Somewhere near the middle of Watchmen, Rorschach, a super-hero jailed for murder, growls to the other inmates, "I'm not stuck in here with you. You're stuck in here with me!" A prison cafeteria fight breaks out, drippy carnage follows. It was at that time that I felt Rorschach was talking to me, and that I was stuck in the theater with Watchmen, hoping my time would be up soon.
Watchmen, a graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, provides a blueprint for an anguished world permanently stained by savage menace at every corner. Watchmen posits an alternative 1985 U.S. where a doomsday clock inches ever closer to midnight and President Richard Nixon, after a victorious conclusion in Vietnam, has been elected for more than three consecutive terms. New York City, home to most of the Watchmen, is a city and society that is overrun with crime, riots and excess. Fun, huh?
Yes, we were never promised a rose garden with Watchmen. And it never gives us one.
On that register, Watchmen is a dark (gloriously so), uncompromising
portrait of a world gone mad that has criminalized superheroes, sending the
merry band of masked Watchmen to either out themselves or go underground. While other stories idealize the superhero,
Watchmen's caped line is flesh and
blood, and far, far less than perfect. The Watchmen's darks are very dark, and their lights
are only slightly less gray.
Watchmen could've been quite satisfying on that level alone - as a look at these characters as they dissolve into the wasteland. However, we don't get that.
Watchmen suffers for taking on too much in one movie. In short, it has an identity crisis. By spreading itself so thin, there were so many tangents, characters and stories introduced that none of the potential plot lines were fleshed out in a satisfactory way. Was this movie about the origins of the Watchmen? Or was it about the existential dilemma of having super powers and the psychological toll it takes to remain connected to humanity? Or, was it a classic "superheroes versus the villain who wants to destroy the world to save it-" story?
Try, all of the above and then some. And while that could be cool, Watchmen only devolves into a long movie
with uneven pacing, jarring whiplash flash forwards and backs, and falls far
short of a satisfying thinking man's action romp.