|Posted on March 7, 2009 at 11:26 PM|
I just got home from seeing The Watchmen and I’m still reeling. But, oddly enough, the reeling is twofold: from the cinematic genius of the movie and, unexpectedly, the violently negative reaction from a large percentage of the exiting audience members.
Granted, the latter could largely be the result of where my friends and I saw the film, a city whose populace resembles a hunk of Kentucky that’s been magically transplanted into south western Ohio by, perhaps, dueling banjo gods of incest.
I met three friends at the theater. We didn’t have a chance to chat before the movie because they arrived right when the previews began. Speaking of the trailers, every freakin’ movie previewed looked great. Usually at least one of the upcoming flicks Hollywood’s trying to get me to see looks like a hunk of crap, but not this time. The Wolverine movie looks like it’ll be great. A new Johnny Depp movie about a certain famous bank robber looked wild. And a Pixar movie (the title escapes me) looked hilarious. Sigh. I feel dirty for admitting that.
Anyway, from the very opening scene of the Comedian’s murder, The Watchmen was tightly paced (unlike the newest Batman movie that could have lost about 45 minutes so it didn't drag on and end 3 or 4 times like a nightmare that won't stop), artistically shot/edited, and the special effects were mind-alteringly brilliant. It’s been way too long since I’ve read the graphic novel, so I’m not going to be one of those quibbling geeks who complains about changes and omissions. Plus, I think it’s best to let the adaptation stand or fall on its own. So, I’ll just say that this film more than stood as a work of art with super hero action icing.
Honsestly, I'd forgotten how violent and almost nihilist the themes of the story were. Only the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre managed to come across as traditional super heroes (as far as morals and philosophy go) and even they were stooping to shady methods because they were desperate to stop a nuclear war. All in all, the story more than stands the test of time. It's an amazing meditation on power. Moore's point, which many apparently missed in the theater, was that, if humans were to really have super powers, they wouldn't be able to handle it responsibly. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
When the final credits were rolling (accompanied by an insane Bob Dylan cover by My Chemical Romance (I feel dirty for liking something those guys did, too), my friends and I were gaping and smiling like buffoons whose minds had been blown…which they had. But before we could make it out into the lobby to gush over the masterpiece we’d just witnessed, we were shocked into silence by the angrily vocal patrons around us complaining about wanting their money back. One middle-aged woman kept repeating, “Three hours? Three hours?” in disbelief in the lobby.
My friends and I gaped in disbelief that anyone could have hated the movie. One friend aptly laughed and called the naysayers’ reactions surreal. Another friend came out of the bathroom laughing in shock at a guy in the men’s room saying something like, “I heard it was based on a comic book. Must’ve been one awful comic book!”
While my friends were seemingly offended and shocked that these rednecks were bashing a fantastic adaptation of a cherished classic of modern literature, I was shocked at my own emotional reaction. All of the inbred anger around me was making me giddy. I kept laughing and openly expressing astonishment at my happiness. Normally, if it’s a work of art that I love, ignorant douchebags insulting it arouses me to anger. I almost got into a fistfight with a redneck who was mocking Mike Patton’s band Tomahawk when they were opening for Tool. I’m not proud of it, but that’s how passionate I am about genius being ignorantly insulted by idiots.
I started openly, vocally taunting the people who were angrily spouting their displeasure. I looked at the "three hours" lady and said, "Why didn't you get off your fat ass and leave the theater?" I don't think she heard me over her own white trash noise mouth, but she looked over and saw the evil smile on my face and started walking out of the theater. As we passed some complaining hillbillies in the parking lot, I mused that "it's amazing that people in America are fine with seeing some tits and death, but you guys are complaining because there was a penis shown throughout the movie." People lurched uncomfortably away into their pickups. It was great.
Maybe I was giddy because the chasm between our fanboy reactions and the hick hatred was so great. Maybe it’s that old “we still have our cult classic because the inbred masses can’t appreciate what our little group can” thing that I’ve always struggled with. But I was actually ecstatic that the movie had aroused such disparate emotional responses from the audience. What could be more punk rock than that?! I mean, isn’t it preferable, for an artist, to stir people to such extreme reactions? Would the director have wanted a bunch of yawning, apathetic viewers sleepwalking out of the theater?
Apparently, The Watchmen is going to be one of those love it or hate it classic films. And that’s fine by me.