On March 6, 2009, the movie "Watchmen" opened in theaters all across the country. Based on the ground breaking graphic novel by Alan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbons (artist), the movie has accomplished the almost impossible task of satisfying the hardcore fan boy while at the same time satisfying the average moviegoer who may not be aware of its literary origin. As a big fan of the source material, I always believed that "Watchman" was the kind of story that could never translate successfully to the silver screen. The tone, the action, the themes - these characteristics were designed for the static page of a comic book, highlighted with great dialog and artwork. It's like a novel with pictures, which allows the comics to enjoy the same freedoms that novels give to the reader, specifically access to the inner thoughts and memories of the characters. In movies, everything is visual and the truth in the dialog lies in the subtext. Voice-overs and flashbacks do not always work on the big screen. They are to be used with great care, and only as tools to help bring the story into focus. They should not to be used as crutches to support poor plot structure.
As I watched the movie, I made mental notes as I compared what I was seeing against what I remembered from the graphic novel. I observed with great interest how director Zack Snyder (who also directed another comic based movie, "300"), and writers Alex Tse and David Hayter were going to handle this extremely complicated story that deconstructed the superhero genre. The world of "Watchmen" is that of an alternate universe where superheroes actually exist as regular folks answering some type of higher calling. It shows that these heroes are ordinary human beings suffering from angst, ego, greed, perversion, and crisis of conscience. It shows how the arrival of a true super being changes everything. And, finally, it shows the world at the brink of nuclear annihilation, and how the heroes and the US government race to avoid this outcome. I won't give any spoilers here. I will say that when I consider the elements they left out altogether, and the things they did to update the story line, I can safely tell you that there was more than material to pace a story that runs almost three hours long (about two hours and forty five minutes.) I honestly did not feel the three hours. The story lines were so engrossing, that even the pieces that felt slow really did not take much time. I can also say that Snyder and crew faithfully captured the essence of this story. I left the movie theater very impressed.
I felt all the actors did a wonderful job, but I have to give a big shout out to actor Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Walter Kovacs AKA Rorschach. One could say that Rorschach is the Wolverine of this universe. More specifically, he is its Dirty Harry: defiant, non-compromising, and determined. The signature facemask is a wonderful piece of special effects as the ink blots in the latex mask shift and move, accurately reflecting the wearer's emotional state. It is a very cool effect. Unmasked, Haley evokes a younger Clint Eastwood with the crazed determined look in his eye and the growl in his voice. If Hollywood ever decides to remake a Dirty Harry movie, Haley should be considered for the role.
Now, about that blue penis...
The movie's signature character is that of the lone super being with the code name of Dr. Manhattan. Actor Billy Crudup plays Jon Osterman, the physicist who accidentally gets trapped inside an experiment that changes his physical composition. He becomes Dr. Manhattan, a god-like being who has mastery over matter and the elements at the quantum mechanical level.
And, oh yeah, he's naked and blue.
Now, being a fan of the graphic novel, I was glad to hear that directory Snyder was going to remain faithful to the source material. So faithful that he hired artist Dave Gibbons as a consultant for the movie. Snyder was determined to pay homage to the comic, and almost did a faithful frame by frame realization from comic to movie screen. This meant that there were times when Dr. Manhattan wore a suit when in public, wore a brief when working in his lab, and then allows it to hang out whenever he feels like it. In other words, you get to see Manhattan swing his pipe. This amounted to a computer generated full frontal. Now, personally, I didn't really care about this. What I did find interesting was the reaction of the audience whenever the full frontal appeared on screen. It was kind of hard to ignore it then. Speaking for myself, it was doubly hard for me to ignore, since the presence of a blue penis elicited a response from the three gay men sitting next to me in the movie theater. To be fair, they had a similar response to the appearance of a finely sculpted male model in a television commercial, and reacted negatively to a prolonged hot and heavy sex scene between two heterosexual superheroes.
I am guessing this is a commentary about nudity in today's society. Several years after the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe incident during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, the general populace still reacts strongly to the image of a completely nude male, even if it is a computer generated image.
When it is all said and done, after the box office take matches the critical acclaim this movie will receive, and when the media outlets give this great story the kudos it deserves, I am hoping that this fantastic bit of storytelling doesn't get lost to the scenes of violence and full frontal nudity.
And, if it does, I'm already there.
Besides, would you have clicked the link to open this blog if the words "blue penis" were not in the title?
P.S. My dashboard counter thanks you for your support.