Who’s Really Watching Watchmen


The group of late high-school age boys yelled from behind my place in the line across to the emptying theater. Minutes before they were snickering at the huge crowd saying things like “check out the seventh graders” and “For all the people who have to be home by ten.”

But it was from that 7:30 Showing crowd that they spied their friend, Justin. He was traveling light, neither Soda nor empty pop-corn box in hand. He was flying solo, nary a friend (female or not) in sight. He walked like a man who was recently engaged, knowing his perspective had changed for the better.

“Hey, guys.” Justin  smiled broadly.

“So? How was it?”

“I thought it was great. Good and Great.”  Justin paused while examining something unseen; peering not deeply, but beneath his friends’ outer veneer. “I don’t think you guys’ll get it.”

“What? How come?”

“Well, it’s different; really different. It’s not your standard comic book movie…” Justin paused again “Have ya’ll read the book?”

“No but I saw the special Watchmen previews!” says two “I read a thing about the Watchmen game that’s coming out!” said another . One just nodded dopily.

“Yeah…” said Justin, “I don’t think you will like it….”

Later these same boys sat behind me. They oohed at the right violent parts. They whispered conspiratorially during sex scenes. They snickered every time Dr. Manhattan showed up on screen naked apparently forgetting that he, like they, has man-parts.

They never noted that Manhattan’s superior physique was nothing to the character: nudity a non-issue to a person who saw himself as no longer human. The concept that heroes like all people, are flawed and make mistakes—sometimes violent mistakes—flew right by them. They completely ignored that the gratuity of the love scene was because the characters finally saw each other in a way that the world (or past lovers) had never seen them. They sadly missed the moral ambiguity, the philosophical (unanswered) question of doing wrong for the greater good and the exceedingly sad punch line to the Comedian’s joke.

I think that the movie (like the comic books before it) will be appreciated by a cult minority. It will consist of people who will go to a movie willing to let the story happen instead of complaining about how stories should happen. People who can sit back and allow the very adult themes to have their say as long as that say is necessary to the tale. People who don’t have a problem going to the movie theater unhindered and alone. People like Justin.

As I left the theater that same crowd of boys shouted “that SUCKED!” They didn’t get it. They wouldn’t.

Justin was right.

Other Review: MCF, Ebert, MTV’s rundown of Reviews

5 thoughts on “Who’s Really Watching Watchmen”

  1. It seemed to me, upon finishing the book (or series, whichever you want to call it), that Watchmen demonstrated a rather odd goal in the world of comics. Most comics want to excite the reader; leave him or her feeling like they’ve been on a roller coaster. Watchmen seemed to want to leave a reader overwhelmed in a totally different way. My own reaction to the final pages was to heave a heavy sigh and think “Moore is right, this is really who we are.”

    If the movie convey’s the book’s doomy message, I think it would inspire that kind of response from any viewer who really pays attention to it.

    Anyone looking for Ironman is gonna leave the theater thinking “Well THAT sucked.”

  2. I worried about the kid factor too(like an R rating stops anyone anymore), and even though we took in a later show there were plenty of high schoolers. There was the expected adolescent giggling at some of the nudity, and oddly enough a few of the giggles during the love scene seemed to be triggered by the song choice, which personally made the scene more beautiful and emotional, IMO. Afterwards, I was informed that SOME of the giggling at the end of the row during Manhattan’s brief pendulum swing was coming from B13. ;-)

    I would be curious how many of those kids walked out of there with an appreciation of moral ambiguity or the psychological anguish of the lonely and the misunderstood. I wonder how many that liked it felt that way solely for the blood and sex. I wonder if some of Moore’s opposition wasn’t just to the possibility of a studio mutating his vision into something unrecognizable, but having his work go to the crowd who won’t get it or who will like it for all the wrong reasons.

  3. I have to admit that these kids struck me more as 18 or 19 year olds. It’s that stupid age when kids think they’re adults.


Comments are closed.