Sunday, July 26, 2009

WATCHMEN (Zack Snyder, 2009, USA)

“'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Ozymandias’ empire wracks the Mighty Corporations with a despairing and mocking futility of their own human fallacies, but in time the boundless sands will consume his legacy. Though he controls the Outer Limits of human knowledge, he fails to recognize that the means never justify the ends and in doing so, becomes less human than the ghostly Dr. Manhattan. WATCHMEN is a modern adaptation of the great science fiction classic THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, with the indestructible Gort replaced by the bluish Ubermensch. This is visually prevalent in the graphic novel where the film poster can be seen at Madison Square Garden, but the effects of an unstoppable force creating a United Earth under threat of alien annihilation is analogous. What begins as a masked murder mystery deepens into a nuclear morality play, and the juxtaposition of scenes to deconstruct causality is wonderfully crafted. The narrative introduces many characters and imbues each with enough time to see them as disparate people, not comic book caricatures. But it’s Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach whose abusive but strictly ethical performance invigorates the film; he is the outcast, the voice of reason who doesn’t sell his soul at the cost of billions…and accepts his fate, no demands his fate be carried out and dies knowing that he is justified. Director Zack Snyder fills every inch of the 2:35:1 frame with exacting detail, his mise-en-scene subliminally conveying information from Alan Moore’s prose and Dave Gibbon’s dense artwork. The film’s structure and pacing is fantastic and could easily have devolved into a stuttering fanboy panegyric. The action sequences utilized too much slow motion though the editing was quick-witted and atypical of Summer Block(head)busters. With Nietzsche’s superman accepting his part in this tragedy, The Comedian would have appreciated Rorschach’s fatal joke that will destroy this tenuous peace…because human nature can’t be changed. Indeed, who watches the Watchmen? (B+)

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