Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Watchmen: The Complete Story – The Ultimate Cut (2009) ****

UR, 215 min.
Director: Zach Snyder
Writers: David Hayter, Alex Tse, Dave Gibbons (graphic novel), Alan Moore (graphic novel)
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Gerard Butler (voice), Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Laura Mennell, Rob LaBelle, Jared Harris (voice)

As we ring in a new year, I contemplate what was once a new era in comic books, a comic that told the story of a new kind of superhero being led into a new era. That’s a lot of “new.”

“The Watchmen” was a landmark in comic books, having much to do with them coming to be referred to as “graphic novels.” The movie was not a landmark in cinema. That’s not because it didn’t do a good job adapting Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ somber look at not-so-superheroes. It’s because the film was stuck in development hell for so long that it missed the superhero revolution in cinema. As such, it seemed a sad afterthought by the time it hit cinemas.

“Sad” is not something that people look for in their superhero movies, although deep and even a little depressing is becoming more of a thing since “The Dark Knight” trilogy. I’m not sure audiences were really ready for the dysfunction of the heroes presented here despite having been versed in the new darker superhero mentality. When it came about in the comic book, readers were ready for big changes.

“The Ultimate Cut” of the film does a better job of contextualizing exactly what is happening in this alternate superhero universe with the inclusion of the animated “Tales of the Black Freighter”, which appeared as a comic book within the comic book in the story’s original incarnation. This short is intercut throughout the feature live action film to show the ultimate folly of man of how we can delude ourselves with our good intentions into doing terrible things. This is Ozymandias’ folly as “the most intelligent man in the world.” It is also Dr. Manhattan’s in the way he allows himself to be a pawn in Ozy’s plans.

Perhaps it isn’t as deep as it should be considering how dark it is, but it is a lesson we must be taught in frank terms. “Watchmen” does that. It was perhaps a little more poignant in the mid 80s, when the comic book was originally released. It is still wondrously portrayed here on screen, though.

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