adaptation of a comic book under a same title created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Prior to that I had also a dubious pleasure of watching Inglorious Basterds created by Quentin Tarantino. I feel this way. Both Watchmen and Basterds are very intense visual experiences. Both are action movies that are more dialogue heavy than one could expect from action flicks. The first movie deals with the problem what world would be like if costumed heroes would really exists? It also deals with the main scare of the cold war epoch – the threat of nuclear annihilation. This motif is mirroring the one presented in “V for Vendetta”, a comic book that describes Nazi-like regime in the world after the nuclear apocalypse. Fortunately, this bleak possibility seems to have disappeared from our consciousness, which perhaps blunts the impact of the “Watchmen” story. In “V for Vendetta” movie adaptation the source of threat is more modern – terrorism and disproportionate response to it. In “Watchmen” the producers stayed true to the original. I think that the chief reason that I was moved by the movie was that characters were so believable. It really is a depiction of the world that could exist. The heroes we follow are not black and white characters we are used to see in this type of summer block busters. What sort of superhero murders his pregnant former lover only because he does not need her “service” anymore? Is he then really a scumbag that we should not feel any pity for? Perhaps he is a tragic figure – a patriot who was able to fulfill an American dream? What about the only “true” superhero – dr. Manhattan? His personality is a consequence of his godlike skills. Does he feel something anymore? Isn't it ironic that his existence warrants the peace, yet at the same time it increases tension between the superpowers?Is Rorschach – the self-rightous crime fighter representing the ultimate justice or just a crazy hateful man that should be stopped at any cost?
During the movie I literally felt hairs on my back rising – the scenes with dr Manhattan and Rorschach were intense. A lot of violence is depicted in the movie. I do not enjoy it particularly – that is one of my gripes with Tarantino. Nevertheless, I felt that in “Watchmen” violence was not in a focus. It served a goal – to shed more light on the characters. Interestingly, the most violent hero was also the most tragic – Rorschach. As for the others – dr Manhattan's deeds felt like acts of god or a nature. There was something primeval in the scene where he single-handedly wins Vietnam war. Manhattan is not human any more – it just causes awe and reverence.
I cannot comment much on the way the movie was shot, on quality of special effects or character portrayal by actors. I do not like to do that because I am not trained nor interested in criticizing art of movie making. I am more interested in the story and characters than in movie craftsmanship. I can just say that “Watchmen” did not seem to be particularly lacking on the technical side of things – not when compared to other blockbusters. As for actors - I could not care less who actually portrayed them but I was very impressed by both Rorschach – especially in unmasked form and dr. Manhattan. The latter mainly for an excellent depiction of an entity that is not human anymore.
I think that people that look for pure entertainment are going to be a little bit disappointed. The intrigue may be a bit hard to follow and there is a lot of talking. If you like interesting story and morally ambiguous characters you may find it really absorbing. After seeing “Watchmen” I feel very much like after “V for Vendetta” - left questioning the choices made by characters in a face of a plausible crisis.
Now let's talk a bit about the “Misspeled Bastards” - or slightly more correctly “Inglourious Basterds“. Yes, I admit I liked “Pulp Fiction” quite a lot. On the other hand, I was not to thrilled by “Kill Bill”. Well what I expected? There seems to be a rule that seeing violence against zombies and movie-type Nazis is ok. I was never to concerned with fate of German soldiers in “Dirty Dozen” or “Where eagles dare”. On the other hand “Saving private Rayan” left me with the sense of horror, depicting war in such a realistic manner. I expected that “Basterds” will go into the first category and I was not far off. There were great scenes in this movie – full of suspense, so that I felt like I was sitting on a needles. I was moved by the interrogation of French farmer by evil gestapo officer Landa. I think that scene in the bar with British agent blowing up his cover by having wrong accent was great. Then there were scenes with Basterds – a Jewish commandos. These were just plain horrible. I know that this was a movie about movies and not history but still sheer stupidity of these scenes was making me cringe. Hej - I started to feel bad about poor Germans. No small feat in a movie about evil Nazis! I cannot fathom why the director went for such a total “revenge fantasy” instead of making a more believable history? At a risk of making a serious spoiler I will say – come on! Killing Hitler in the cinema? It reminds me a first rule of well behaved time traveler - “Do not go to kill Hitler”. And another one - “The first time everyone tries”. Well in this movie nowhere there is a mention of the fact that this is an alternative history. It is more like a bedtime fantasy – “if I was a badass hero and I could kill Hitler - I would totally do that!”.
I guess that my criticism comes from the fact that I am much more into books than into movies. Perhaps the movie is a game of a postmodernist - what obscure movie are we ripping off right now? I would say then that “Shrek” did it much better and the plot was way, way over this lose connection of stupid scenes that is called a movie. Perhaps if I was American I would enjoy myself knowing that my country kick ass. Maybe if I would be a Jew I would feel some sort of katharsis. Unfortunately, I am a Pole that lived in a small village next to a monument erected in memory of dozens of peasants that were burned alive because of resistance offered by partisans to the Germans. It is hard to enjoy this sort of story knowing that in reality killing one German would mean death of many innocent persons – shot, hanged or burned. I would not like to be in a skin of a officer deciding about execution of German officer. I firmly believe that this movie would be much better if it was based in slightest on history. Contemplate this or this. I am sure that there are many more examples.