The authority and protectorships that attempt to govern and guard our lives can give good reason for cynicism. Take the Watchmen, a group of righteous for-the-greater-good vigilantes started by ex-cops who had witnessed one too many scumbags run free. Within that small cell of good-intenders eventually awakens a corruptible power structure, the same as with any united group. Good intentions give way to celebrity, jealousy, and rage. In my opinion, any type of extreme, across-the-board cynicism and misanthropy is harmful and intellectually lazy, but despite what Watchmen may present on its surface (especially in Rorschach's bitter, resentful verbal journal entries) this isn't a film that wallows in nihilism.
It's interesting that a film which takes place in an alternate reality (we've won the Viet Nam war, Richard Nixon evaporated term limits and is still our president ... The Fat Toad of Venezuela must be proud!) can elicit so much cultural emotion from us. Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man all tried to bank on heroism in the face of politically familiar enemies (the military industrial complex, terrorism, techno-spying) but their way of relaying it to an audience was shallow. Well, how is Watchmen any different? Because Snyder's film touches on historical events and figures that provoke a reaction in us no matter our individual depth of knowledge. Shows like The McClaughlin Group, names like Lee Iacocca, developments like the Soviets in Afghanistan, have all crossed our ears, yet may not be fully understood by any of us. Watchmen plays off of that cultural consciousness.
I enjoy Zack Snyder as a director (I think he's improving with each film he makes), but watching Watchmen made me shifty in three specific moments:
# 1 In the opening sequence, The Comedian throws his whiskey glass at the door, knocks off the 1 on his room number of 3001, and presents the audience with a "300" (as in 300) in our faces. Eek... silly self-referencing for such a young director.
# 2 I don't like the way Zack Snyder directs sex. The romp between Nite Owl and Silk Specter was eerily similar to the overwrought sex scene between Leonidas and the Queen in 300. Neither of them are erotic, they are both filmed coldly like soft-porn, and they are superfluous. And nothing should excuse Snyder's decision to have the aircraft, that the two lovebirds are humping in, shoot flames as they achieve orgasm.
# 3 Despite what I read/heard from some friends and critics, I liked the pop-music Snyder chose to use... except for one. The muzak version of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" playing in Ozymandias' [NOTE: thanks to Ed for the correction] office as he threatens fat cats with corporate buyout power was not clever, and the fact that Snyder tried to do it subtly simply made it worse.
True, the above are minor complaints, but I felt that they couldn't go without mention. To me, Snyder comes of as director with ambition and smarts, so it surprised me a bit to see him make such awkward decisions.
I'm an admitted outsider when it comes to the Watchmen source material of Alan Moore's and all of the admiration and fanship that surrounds it. As far as dialogue accuracies, the loyalties in character portrayals, and story lines matching up, I couldn't tell you, and, to be honest, I couldn't care at all. But from what I hear, the graphic novel of Watchmen is dense, and the fact that Snyder's film is dense in itself, I think, should please fans of the graphic novel. Though not great, Snyder's Watchmen is an encouraging example of a comic book movie that goes beyond the mask.