Watchmen: Very Dangerous

I watched the midnight showing of Watchmen, last night, and I enjoyed it. The characters were cool, acting was good, the hero chick was hot, and the storyline was unusual. Even so, I find myself not being able to recommend it to others, now that I have fully digested it.

For a movie that is supposed to be set on an alternate Earth, in 1985, the writers threw in a number of modern-day, liberal jabs that seemed to scorn the use of nuclear power, fossil fuels, and question the need for man to build more shopping malls. From what I remember, that was never in the original comic books.

In order to tell you how I really feel about the overall message and feel of this film, I will have to divulge plot elements, so…

SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know anything about the plot of the movie, and how it ends, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. You have been warned.

The man who is supposed to be the smartest man on Earth, Ozymandias, devises a plan to blow up New York and blame it on Dr. Manhattan. Because of this trickery and manipulation, the USA and Russia end the Cold War – and the nuclear war that was about to erupt between them – in order to unite in peace against the new, common enemy: Dr. Manhattan.

Ozymandias states that the trickery – along with killing millions of people – was necessary to save mankind from itself. In true fascist form, for him the end justified the means, and in his view it was necessary to sacrifice a relatively small number of individuals for the good of the world and some perceived greater good.

The other heroes were reluctantly forced to go along with keeping the secret, to preserve the peace – except for Rorschach, who is killed by Dr. Manhattan for standing on principal and threatening to expose the truth.

As I watched the ending, I can remember “Oh…my…God…” escaping my lips. At that moment, Hitler’s action of burning down the Reichstag – and then blaming it on the opposition, so he could advance his agenda – came to mind.

September 11th also flashed through my head, along the statement that has been attributed to Henry Kissinger supposedly saying that an outside threat, such as an alien invasion – whether real or not – would cause the world to cry out for a world government to save them also jumped out to my attention.

The similarities were obvious: Some people feel that they are much smarter than the rest of us, so they feel justified in trying to dictate how we should live – even through lies or deadly force – in order to save us from our mistakes and silly ways.

In an age where people are rightfully worried about government controlling our thermostats, means of self-defense, food supplies, health care, information, wealth and possibly population, it is very dangerous to send a message of the end justifying the means, when so many lives are potentially at stake–and it is, for that reason, that I hesitate to recommend this film.

4 Responses to “Watchmen: Very Dangerous”

  1. 1 Will Thudstick
    March 8, 2009 at 4:59 AM

    A few points about the movie and the book it’s based on, if I might. Spoilers may follow!

    In the novel it is indeed a manufactured alien threat that Ozymandias uses to unite the planet, at the cost of half of New York.( I believe it was Reagan who mentioned the same sort of thing in several speeches he gave back in the 80’s) The Dr Manhattan angle was added to the movie, along with the added various “flash points’ elsewhere in the world, which also differs from the original,in which only New York gets ‘attacked’.

    Also changed was the point that there was already free/cheap energy available in the alt-world of the novel.This ties into the original Nite-Owl Mason Hollis’ business of fixing “obsolete models” of cars,and is echoed in the movie by the same sign that appears from the novel. It also calls up the point of the difference between the original masked heroes from the 50’s and the 2nd Gen of heroes, to Dr Manhattan himself, who made ALL the masked vigilantes obsolete when he arrived on the scene. After a law passes that outlaws masked vigilantes (except ones that continued to work for the government, ala the Comedian and Dr Manhattan.), the former “masks” retire-except Rorschach of course.
    (This is what the people are protesting in the flashback scenes incidentally, as public opinion has turned against masked vigilantes by this point.The protests coming a few weeks before the law being passed.)

    In the movie, the various heads of industry confront Ozy about the free/cheap energy he wants to distribute, and even threaten him with blackmail until he reminds them that he’s a far bigger corporate entity than all of them combined.The “red scare” theme is kept however, with one of the corporate heads remarking that “Free? That’s another word for socialism!” *chuckle*

    Ozy’s master-plan,and indeed the character himself I think are more Nietzschen, with Moore even going so far as to include a quote from “beyond good and evil” in a chapter featuring Ozy’s plans being lain. Ozy=’Uber-man’? One can take this even further with the whole concept of ‘Super’ (read Uber) heroes that Moore is also riffing on from the get-go.(Moore being rather critical of the whole superhero genre, even back then)

    The comment concerning malls I think wasn’t so much a ‘liberal jab from the writers’ so much as a way to illustrate just how detached Manhattan is from humanity at that point. It wasn’t in the book, but the bit about the oil pipeline is, so I don’t think that one additional line really changes what the original intent of Moore’s writing was. And don’t forget, Manhattan comes around to Laurie’s point of view after she comes to grips with her real relationship to the Comedian and returns with her to Earth.

    And finally, while Ozy’s plan does work, I”m not sure the filmmakers (and the writer) were necessarily painting it as a ‘good thing’, take note of Owl’s little bit when he attacks Oz and states that his actions are monstrous and mutilate the human spirit. That part is definitely NOT in the book. Moore himself also wrote “V for Vendetta”, and has taken on these fascist v.s anarchist themes elsewhere. (Moore criticized the V for V movie for backing away from the anarchist points he made in that book btw.)

    Also note that Oz’s utopia may be undone by Rorschach’s journal that is being reached for by the intern at the conspiracy newspaper at the end of the movie, hurmm.Is that little bit more telling than it appears at first glance I wonder? =)

    I rather took way from the movie that indeed those who feel they are better able to make decisions for the masses could( or have) use such ” ends justify the means” tactics,but I don’t really feel it was intended to be viewed as desirable. Consider after all the underlying theme that runs through both the book and movie:
    “Who watches the watchmen?”

    Moore’s original book is a dark masterpiece, written in response to not only the cold-war, but as a send-up to the super-hero genre as well. Nowadays most of the comic heroes have a ‘dark and gritty’ feel to them, but back when Watchmen was written this was pretty hardcore stuff. Moore’s vigilantes are pretty messed up people after all, and the world that exists because of their inclusion isn’t exactly a better place because of it!

    Just my 10cents (adjusted for inflation)


  2. 2 anarchistpov
    March 8, 2009 at 6:44 PM

    When we first spoke about this, I knew you had planned to see it so I couldn’t get into talking too much about it without spoiling it for you. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I understand what you’re saying, but I’m just very concerned with all of the propaganda that is injected and hidden away in movies and TV shows, these days. It seems that the propaganda factor has been ratcheted up quite a bit, in the last few years, and I HATE it.

    I see through all that stuff, so it’s hard for me to enjoy many films and shows–and don’t get me started on network news programs.

    I sincerely hope that this was more of a warning kind of piece, instead of a conditioning part of the ongoing psychological warfare (against us).

  3. March 11, 2009 at 5:16 PM

    The end of Watchmen, both comic and movie, certainly presents a number of ethical dilemmas. For instance, it is disturbing to have both the “world’s smartest man” and a man who has nearly become a god approving of a plan that would destroy millions of lives and build a new peaceful order based on a lie. Our moral instincts revolt against this, which is why Ozymandias is the villain, and by this point we have become to sympathize with Rorschach, who is presented throughout as mentally unstable and cruel. As for Dr. Manhattan, if he is to be taken as the ubermensch or godlike figure, I am reminded of the quote from Herman Melville:β€œThe reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike him, is because they rather distrust his heart, and fancy him all brain, like a watch.”

    Incidentally, the ethical dilemma reflects an ongoing debate in philosophy between “utilitarian” (consequence-based), and “deontological” (objective rights and duties) ethics. There is a good discussion of this in the context of Watchmen and the “V is for Veidt” website, http://web.me.com/rlevatter/V_is_the_Veidt:_A_Watchmen_Guide/Watchmen_Guide-Blog/Entries/2009/1/22_Ethics_in_Watchmen.html.


  4. 4 anarchistpov
    March 11, 2009 at 7:53 PM

    Thanks for the info. I’ll be sure to check it out.

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