Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse.
(Fanboys beware! I didn’t like it. At all.)
Zack Snyder. What an awful director he is. Here’s the problem with Zack Snyder: he doesn’t understand the value of anything he’s doing. Watchmen establishes itself as being a political narrative. It’s about government and conspiracies. Watchmen is set in a world in-which Richard Nixon was re-elected for a third term. Other subjects touched-upon is the Vietnam and Cold Wars. From the outset, it establishes its tone as being a thriller – The Comedian is dead, and is one of all costumed heroes being targeted to remove the only people capable of stopping the completion of the project that created Dr. Manhattan.
Dr. Manhattan is a truly fascinating character. He used to be Human, but through an obligatory lab accident was transformed into a sentient being through-which the Universe thinks about itself, and has become capable of literally anything. As effectively a god, he abandons any attachments to anything, and observes the Universe, despite being unaffected by it and having no reason to care. Essentially, he’s an apathist, though parallels have also been drawn about his status as a personification of nuclear war and what it could lead to. What he actually is never goes anywhere. Which is a problem because Watchmen is established at the beginning as being a thriller, yet a character as important as Dr. Manhattan is only used to be interesting, and only becomes relevant once. The sight of him as a giant approaching Viet Cong is definitely something, but it’s like every scene – there for the sake of looking cool. Why make a character the embodiment of a government conspiracy’s apocalyptic side-effects if none of it’s going to be explored? All Dr. Manhattan’s there to do is to say “Nuclear power is bad”. Fine, good. But why?
And that same problem is inherent with the other characters. Take Rorschach. He’s potentially one of the most interesting comic book characters there is, yet all Watchmen gives him to actually do is not much. His masks a great accomplishment, always moving and representing the character’s thoughts, and his voice is cool. His sociopathy is strangely appealing, and he walks about like he knows he’s in a pretentious noir thriller. He’s definitely interesting, but that’s all there is to him. The interestingness isn’t developed, everything stays exactly as it is and the only real development is in the last few scenes.
It’s as if Snyder thought “wouldn’t it be cool if… ?”. That is to say “if” certain characters wore these kind of costumes, or that shot looks like x or y. Snyder cares about visuals, but doesn’t know how to use them. So instead, he throws them into an editing suite, keeps most of what he’s shot in the final cut, and for some reason, Warner Bros. were okay with that. It’s interesting to watch, yes. On a technical level, it’s well-made. There’s no denying that it looks good. But strip-back the colour filters and the framerate crank, and it’s a collage of things Snyder thinks are stylish. And there’s nothing wrong with being stylish, but he doesn’t realise the importance of literally anything else.
Pitch this synopsis, and you’ll probably get people interested: a group of retired vigilantes get back together to find out who’s picking them off, and uncover a government conspiracy. See, that’s interesting. And Snyder knows it’s interesting. And “interesting” is a word I’ve used too much in this review. And that’s because there isn’t really anything else to it. “Ooh, that’s interesting” could sum-up everything Watchmen is. But when it’s over, you struggle to find any other way of describing it.