Friday, 6 March 2009

Watchmen, A Review!

My Dearest Darlings, today I briefly entered something resembling the real world, I was milling around a muti-plex amongst the style free and dangerously pale people of geek-dom to embark on a mission to supply you with another film review. Watchmen is the long awaited screen adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore. It won't surprise you to know that as a Heroine myself I have more than a passing interest in the depiction of the 'Super-Hero' in popular culture. This peculiar fictional construct and largely American phenomenon explores the notion of a rare breed of humanity gifted with fantastic abilities. From Batman to Superman, to The X-men and to the current TV series Heroes I am fascinated by your desire to dream that miraculous masked saviours will save the day. The icons of this genre are of course male heterosexuals who act to save humanity whilst generally feeling alienated from those they regularly rescue.

The 20th century comic book is the nursery for these figures that with the advancement of computer technology and CGI are ever more convincingly portrayed on your various screens. It is often the male outsider that creates these icons and it is to male outsiders these heroes naturally appeal. So it is not surprising that given the opportunity to be bestowed with superhuman strength and heroic good looks these fictional characters objectify and dehumanise the female of the species. Throughout comic book history women are more often than not depicted as screaming victims unable to save themselves from some terrible plight. The few female 'super' heroines that exist in this universe are fetishised into scantily clad dominatrices whose sole purpose is to satisfy the male quest for sexual gratification.

Watchmen purports to be an intelligent version of this genre and indeed it does explore some questions that are not usually confronted in the average Super Hero movie. The over arching theme of this film is whether humanity deserves to be saved. Set in an alternative 80's America where Richard Nixon is president the retired masked heroes are being pursued by an unclear threat, their position in society questionable and perplexing. The story is revealed through a series of flash backs which suggest that these heroes are not morally just examples to humanity but are as susceptible to corruption and cruelty as you all are.

The main character of interest is Dr Manhattan who as a result of an accident in a physicists laboratory is gifted with a god-like understanding of time and the ability to deconstruct and dematerialise matter. Shining blue throughout and generally naked this character acts as a metaphor for humanities existential angst. Other wordly and mysterious the character of Dr Manhattan is the device that invites the audience to explore the nature of planet Earth and it's position in the universe.

The special effects are flawless, with spectacular vistas of destruction and violence throughout. The costumes are efficient though not ground breaking though alas the make-up and wigs are frequently questionable. I of course being an expert in this field believe that one shouldn't notice make-up or obvious wigs as it can distract from the viewing experience, in this case I frequently was a gasp at the clumsy prosthetics and unprofessional ageing make-up.

Though the major cause for disgruntlement from this movie reviewer was the unfortunate portrayal of women. In a cast of many only two female characters featured at any great length; Silk Spectre I and II, mother and daughter are both versions of the scantily clad crime fighter. Both are defined mainly by their conflicting and complex relationships with the male protagonists. The first Silk Spectre is shown as a retired drunken lush who bitterly laments her past relationship with The Comedian whilst Silk Spectre II is subjected to being plucked from one location to another, she is quite literally materialised and dematerialised by Dr. Manhattan. The original Silk Spectre is depicted being aggressively sexually attacked by The Comedian, violent and disturbing this yet another depiction of violence against females that is apparently later forgiven as The Comedian would later father Silk Spectre's daughter. Other females that are seen on screen are either prostitutes or bitter and twisted ex-girlfriends. Of Course this is not the fault of the film maker as the movie version remains loyal to the original graphic novel, though it is unfortunate to yet again experience women being reduced and sexualised so brutally and to hear the line during the attempted rape scene; “You mean 'No!' as in Y.E.S” does nothing to help the cause for 'post-feminist' politics.

This problematic component of the film is utterly nauseating, though I as an enlightened soul can see these complexities I fear that many others will consume this undertone with out questioning it. And thus a new generation of translucent faced computer addicts will project this version of femininity into the world, with out fully understanding or embracing the true wonderment and potential of women-hood. This problem aside this film is a spectacular adaptation and will no doubt be an enjoyable addition to the comic book movie catalogue, I simply hope that before long a female character is permitted to exist in the wondrous universe of the Superhuman.

Happy Viewing My Darlings,

Love Ms Coco LaVerne x